s a nation-wide event, students across campuses, high schools and even middle schools will partake in a day-long vow of silence on April 19 to represent the silencing of LGBT students and their supporters. The Gustavus Queers & Allies (Q&A) organization will be endorsing this event and will be providing materials to encourage students to participate.
“Day of Silence represents what it is to be silenced for one’s sexual orientation,” Q&A Co-president Callie Wicklund said.
Wicklund took part in the national day as a high school student in an effort to bring attention to the work that still needs to be done to better the community.
“People take a vow of silence for a day to recognize what it is like to be bullied. It’s easy for people to disregard a lot of the bullying that goes on, so the purpose of this day is to remind people to be mindful of the language that they’re using because even when victims are silent, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt them.”
Q&A organization strives to create a supportive campus environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, and their allies. This mission involves creating dialogue and facilitating discussion—however, Day of Silence is unique in its approach to provoke thought.
“It’s important to have a day where we’re silent instead of discussing the issue and having talks about bullying,” Co-president Tristan Fernstrom said. “It makes people ask you why you’re so quiet and when you hand them a piece of paper about why you’re not talking, they’ll become affected by it in some way. Maybe they’ll decide to participate in Day of Silence as well. In this way, silence becomes a powerful way of affecting those around you.”
Last year, as part of their push forward in this movement, Q&A collaborated with the social justice theatre troupe, I Am We Are, to perform in the Campus Jackson Center.
“We coordinated a flash mob in the Caf,” Fernstrom said. “A lot of people who weren’t expecting the flash mob were moved to tears. There was a standing ovation, and this event sparked a lot of discussion.”
With duct tape over their mouths, the members involved donned matching t-shirts and displayed signs with statistics about bullying and suicide. Over the projector, the trailer from a documentary called Second Class Citizen played.
“It was really powerful,” Fernstrom said. “The video playing addressed the discrimination and silence that the Queer community has been forced to deal with. A prospective student was there with his family, and they actually stopped and thanked us for doing that.”
In addition to the events that Q&A have been sponsoring, the organization addressed what it meant to be a Transperson on campus with the event, “A Day in the Life of a TransPerson.” Intended to raise awareness about how a Transperson might experience the world (and specifically at Gustavus), the event was split into three days from Tuesday, March 19 to Thursday, March 21.
“The idea came about last year when brainstorming new projects for Q&A,” DLC Representative for Q&A Pia Richardson said. “We wanted to do an event to show support and increase understanding of some of the challenges related to gender identity on this campus, and hopefully that could be used to make this campus a better place for transpeople to be.”
During the three day event, students are encouraged to participate independently to gain a realistic experience.
“In one of our conversations with the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies faculty, it was noted that being a Transperson can be a very isolating experience,” Wicklund said. “You won’t always have your friends with you. This day is meant for individuals to experience the challenges of being a Transperson.”
The challenges encountered as a Transperson include (but are not limited to) accessibility of Gustavus facilities for gender-neutral individuals, being called by one’s preferred pronouns, and other social components regarding the level of acceptance in one’s community.
“It’s important that people will be talking about it or thinking about it. We need to bring attention to the things that aren’t talked about on campus—do we really need gender-neutral bathrooms? Gustavus ranks low as a welcoming and accepting community. That’s something we should change,”Wicklund said.