National Day of Silence speaks out for LGBT community

By Chelsey Boutan

With duct tape-covered mouths and linked arms, Prism members will solemnly encircle their rainbow colored LGBT flag at the MLK Commons on Friday.

They all will remain silent, except for a few members who will yell out facts about suicides, bullying and discrimination that they believe has silenced the LGBT community.

Prism, along with other members and supporters of the LGBT community at NIU, will participate in the National Day of Silence on Friday. Students at schools across the country will take a vow of silence for one day to show others the silencing effect bullying and harassment in schools has had on LGBT individuals.

Night of Noise

Junior business major Marc Romero is president of Prism, an LGBT student-run organization. After being silent all day, Romero said Prism will have a bonfire at the East Lagoon for the Night of Noise. He said this is a time for students to yell, talk and “unwind.”

Romero said it’s important to have the Night of Noise because the day can be stressful for LGBT students. Some don’t feel accepted by their communities, and may even experience discrimination while walking around campus and going to classes with taped mouths, he said.

‘A kind of silent existence’

Michael Sunderman, sophomore biology major and co-education coordinator of Prism, said the National Day of Silence makes the effects of LGBT bullying and discrimination more visible.

“I really think it’s a gripping and kind of in-your-face way to be like, ‘Look at what so many people are going through,’ which normally you can just pretend isn’t happening or you don’t even see,” Sunderman said. “I think it’s important because it makes people pay attention. It’s like wow, these people are dealing with this and I can’t just not pay attention anymore. I have to face it sometime.”

Sunderman said societal pressures can cause LGBT-identifying individuals to pretend to be straight for fear of getting bullied. This puts them into “a kind of silent existence where they just do what they are expected to do and not what they want to do,” he said.

Looking back at his experiences in middle school and high school, Sunderman realizes now that he was silenced not by bullying, but because he never met gay people like him until he came to NIU.

“I think there was a large part of me that was essentially silenced because I never even knew there were other people like me that I could kind of experience that with,” he said.

Loretta Slowik, senior nursing major and co-education coordinator of Prism, said the Day of Silence is also a day for straight people to reflect on how witnessing the discrimination of an LGBT individual and then not speaking up is just as wrong as being the person who made homophobic remarks.

Whenever she hears people say, “that’s so gay,” or use derogatory terms for LGBT individuals, Slowik said she always tells the speaker those terms are offensive.

“I’m not gay and I’m not identified as LGBT, but I am a strong ally and I don’t want my friends being taken down, whether they are in my presence or not,” she said.

‘A very positive future’

Miles Faciane, junior computer science major and Prism’s community liaison, has faced discrimination as a gay man, but has never let that silence him.

“I’m a tough nugget,” Faciane said. “I have been screamed at, shouted at, pushed and shoved. But no one can keep my mouth shut. There is a whole laundry list of things people have called me, even here on this campus. I was walking down the road and someone shouted out the window, ‘Hey faggot, get off the street!’”

Even though he and other members of the LGBT community have faced discrimination, Faciane said he will reflect on the LGBT movement’s promising future during the Day of Silence.

“I see a very positive future,” he said. “There’s been so much progress already. If you look back to the history of the LGBT community, we went from basically 100 percent in the closet because we had to be, to now we can have drag shows in whole sections of Chicago, and we’re also legalizing gay marriage in many states. Once you start progressing, it’s hard to go back.”