Every year since ninth grade, I have written a long and conflicted post about why I do not observe the Day of Silence, an event held at many high schools and colleges around the country where students take a vow of silence for the school day in order to mark the less visible and involuntary silencing that many LGBT students undergo every day.
It just hit me that Princeton, as far as I know, does not observe the Day of Silence.
I have my reasons for not remaining silent—to put it simply, I’m a writer; I make action through words, and I always felt like someone needed to speak up for the silent—but the DoS is still a strong indication of how active and organized a school’s LGBT community is. My high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance managed to engage tons of LGBT students and allies every year in the DoS events, despite the high level of homophobia, despite repostering the DoS posters on a daily basis because intolerant people would tear them down. In all of my classes every year, there was at least one person who was silent. Universities do DoS too: it was founded at the University of Virginia, and continues all over—I remember that the UCLA DoS got covered in the LA Times last year. But not Princeton. It’s supposed to be Pride Week at Princeton, but you wouldn’t know it. If you just walked around campus, you would barely realize there were any gay people at Princeton at all—and Pride Week should be the one time when you know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is a gay community on a campus.
I don’t know whether a Day of Silence would be successful at Princeton. I notice the contrast from high school here, where students actually volunteer to speak in class. Kids have organizations to run. They have interviews. They’re not going to be silent on Friday. But it reminds me how hard it is to change an institution with a long history of prejudice and marginalization. And how sometimes, on rare occasions, I get this tiny dark feeling deep inside me that I picked the wrong university.