Co-op plans ‘day of silence’

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative at Yale is planning a “day of silence” for April 18 to highlight the experiences of queer students and others who are forced to hide their sexuality.

Members of the Co-op, as well as straight students allied with their cause, will abstain from speech the entire day and wear conspicuous symbols on their clothing meant to bring attention to their silence, Co-op coordinator Anna Wipfler ’09 said. The day is intended to increase awareness among Yalies of the difficulties faced by gays and lesbians who do not feel comfortable speaking about their experiences, she said.

“The point of it is to remind people that there are a lot of times when LGBT folks are silent either about their personal views or about their personal lives, and how that affects their public lives, which is generally a bad thing,” Wipfler said. “Most people would rather be open about everything.”

The day of silence, which coincides with the last day of Bulldog Days, is part of a similar effort at elementary school, high school and college campuses across the country sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which has been organizing the event annually for about 20 years, Wipfler said. Although Wipfler participated in the day of silence while in high school, she said Yale did not observe the event last year.

But Co-op Political Action Chair Hugh Baran ’09 said although he is glad the event will bring attention to queer issues, he will not be participating because he thinks speaking is more effective than silence in making a point.

“I think that what we need … in our society is more dialogue and more speaking out about issues that affect queer people and keep queer people silent,” he said. “I generally think that the point of the day of the silence lies in the breaking of the silence … I’m excited about that.”

Wipfler said the symbols to be worn on participants’ clothing — which organizers have yet to choose — will encourage other students to ask for an explanation of the event. Those participating in the day of silence will have written statements explaining the purpose of the event, she said, and in the evening there will be an outdoor “breaking of the silence” to celebrate the completion of the event.

“You are silent for the whole day, but it doesn’t end with you just being depressed and isolated,” Wipfler said. “It ends with a loud sharing of experiences throughout the day and experiences in daily life in general.”

Co-op representatives will gather in the Memorial Hall on the morning of April 18 to distribute signs and explanation cards to participants and to attempt to enlist other students in the day of silence, Wipfler said. In addition, the Co-op will send out e-mails and post fliers in the next 10 days in an effort to sign up students, she said.

Co-op board member Ben Gonzalez ’09 said he plans to participate in the event as a way of showing solidarity with those who do not feel free to be open with others about their sexuality. But he said he thinks the day of silence should be coupled with a more proactive strategy for affecting change on queer issues — such as lobbying Congress or the state legislature — that is less likely to cause uninvolved students to roll their eyes.

Gonzalez said he may use sign language to communicate in class during the day of silence.

“If it’s a Wednesday, I only have lectures that day,” he said. “I would sign, I suppose, to tell people what it’s like to have to learn a different language, a secret gay code.”

Wipfler said the scheduling of the day of silence during Bulldog Days was a coincidence because the date was selected by GLSEN.

“We are excited about being able to show the pre-frosh that we are capable of pulling off actions like this,” she said in an e-mail. “I know that will get some of them excited.”

The day of silence is part of Pride at Yale, a two-week-long series of talks and other events beginning Saturday that are meant to highlight queer issues on campus.

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