Standing silent

They stood hand-in-hand, their mouths duct-taped shut while wearing shirts decorated with words such as “queer” or “faggot” on one side, “yes I am” on the other.

On Friday, four WSU students protested outside the CUB in recognition of the Day of Silence, an annual nationwide demonstration against the harassment and bullying of students who identify with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“We are silent but at the same time we are not,” said freshman Danielle Chiriguayo, vice-chair of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA).

Chiriguayo explained that there are people who do not feel comfortable standing up against the hatred projected by those who do not understand what it means to be LGBT. She said the Day of Silence is about giving a voice to the voiceless by not speaking at all. Tape and clothing helped delivered the message.

The red duct tape read “speak no evil” and “no hate.” The shirts displayed novels of offensive socially-derived words on the front and on the back said “I will not be silenced.”

“I might be a lesbian but I’m not a dyke,” Chiriguayo said. “I’m just me.”

A collection of negative terms used to classify members of the LGBT community covered the shirts worn by Chiriguayo and other fellow demonstrators.

 “We wanted to use these derogatory words that have been spewed at us not necessarily to reclaim them but to show that those words do not define us,” Chiriguayo said.

Brianna Tollackson, a WSU junior, was recently elected as vice-chair of GSA for the 2014-2015 school year. Tollackson said passersby hurled insults at the student demonstrators and took pictures.

“’If you don’t want to be silenced, then why do you have duct tape on your mouths,’” Tollackson said, reciting what one person blurted out during the three-hour protest.

Despite the slew of defamatory remarks, Tollackson said there was one person who showed a little enlightenment for the Day of Silence.

“There was one guy who came up to us and said it was his first time coming back to the campus (WSU) in 20 years and his husband had just gotten married after being together for 19 years,” Tollackson said. “He said he was proud of us what we were doing.”

Tollackson said it comes down to that ethical phrase heard since preschool: “Don’t say anything if you’re not going to say something nice.”  

Freshman Oscar McNamara, who will serve as the GSA public relations officer for the 2014-2015 school year, said to him the Day of Silence bluntly is trying to communicate one thing.

“Pretty much don’t be a jackass,” McNamara said.

McNamara’s protest experience was not all confrontational. He said people shook hands and told personal stories related to GSA’s cause. 

“It was just so much fun hearing people be supportive of it,” he said.

McNamara hopes to form a larger group for next year’s Day of Silence. He said the event went well overall and showed him how not speaking can mean so much.

“Literally being around a classroom or walking around the mall and not being able to talk, it was a really strong symbol to me to have that kind of perspective,” he said.