Every year, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network holds a national Day of Silence, in which students take a day-long vow of silence to raise awareness of the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ harassment and violence.
Boston University’s LGBTQ groups liked the idea of raising awareness, but instead of participating in a day of silence, they had another idea: a week of not-so-silent events.
And so BU’s first “Breaking the Silence Week,” hosted by BU’s United Coalition of LGBTQ+ Student Groups (BUBQ) and the Queer Activist Collective, and running from April 7- April 13, was born.
The week includes various events including a number of LGBTQ groups on campus—BU’s Trans* Listening Circle is hosting Monday’s film screening of Ma vie en rose; OUTlook, Marsh Chapel’s LGBTQ group, is hosting a discussion on “Initiating Change in Spiritual Spaces” on Sunday; and OUTlaw, the BU School of Law’s LGBTQ+ community group, is hosting a clothing guide for transgender youth in the Law tower lobby all week.
Donald Rock (COM, ’17), treasurer for the Queer Activist Collective, told The Quad, “Overall, the week is involving contributions from most of the LGBTQ groups on campus, which is the first time we have ever come together for such [an event].”
Rock also explained some of the other events taking place as part of “Breaking the Silence Week,” such as Tuesday’s “Action Day.” Action Day is, according to the event’s Facebook page, a day “to speak out against harmful speech and actions! Call out, educate, and discuss why the words and behaviors of your friends and peers can negatively impact members of the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups.”
But what if it isn’t clear what words and behaviors do have negative impacts? Rock explained one example, saying “I think a big one is using the correct gender pronouns. I think gender is a lot more complex and flexible than people understand, and it’s something that trans* people face on a daily basis. There’s also a lot of bi erasure, meaning that a lot of people say that ‘bisexuals don’t actually exist’ and that you must either be gay or straight. We also want people to take action against harmful speech against other minority groups… so we’re overall aiming for people to really just be more aware of harmful speech and to let people know that what they say can really impact others.”
Even those students not familiar with some of the terms or ideas common to the LGBTQ community are encouraged to come out to this week’s events. In Rock’s words, “I’d say the best way to learn about these issues to just to come out to the events and ask questions. A lot of people might feel uncomfortable, especially if they’re not familiar with a lot of terms used, but I think the only way to really learn about them is to come out and hear about things you might not be comfortable with.”
BU’s LGBTQ+ groups have a number of events planned this week, all of which can be found with locations, times, and descriptions, by searching “Boston University’s Breaking the Silence Week” on Facebook.
But if you can only come to one event this week, Rock suggests Friday’s occupation of Marsh Plaza. He says, “I personally think what will be the most impactful will be Friday, when we occupy Marsh Plaza. Friday is the actual National Day of Silence. We’re going to be holding posters reminding people of those who have lost their lives to LGBTQ-related violence and BU’s spoken word poetry group, Speak for Yourself, will be holding performances.”
The rest of the week’s events, from a panel of LGBTQ alumni called “Out in the Workplace” to a discussion with Boston’s Bisexual Resource Center, is sure to appeal to both the LGBTQ community as well as allies willing to learn more about these important issues.
If author Audre Lorde—a black, feminist lesbian herself—was right when she said “Your silence will not protect you,” then breaking the silence may be just what the LGBTQ+ community needs.