Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day of Silence Experiment

Yesterday was the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered/sexual, queer) Day of Silence. Most people know of the one that the pro-life supporters do where usually students will place a piece of coloured tape (red for pro-life, purple for LGBTQ) on their mouths and not speak for an entire day. The reasoning is to spread awareness of the issue by calling attention to the silence that surrounds you. In a society where we must communicate, usually through spoken means, to get our point across, silence holds a special place of persuasion. Is it more effective to be silent or to speak out? This is what I asked myself yesterday as I prepared to participate in the Day. I made a theory based on several presumptions: in my liberal school of 3500 students, being silent wouldn't be as effective as speaking up. Being silent only shows a position while speaking up actually informs. Holding a conversation with someone has the potential to go on more in- depth issues and tangents than writing it all out.

Last year, I was silent and I noticed several things: those who asked me why I was silent weren't just satisfied with the card that I gave them to read that explained the reason why. The inevitable question came afterward: " Are you gay?" I had to explain that I wasn't, but this couldn't be spoken, this had to be written. Since my sexual orientation doesn't take only several seconds to explain, it's more of a hassle to write it all down than to actually have a spoken conversation. In addition, even in a liberal school, you get homophobes. A freshman boy yelled at me "Suck my dick! Oh, you can't 'cause you're gay!" and if I hadn't had tape over my mouth, I probably would have insulted him right back.

Yesterday, I decided not to be silent. However, what happened was definitely not what I expected. Absolutely no one asked me what my orientation was after they asked me why I was wearing tape. In fact, most people asked me why I wasn't being silent. When i told them I thought speaking up was going to be more effective, they wholly agreed with me. Unfortunately though, my mission was botched. I did not enlighten anyone and I didn't get insulted either ( I really wanted to get the chance to be verbally aggressive). Essentially, I had more success being silent than not. This could be because of several reasons: I'm not the kind of person who's scared or unwilling to speak about my orientation. If you have a problem with who I am, I couldn't hope to care. Verbal abuse does not hit a nerve and if I ever encounter physical abuse because of my sexuality, I also have no issue with finding that person (or people) and doing just as much harm to them. Most of my classmates know who I am because I'm not shy to tell them and those who don't are usually younger and haven't had to put up with me for four years. Also, putting tape over your mouth is much more noticeable than putting tape on your clothes. It's more attention-grabbing. And if you're like me and you have a hard time not hurling back insults, this can be an extremely good lesson for you. Physically not neing able to stand up for yourself gives you a taste of exactly why you're participating to the Day of Silence (basically supporting those who are being bullied and cannot speak up for fear of negative consequences from their families, friends, etc.)

I came to the conclusion that both silence and verbal communication are necessary to get one's point across--silence to gain attention and speech to keep it. Even if my second time didn't work as well as the first time, I think one try isn't enough to make a foolproof conclusion ( as I had initially hoped). Ideally, one would participate one year completely silent for personal empathy reasons and then do a combination--putting tape over your mouth until someone asks you the cause and then take off the tape and talk.
Since next year, I am going to university, I will take my own advice and see what kind of results I receive then. I have a feeling that the college I'm attending is similar to my high school so it will be interesting to see what happens.


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