I would like to share with you an experience that I have found to be deeply rewarding. For the last two years I have participated in the GLSEN’s Day of Silence. While I had heard of it three years ago, I started participating last minute and on a whim two years ago when I was offered a “Day of Silence Participant” button by a member of our school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.
The stated purpose of the day is to call attention to hate speech and its silencing effects on GLBT students. In this sense, the event is an activist event. For me, this is a noble cause and it takes the admirable form of self-sacrifice. Even if this was the only reason to participate, I would gladly do so.
The Day of Silence is founded on the premise that the ability for GLBT students to express themselves is restricted by hate speech. And so, we voluntarily restrict our own ability to express ourselves to symbolize this silencing. However, the Day of Silence isn’t just an opportunity for activism, it is an exercise in understanding for the participants.
There are some experiences that are simply eye-opening and I count participating in the Day of Silence among one of those experiences. Before participating, I had no idea how incredibly frustrating it is to not be able to express oneself. I had taken my ability to interject through speech for granted and giving that ability up made me see the value that it holds. We, quite simply, do not fully appreciate the value of verbal expression.
While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the reproduction of hateful oppression found in participating in the day of silence, I can say that it is simply an indescribably educational experience. I learned something that cannot be expressed in words and cannot be taught, I learned something intimate about my relationship with the world around me.
A Day of Silence is something I wish everyone would experience, regardless of the cause. It is an opportunity for learning experientially that I feel no one can afford to miss.
We should always be on the lookout for opportunities where students can learn by experiencing: not only by doing, but by feeling.