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Silence speaks volumes against LGBT bullying

by Hannah Beausang

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04_22_13_News_DayofSilence2_HBSan Diego State hosted the Day of Silence to raise awareness about anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender harassment.

The Day of Silence, sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is a student-run event held in middle schools, high schools and colleges across the nation. Last Friday, SDSU students took part in the event to bring attention to discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The LGBTQ Advisory Board,worked with Gamma Rho Lambda, a queer-based on-campus sorority, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Student Union to organize the event. Last Thursday and Friday, volunteers tabled, passed out cards and encouraged students to sign a pledge promoting tolerance.

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Some students covered their mouths with duct tape to make visible statements in honor of the day, while others signed the pledge.

One student who chose to wear duct tape, international security and conflict resolution junior Justin Campbell, has participated in the Day of Silence since his sophomore year of high school. Campbell said he takes part in the event because he feels he has been silenced throughout his life and wants to empower others to overcome similar challenges.

“It’s not one time in particular, but it was kind of my whole high school career,” Campbell said. “I didn’t really have friends. There were times when people would roll down their windows when they were driving by and they would throw things at me or call me names. Now that I’m in college and I’ve moved past that, I really want to help stop that because I know some people aren’t as fortunate as me and don’t make it through times like that.”

Gamma Rho Lambada vice president and business marketing senior Jill Miranda said the Day of Silence is important because it encourages students to think about the consequences of their actions.

“This is a day to remember all those who have been affected by other people,” Miranda said. “It’s about starting to be aware of your surroundings and who you talk to and making sure that bullying subsides.”

LGBTSU president and business administration senior Michael Manacop said student participation helps create a sense of unity through nonviolent measures.

“The more participation we get, the more you can see the different voices that are being silenced from discrimination, name-calling or bullying,” Manacop said. “It’s kind of like using a peaceful protest to spread awareness about the issues that are going on.”

However, some students think that there are other, more effective ways of promoting equality for LGBT students. Women’s studies senior and SafeZones@SDSU member El Glasheen said he thinks the message should be conveyed in a bolder fashion.

“For me, I think it’s important to not be silent,” Glasheen said. “I want people to be loud and active and make their voices heard … I want people to be visible.”

A recent Human Rights Campaign Foundation study surveyed more than 10,000 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 17 about discrimination in the community. According to the study, LGBT youth are more than twice as likely as non-LGBT youth to have been verbally harassed at school.  A 2009 GLSEN study of 13 to 21 year-old LGBT students revealed 84.6 percent of students reported being verbally harassed in schools because of their sexual orientation and 63.7 percent because of their forms of gender expression.

The study also showed that youth hear derogatory anti-gay remarks about 25 times in a typical day at school, which equates to once every 14 minutes.

The Day of Silence was founded in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia as part of an assignment about peaceful methods of protesting. More than 150 students partook in the first Day of Silence and, in 1997, the event spread to a national level and about 100 colleges participated.

Miranda said more than 35 SDSU students signed the pledge and about 75 flyers were distributed to students during the two days.

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