On Friday, Binghamton University students gathered to speak up about issues facing the LGBTQ community.
The Equality Project’s second annual “Break the Silence” event, a name derived from the National Day of Silence, was held to raise awareness about bullying and imposed silence on the community. The Day of Silence, run by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), was founded in 1996 to “call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools,” according to GLSEN’s website. The National Day of Silence is on April 11 this year, which falls during spring break, prompting organizers to hold BU’s event in advance.
“We were really inspired by the Day of Silence, and it’s raising awareness of the discrimination of the LGBTQ community. It’s important to have these kind of events so LGBTQ students feel safe being who they are and to educate people about what’s going on out there,” said Olivia Santoro, the vice president of the Equality Project and a senior double-majoring in sociology. “We as students have a lot of potential to push for change.”
Dean of Students April Thompson attended the event with her wife and spoke to the audience about why the day was personally significant to her.
“This particular program, across the country, is a way to mark the voices that aren’t heard, for all the times people have been silenced and all the moments they couldn’t speak out when they wanted to say something,” Thompson said in her address. “It takes a lot of work to be silent, it takes a tremendous amount of work. I did not come out to my family for eight years.”
“Break the Silence” featured performances by the Slam Poetry Club, Explorchestra and student bands such as Liberty Belle and the Union Boys and Collection Romantic Autumn. In addition, various on-campus LGBTQ clubs gave presentations. The event was co-sponsored by the Rainbow Pride Union, SHADES and newly chartered Jewish LGBTQ group Keshet. Between acts by the entertainers, attendees shared facts, stats and issues about the bullying, homophobia, increased suicide risk and violence faced by the LGBTQ community.
According to the Equality Project’s statistics, nine out of 10 LGBTQ students experience discrimination in school, and one out of five is assaulted due to their sexual orientation. Molly McNeely, a junior majoring in English, said it was a call to arms for the cause of LGBTQ rights.
“The way the learned elite tend to motivate, try to push these sort of progressive movements, they all start on college campuses,” McNeely said. “It is the young people who are pushing change forward in this country. We can’t just sit back and let older people, the generation before us to do something, because if we do we’re going to be waiting until we are their age.”
Besides the informational and entertaining aspects of the event, McNeely said that the event was a reminder of the more intimate causes behind the LGBTQ cause.
“We kind of have this weird heightened political climate right now, where LGBT means something political and not something personal,” McNeely said. “These events are nice because they bring us back down and remember why we got into the cause in the first place.”