I took my vow of silence at 12am PST, with the intent of silence for 24 hours besides if I had to speak to someone; I did have school today after all. At 3:47 in the morning my dog wanted to be let outside, and when I get back to my room with her, I find myself whispering “Come on,” and immediately smacked my forehead and went back to sleep for another hour and a half. My dad had already left for work, and my mom had only found out yesterday (Wednesday) that I was participating in this. She asked the obvious, yet stereotypical, question – If I am gay. My response? You don’t have to be gay to be an ally. She didn’t have a problem with it but wondered why I was participating in it, all that jazz. I had planned on writing on my arm “Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Questioning Intersex Asexual” in a line, but that’s not so easy to do, and my mom didn’t want me writing on my arm. She kept saying “sometimes, less is more” and honestly, I didn’t want to hear it.
I had planned for this day for about two weeks, and I wanted to do that, and broke my silence because we started yelling at each other a bit. I said two sentences total, she walked away, I scrubbed off my arm and replaced it with “Remember Matthew Shepard” which I had planned on putting on my other arm, but nevertheless I got it on. Armed with red pants, red plaid hat, and t-shirt I headed to school, taking a dry erase board just in case. We had to pick up my “friend” first because I carpool with her, and the first thing out of her mouth after good morning was “Oh, is this one of your…days? For that thing?” And obviously I can’t say anything and my mom says “Activism day” and I was literally thinking WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT??? But I couldn’t speak, and kept my mouth shut. They made a few jokes, my mom saying how nice the quiet was and my “friend” saying how it would be fun to mess with me. Did neither of them not understand what I was doing this for? I didn’t expect my “friend” to, but my mother I expected a bit more from.
In any case, we got to the school, and into class about twenty minutes early. Only two other people were there, and I was getting all my stuff out and sat down when my “friend” started laughing, basically at me, and then proceeded to say “No, I’m not laughing at you *giggle* I just think it’s funny. But, no, really, I’m not laughing at you”. I had written a note on the whiteboard to tell her about this teen driving information that her mom had wanted, and then she asked if she could see the marker to write a note back. I gave her a look like “Really? You can just talk” and then she giggled and said thank you. I wasn’t laughing. My teacher mentioned it at the beginning of class briefly, I got a few head nods and gave a little smile. Communication got harder after class when my “friend” was trying to get directions from me and didn’t understand my hand movements and even stated “This is really hard”. Uhm, yeah. Kind of the point.
I went down to the cafeteria and sat outside to do some biology, and she showed up a few minutes later. There were two guys sitting at another table and one had music playing on his phone, and after a couple minutes asked if it was bothering us. I had my back to him but shook my head and kept writing, and a moment later he said “And I really agree with your shirt” and I politely turned, smiled, and nodded my head in thanks. His friend sort of laughed at him and he said something along the lines of everyone should be treated equally and such. I had to go to the student government meeting, where I was prepared to have to talk anyways but still had the speaking cards ready to give to anyone who asked. The door was locked so I stood awkwardly outside with two other people, and showed the card to one of them and they both understood it and everything.
The guy who has been helping me with the shoe drive and been really nice sat next to me, and asked if I was being silent still and I nodded, and he asked if I wanted him to tell everyone, and I showed him the card and said that I knew I’d probably have to speak so it was okay. After reading the card he said “Oh, are you lesbian then?” but not in a rude way or anything. Cue panic attack and me hastily saying “You don’t have to be gay to be an ally” before shutting my mouth again. We had an “informal” meeting before the actual “class” in which one of the guest audience members was a journalist for the school’s newspaper and basically recording everything that we discussed to write about, and the student government president asked if I wanted to talk about what I was doing.
I don’t know if I blush a lot, but I know I definitely get very nervous and I’m sure it shows, and one of the guys who had been waiting outside with me said something about me not speaking for the day, but I said it was okay, and I explained what Day of Silence was and what we’re trying to prevent with it. That was all over, and they went on to talking about other things, then we had our class start, in which we each received a brown paper bag and had to go put a note in everyone else’s paper bags – could be a comment, request, possible improvements; anything really.
I basically don’t know anyone at all, and wrote generic things like “You seem very nice and helpful” etc etc. We were supposed to wait until after class was over to read what people put into our paper bags, so I put it in my backpack and hid it in my room when I got home because I didn’t want anyone to see it. I forgot about it but remembered when I stepped on it and it crinkled. Reading what everyone put, which was all encouraging things, improved my day entirely and just about made me cry. I was silent as much as possible today, and as I write this I am still silent. Reading those notes just made me appreciate my life and what I can do with it that much more. But back to after class.
I left, again awkwardly because there was really no dismissal, and went to the actual room “designated” to student government and whatnot. One of the guys had talked to me on Tuesday, wondering why I didn’t come in and hang out with them at all. Honestly? I didn’t feel welcome, but it was because previously when I had showed up, I felt completely shut down and unwelcome, and when I got voted in I didn’t feel like that changed. And when I feel shut down, then I shut down. But today, I went in and the first comment was “Hey! You’re in here!” which was encouraging, so I stood awkwardly in the doorway before moving to stand awkwardly in the corner before someone said I could sit down, which then became more awkward because the couch is really weird and I couldn’t sit up straight and I was like squishing myself against the side of the couch. I did talk a bit when I was in there, but only relating to Day of Silence and/or gay slurs, etc. One of the guys saw on my arm and asked who Matthew Shepard was, and I said that he was beaten to death for being gay, but I couldn’t remember the whole story and told him to Google it. He did so and we talked about it a little bit as well.
It was nice to be in there, and after most everyone had left I went and worked on my biology. I had noticed a table being set up nearby and saw “Book” on their sign and made a note to see what they were talking about, but from where I was sitting I couldn’t see that the rest of the sign was about some Bible somethingorother and religious junk.
While I was sitting at the table, a lady from the table came up to me to read the note I had pinned, and she looked at it for about two seconds and said “Uh huh, uh huh,” and then I handed her the speaking card – again, this was before I knew it was a religious-y Bible thing. She asked if she could take it or if I wanted it back and I shrugged to say I didn’t care, and she gave it back. Didn’t have it for long enough to read the whole thing, of course.
When I got close enough to look at their sign, they were already saying hello and I smiled, wanting to back away right then and there. A card blew off the table so I picked it up and put it back for them, being a good Samaritan and whatnot, but one of the two women sitting there handed it to me and said I could order a free Bible “and this is what it will come like” yadayadayada. The other women asked what my name was, and the other said something along the lines of “she’s doing that silent thing” and I said my name is Melissa, and I can talk still but I am taking a vow of silence. Before I got the chance to further explain, she interjected and said “That’s to remember the gays and lesbians who have done themselves in?” and I said “No, it’s a day to bring attention to and create awareness for harassment, violence, and bullying towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual people, as well as those assumed to be any of the above” and proceeded to discuss Matthew Shepard and the 11 year old boy who killed himself for having homophobic slurs thrown at him when he didn’t even identify as gay. They talked a bit about God, and I honestly don’t remember what it was about now, but I ended up walking away very angry and crumpling up their Bible ordering card and threw it out. I sat down on the steps to wait for my dad to come pick me up, and then started thinking about how they had written my name down.
It was a bit of a “Holy crap, they’re going to f*cking pray for me!” moment, and I walked back down to their table and said “Just curious, but why did you write down my name” – I think they were a bit surprised, but said that they took down everyone’s name who took a card so they could pray for them, and as she was saying this I was shaking my head. “Do you not want us to pray for you?” – “No, I’d rather you not. Is there a particular reason why you wanted to pray for me?” – “We pray for everyone who takes a card.” – “But any specific reason you’d be praying for me?” (They were both getting flustered and I’m sure understood the fact I was implying they wanted to pray for me because I was participating in this day to “remember the gays and lesbians who have done themselves in”.) Anyways, I asked her to scribble out my name and not to pray for me, thanked them, and walked away. I meant to ask if it was for the Day of Truth or something, but I was so angry that I couldn’t think properly. My dad showed up to pick me up, and I handed him the speaking card, and of course he says “This doesn’t mean you’re gay, does it?” I just shook my head and rolled my eyes and drove us home, where my mom had forgotten I wasn’t talking. I haven’t spoken since asking those women not to pray for me. I will not speak until 12 am PST tonight.
I am silent for the voices that have been silenced through suicide, hate crimes, and for those still feeling trapped and alone.