WAGE sponsors Day of Silence

The Women’s and Gender Equity Center sponsored The National Day of Silence on Friday, to protest the silence faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual, transgender and queer people and their allies, according to WAGE’S LGBTQ Program Coordinator graduate student David Gardner.

Gardner said WAGE sponsored the event to raise awareness of the discrimination and harassment the LGBTQ community endures.

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence is the largest student-led action towards creating safer schools for all regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, according to the official Day of Silence Web site.

The Facebook event page created by WAGE had 200 students, community members, faculty and staff who pledged to take part in the day.

Sophomore Joe Krohn said he participated in the event because he believed it “opens people’s eyes.” The psychology major said he has been the target of verbal harassment on campus and in the community because of his sexuality.

“I’ve been called a ‘faggot’ on Water Street,” he said. Krohn said his experience made him more determined to take a stand.

To participate in the protest, individuals remained silent and carried cards that explained the purpose behind it. Each bookmark-sized card featured a black-and-white photo on the front and this inscription on the other side:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.”

Sophomore Daniel Zamarripa took publicity photos for the event, photographing students, faculty and administration members with their pointer fingers held to their lips.

“I support the Day of Silence because it brings an awareness of LGBT issues on campus,” Zamarripa said. “I was so happy to get involved and assist David and the WAGE office.”

The images were used on WAGE’s Facebook event, as well as on the explanation cards used by those who participated in The Day of Silence.

Beth Hellwig, vice chancellor of student affairs and dean of students, was photographed by Zamarripa. Hellwig, who has participated in The Day of Silence for about a decade, said the day “helps us think about the many people without a voice.”

She added she believes UW-Eau Claire is doing its part to make the campus more inviting and welcoming to all people. Citing the new safe space programs and gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, Hellwig said the university is on the right track to making students, faculty and staff more comfortable.

“I think that UW-Eau Claire has made some great strides in being more proactive,” she said.