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A youth's call to action on this Day of NO Silence

GLSEN Day of No Silence Essay russian activists day of silence Anti homophobia demonstration Saint Petersburg Russia April 11 2014 Rainbow veins lgbtq parade protest sign
Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images; Shutterstock

Day of NO Silence is honored in communities around the world, advocating for the end of bullying of LGBTQ+ youth.

The Day of NO Silence emerges as a powerful call to action, transforming a day of quiet solidarity into a loud, unapologetic movement against the ongoing discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ youths in schools.

It is long past time to say “NO” to staying calm, patient, and quiet in the face of homophobia and transphobia. Today, it is time to shatter the silence.

Originally founded as “The Day of Silence” in 1996 by University of Virginia students, this day serves as a protest against the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ students across the United States. Students have opted to take a vow of silence in solidarity with queer youth who feel they cannot speak out because it would jeopardize their safety. This collective silence becomes impossible to ignore. At the end of the day, students gather to break the silence, advocating for inclusion and ending bullying and harassment.

GLSEN Day of No Silence Essay russian activists day of silence Anti homophobia demonstration Saint Petersburg Russia April 11 2014Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images

Amidst the present surge of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation—sports bans, drag bans, bathroom bills, workplace and housing discrimination, bills restricting school curriculum, among others—that have swept the US, observing the Day of Silence is especially poignant this year.

Even more impactful is reimagining the day as a vow to break the silence. The day is now a Day of NO Silence, dedicated to activism for queer social justice.

The queer community cannot afford to be silent any longer. The discriminatory bills that have been introduced—many of which have been passed—are an active threat to all of our safety. It is our responsibility to one another to speak out against queer discrimination, especially for the sake of those who do not have the privilege of doing so safely.

The Day of NO Silence is a crucial opportunity for us to assert our voices, needs, and existence—loudly and unapologetically.

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As a queer high school student, The Day of NO Silence is essential to me because I have experienced isolation and harassment based on my identity as a transgender person since I came out in sixth grade. Throughout middle school, my peers abandoned and belittled me. In my freshman year of high school, another student harassed me for three months, to the point where I was afraid our interactions would lead to a physical altercation.

I had multiple meetings with my school’s officials about how unsafe I felt, but I was told the issue was being handled and that there was nothing more they could do for me because I was “too angry.” Sadly, my perpetrators received nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Over time, I felt unsafe on campus.

The following year, I was afraid to return to school because I thought I would be harassed again. The experience made me nervous and suspicious around my peers, and took months of counseling to resolve. I was fortunate that my school provided mental health support, and I have not been harassed since, but the incident has stayed with me.

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My experience is not unique. GLSEN reports that 84% of queer students are harassed at school due to their sexuality, and 64% due to their gender expression. The harassment of queer youth is far too prevalent and far too damaging to stay silent over.

We must break the silence together to ensure that experiences like mine are some of the last.

Students and teachers can take action to be better allies and advocates in many ways. Participating in Day of NO Silence is a good start, but we can work on creating more inclusive, welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ students every single day.

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My advice to fellow students:

  • Stay informed. Read the news—as difficult as it can be—to stay up-to-date on the current state of politics. Take time to read about queer history and activist movements that came before. This helps inspire us and gives us the context for our current advocacy.
  • Build community. Find slaces that make you feel like you belong, whether online, at a school club, or a local community center. This support system is vital for developing safety and belonging.
  • If you can’t find your community, create it. After I came out, it took me years to find other queer friends in school, as well as allies among teachers and staff—but we are out here, and we want to meet you, too. (Yes, it can be terrifying, and yes, it is worth it!)
  • Don’t be afraid to take action. Introduce yourself with your pronouns and invite others to share theirs. Join queer affinity groups or clubs that attract other queer students. Hold gender-affirming clothing and accessory swaps. Petition your school for gender-neutral bathrooms.

Remember: the possibilities are endless and often more achievable than they may seem initially. They start with you. We are stronger collectively when we have people who will fight for and with us. One voice is strong, but together, we can make ourselves impossible to drown out.

GLSEN Day of No Silence Essay queer activists parade protest signShutterstock

My advice to schools, teachers, and administrators:

  • Support students on an individual level by respecting and supporting their identities. In all three years of my high school education, I cannot remember a single time when any of my teachers have gendered me correctly. I am lucky to have teachers who have asked for and want to use my pronouns, but few use them. Many adults have told me that my pronouns are confusing or make them uncomfortable; therefore, they would use my name instead. I appreciate they are trying not to misgender me and are attempting to be as respectful as they can. But their comfort is not the point. Queer people who have their pronouns respected report better mental health outcomes, and respecting pronouns is a form of suicide prevention.
  • Beyond interpersonal interactions, advocate for structural changes in your school. Help create accessible gender-neutral bathrooms, push for LGBTQ-inclusive curricula, hold students who harass or bully LGBTQ+ students accountable, and create school policies and environments that serve all youth and allow each student to show up as their full, authentic selves.
  • Above all, schools—as institutions and as communities—must invest the work into dismantling queerphobia and all the other systems of oppression. Schools must ensure they are not perpetuating these systems and their students are equipped to identify and combat them.

Supporting queer students goes so much further than observing The Day of NO Silence.

Supporting queer students is an investment in the present and the future. It is doing everything possible to remove barriers for queer people today and laying a stable, safe, loving foundation for the generations of queer students to come. The work spans far beyond a single day, but it is more than worth the effort.

GLSEN Day of No Silence Essay queer activists Marsha P Johnson rainbow veins protest signsShutterstock

We must break the silence, scream our needs and discontents, make our voices heard—and make ourselves impossible to ignore. Our freedoms cannot be won with compliance. Our lives are at stake; bare your teeth, break the silence, and demand better.

Corvid (it/itself, that/that one, any neopronouns) is a Black, nonbinary, and asexual creator, high school student, and a SMYAL volunteer.

Equalpride, the parent company of The Advocate, is proud to partner with SMYAL as part of our Community Partnership program. You can learn more about our initiative at

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