National Day of Silence speaks for LBGTQ rights

The silence was broken by almost 70 participants at Speakers Circle.

National Day of Silence at MU ended with an outburst from students and staff Friday at Speakers Circle.

Approximately 70 students and staff members participated in the event, organized by the Triangle Coalition and the LGBTQ Resource Center. Participants remained silent throughout the day, many of them wearing T-shirts with a large "90%" on the front and a message on the back that stated, "of transgender students experienced verbal harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and gender expression."

Founded in 1996, National Day of Silence is an annual event to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students suffer every day.

Sean Jarvis, Triangle Coalition vice president and LGBTQ health liaison, said gathering at Speakers Circle to break the silence at the end of the day is an important part of MU's Day of Silence.

"Gathering to break the silence isn't as institutionalized as the Day of Silence, but it's significant because it counters the silence," Jarvis said. "You get the symbolism for the silence that's forced on people with the rest of the event, but I'd say breaking the silence is also a symbolically important part of the day."

LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Ryan Black led the countdown to breaking the silence at 5 p.m. Friday among a group of about 20 students and staff.

"Speakers Circle is a way to bring closure to the day with a sense of unity within the community," Black said.

Columbia resident Jon Carpenter, who observed the breaking of silence at Speakers Circle, said he had not heard of the Day of Silence before but supported the meaning behind the event.

"When I asked what they were doing, they didn't respond, but they were very polite," Carpenter said. "They just pointed to their button explaining the Day of Silence. I don't know a lot about the cause, but I do support it because nobody likes to be disrespected, no matter who you are."

Among the group of staff and students at Speakers Circle, many of them, including senior Stephanie Carlson, said they had participated in the Day of Silence in previous years.

"Personally, I feel like it's more about oppression in general," Carlson said. "It is an LGBTQ event, but it's not just an LGBTQ cause. It's taking away a voice, but it's also giving a face to the people who feel like they have to remain hidden."

Freshman Kyle Buck said this was his first Day of Silence.

"It's actually really hard to keep quiet for the entire day, harder than I thought," Buck said. "But the point of the Day of Silence isn't all about keeping quiet all day. It's about the harassment people face every day."

National Day of Silence is one of several events during Pride Month at Mizzou meant to bring attention to issues facing the LGBTQ community.

"It's important to get the word out there, and I think this event does that," Buck said. "It kind of shows everybody just how important LGBTQ people and allies on this campus are by removing them from society for a day."

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