LIGALY Recognizes the Silencing Effect Anti-GLBT Bullying Has on Youth
We’ve all heard the old adage “silence is golden,” but have you ever stopped to think what else silence can mean? It can signify pain, fear, contentment, anxiety, respect – a plethora of emotions – and unless you are the person conveying the silence, you are left to ponder why someone isn’t using their voice.
Every year, schools across Long Island (and the country) participate in Day of Silence, a national movement where students take a vow of silence to protest the silence that is forced upon GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) youth. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), a 2009 survey of 7,000 GLBT middle and high school students, aged 13-21 years old, found that in the previous year, because of their sexual orientation, 8 out of 10 students had been verbally harassed at school, 4 out of 10 had been physically harassed at school, 6 out of 10 felt unsafe at school, and 1 out of 5 had been the victim of a physical assault at school. These numbers are staggering, and have most likely increased since the survey was conducted.
Day of Silence is a chance for students and faculty to raise awareness and engage others about the dangers of anti-GLBT bullying. Some students stay silent for the entire day, some for portions of the day, and others will show support by advocating for the GLBT community by wearing pins and handing out cards/literature about the event.
While the Day of Silence typically occurs in schools, LIGALY (Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth) created its own Night of Noise several years ago, which is held on the evening of Day of Silence (this year on April 11th). According to Robert Vitelli, Chief Operating Officer of The Long Island GLBT Network (The Network), Night of Noise “captures who we are in terms of being visible, and telling people what’s going on.” Students are invited to come together at The Long Island GLBT Network’s Suffolk Center at Bay Shore, gain a voice, and express what Day of Silence has meant to them. The idea behind Night of Noise is to be able to let students to break their silence and empower them to be able to do something about the barriers GLBT youth face.
Vitelli explained that one of the most powerful activities during Night of Noise is the build up and then destruction of a large cinderblock wall. The youth in attendance patiently wait on line to spray paint on the wall words that they have either been bullied with, or heard others be bullied with. Then, in a positive and supportive environment, the youth are encouraged to break the wall with a sledgehammer to signify the breaking of the silence, as well as breaking the bullying that so many youth face each day.
Currently, there are roughly between 10 to 12 schools on Long Island that participate in Day of Silence. LIGALY’s Community Educator, Sam Colbert, heads the organization’s special training sessions to GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) clubs in schools throughout Long Island, where they talk about advertising, what students can and cannot do throughout the school day, what they have the right to do in terms of being silent, and how teachers and other faculty can become involved. Colbert believes it is a very important day to recognize a profound statement, “Silence can say a lot. Not being able to say anything in defense of yourself when you’re being bullied because of who you are can be silencing as well.”
The overall and important message LIGALY aims to convey is clearly that remaining silent while witnessing an act of bullying can be just as bad as actually being a bully. It is important to remember that even one voice can save a life.
If students and schools are looking for a way to become involved in LIGALY’s Day of Silence training or its Night of Noise event, they can contact Sam Colbert, LIGALY Community Educator, at 631.665.2300 or visit
by Toni Calabrese