Posted by: rcieri | August 2, 2009

Silent protest: Day of Silence movement hits Elon’s campus

by Rachel Cieri, April 22, 2009

“Woo hoo!”

It was the first thing out of Brandon Tankard’s mouth after a Day of Silence on April 17.

The Elon sophomore stood up from Spectrum’s meeting table in the Multicultural Center and peeled off a sign he had taped to his “Gay? Fine by me” T-shirt.

“It was easier than trying to explain,” Tankard said.


It was Tankard’s sixth time participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement to raise awareness of the forced silence of the LGBTQ community. The movement was started in 1996 by a group of students at the University of Virginia to address the problem of anti-LGBTQ behavior, and it has since spread to more than 8,000 schools nationally.

While Elon’s Day of Silence was somewhat overshadowed by Pride Week the previous week, its impact was not diminished for the participants.

“It’s like an exact little replica of what the gay community goes through,” Spectrum president

J.R. Riegel said. “It’s an enlightening experience. I think it’s something everyone should do at some point. You never realize how hard it is not to be able to speak.”

Not speaking about their sexual orientations is something LGBTQ individuals go through on a daily basis, whether by choice or by force, Riegel said. Some come from families or communities where the subject is taboo, while other simply find it easier not to have to deal with the attitudes and looks they encounter.

“Even in the gay community here, there is hesitation,” Tankard said. “Because of the reactions and looks they get from some people on this campus, they would rather not be as out there. They want to be more ‘hush-hush,'”

This sort of attitude is what Spectrum adviser Danny Glassmann explained as “internalized homophobia,” a fear of revealing or admitting to one’s own homosexuality, and it is more common than one might think.

Riegel said he had just recently “come out” to his high school friends. Before this, he said he felt like he could never fully express his views to them.

“If they say ‘That’s gay,’ or something, I still feel like I can’t say anything,” he said.

But sometimes the silence isn’t literal.

Glassmann said he feels like he is silenced every time his rights or privileges are taken away in instances like California’s Proposition 8.

“It silences me as a person,” he said.

For junior Heather Laskin, assumptions bother her as well as the silence. She admits to being part of the “heterosexual-dominant norm,” but because she supports LGBTQ groups, others assume that she must be homosexual. Laskin’s mother even asked her recently if she’d found a girlfriend.She said that this bothers her because some see a person’s sexual orientation before they see the person’s personality. 

The same sort of assumptions apply on the Day of Silence.

“They see the sticker or tape (I’m wearing) first, before they see my personality,” Riegel said. “They assume, and you can’t fight it.”


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