GSA to host Day of Silence on Friday

Tessa Augsberger

The Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA) club will host a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Day of Silence demonstration Friday. In remembrance of LGBTQ students who have suffered at school as a result of their personal identity, participating students will refrain from speaking throughout the entirety of the school day.

GLSEN is an education network dedicated to ending bullying and harassment that occurs as a result of students’ sexual orientation and gender identity. Club Co-Leader Felicity Phelan ’21 said the Day of Silence has special significance this year in regard to the sense of social isolation many have experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I guess I see two sides of [the relationship between feeling socially isolated and participating in the Day of Silence this year], one being that it can be more impactful and empowering to be a part of this larger thing in a time that feels so isolating and the other side of it being that it can be even scarier and more draining to be silent at a time where you already [are experiencing strong] feelings of isolation,” Phelan said.

Club Co-Leader Felicity Phelan ’21 responded directly to @wokeathw on Instagram when they posted a screenshot of the all-school email the club sent.

After an email was sent to the entire school community Monday announcing the event, the Instagram account @wokeathw posted a screenshot of the email online the same day and criticized it for placing pressure on students to participate in the Day of Silence. Phelan, who wrote the email promoting the event on behalf of the GSA club, responded to the account in a direct message.

“Every year after the event, we receive feedback from students who would have been interested in participating (of their own accord and not because of any invitation or recommendation by GSA or the school) but were not aware of the event until it was actually happening,” Phelan wrote. “That is why we decided to send out a notice in advance to the whole student body.”

As of Thursday, Phelan said the account has not responded to their message.

Sophomores and seniors can participate in the Day of Silence online, while juniors will be able to take part in person.

Roughly 15 to 20 students have participated in the Day of Silence each year, according to Phelan. This year, sophomores and seniors participating in the event will engage with the demonstration virtually, while juniors will have the option to participate in person because they will be on campus Friday.

GSA club member Rachel Tan-Goldhammer ’22 participated in the Day of Silence for the previous three years and will participate in the demonstration this year. Tan-Goldhammer said the virtual format of last year’s Day of Silence was less effective than the live format.

“It was easier staying silent throughout the day since I didn’t have to socialize with anyone while at home, but I definitely think it had less of an impact than the previous years,” Tan-Goldhammer said.

Tan-Goldhammer said she participates in the Day of Silence because it is an easy way for her to show support for the LGBTQ community.

“I’ve never been particularly good with words, so Day of Silence has always been something that I’ve been able to easily participate in,” Tan-Goldhammer said. “It’s a simple action that I can do that could make someone else feel more comfortable around me at school. I definitely think that it has been an effective tool in creating conversation about LGBTQ issues. It’s meant to be noticeable by others, and students not talking in a very vocal school brings awareness to the LGBT community.”