Portland State students might find their Wednesday morning classes a little quieter than usual. The Queer Resource Center (QRC), in conjunction with other campus and activist groups across the country, is holding a Day of Silence on April 26. On that morning, many LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) students and their allies will take a vow of silence.
“Students can take a vow of silence for the day to remember those who are LGBTQ and have been silenced by discrimination, harassment, hate crimes and suicide,” said Eric Vander May of the QRC.
On the Monday and Tuesday leading up to the Day of Silence, QRC volunteers will be reaching out to students on campus. “We will be handing out flyers with tips for being an ally, how to get involved and some other great information about queer voices,” said Casey Payseno, another QRC representative.
The QRC will also distribute buttons and cards printed with an explanation of the vow of silence to those who participate. Students who have taken the vow will be able to give the card to people to explain why they will not speak.
“We’re also encouraging the people who take the vow of silence to let their professors know that they’re taking the vow in advance, so the professors know why they aren’t talking,” Vander May said.
The mute morning will culminate in a silent solidarity gathering from 11:15 to 12:30 p.m. in front of the bookstore at the Urban Plaza. The gathering is open to all supporters, whether they have taken a vow of silence for the whole day or not.
Day of Silence, Night of Noise is a national event in which LGBTQ communities and “allies,” or supporters of LGBTQ rights and equality, take vows of silence and hold vigils to draw public attention to the oppression of sexual minorities. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the event, which began when 150 students at the University of Virginia organized a silent protest in 1996. The national Day of Silence campaign is a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), in collaboration with the United States Student Association, which works to make bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students unacceptable. GLSEN anticipates that 500,000 people in approximately 4,000 middle schools, high schools and universities will participate in this year’s Day of Silence.
In many communities, the Day of Silence is followed by the Night of Noise, during which LGBTQ groups celebrate pride in their identities and the freedoms they have fought for over the decades.
“We won’t be having a Night of Noise here on campus,” Vander May said. “There will be some big parties out in the community, but not at PSU.”
Vander May has not heard of any possible counter-demonstrations at the solidarity gathering. “We expect friendliness from the community,” he said.
However, he emphasized that the event was open to anyone, whether they agreed with the QRC’s goals or not. “Non-allies are totally welcome to come.”