A guest editorial by Shelby Curran, a 16-year-old junior at David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie:
April 19th marks the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) annual Day of Silence. Hundreds of thousands of students within the LGBTQ community, as well as allies, are taking part in this youth movement year after year, myself included.
Throughout my years of high school, I have been fortunate enough to have never been brutally bullied or harassed for my sexual orientation. Unfortunately, thousands of LGBTQ students are tormented at school because of who they are. This day mirrors the silence that bullied students are faced with every day. It encourages people to think about the voices that they do not hear, as well as allows participants to get a taste of what it feels like to be disconnected, so that after the silence is broken, we can speak up.
Taking part in the Day of Silence as a veteran, I recall the first time I participated in a private religious school. Being the only participant, many students had never been aware of the hardships facing LGBTQ students and many teachers were uncomfortable with my silence. Regardless, I felt it was my duty to bring awareness, and this year I am proud to say that two other students at my school are joining the fight against bullying through the Day of Silence.
Being silent allows for much self-reflection and mixed emotions. I feel frustrated when I am compelled to ask a question in class, and I remember that victims of bullying may not possess the courage to speak in front of their classmates. I feel ignored when I see my peers talking in the hallways and laughing at lunchtime, and I remember that bullied students may not have people to talk to or laugh with at school, feeling invisible. I feel deep sadness when I want to use words to communicate, and I remember that silence is not an annual movement, but a daily routine for LGBTQ students who are harassed. I feel empowered when a friend asks me if anything is wrong and reaches out to me regarding my lack of interaction, and remember that if just one person reached out to a bullied student each day, LGBTQ teens would feel safe and happy in school.
Many people have asked me why, of all things, silence is chosen as the action. Why wouldn't we be loud and voice our opinions on this day? However, what some bystanders may fail to realize is that our voices are loud and powerful on the other 364 days of the year, and today is when we actually feel the harsh realities. The Day of Silence reminds me why I must be loud on each and every other day of the year. It allows us to show others what a bulled LGBTQ teen might look like, and what they should pay attention to in order to reach out to those who are distant from the rest of the student body. My silence shows me how powerful my voice is.
To everyone who is afraid to speak up and be who you are, I challenge you to raise your voice. Use this great gift to educate a friend or family member on the LGBTQ community, to make a relationship with a peer who may need a friend in school, and to tell someone your own story. The silence reflects the idea that our ability to speak up should never be taken for granted.
This is my story. It's time to tell yours.