Seeing red for silence

(Edmonton) Red will be the colour of silence on the University of Alberta campus Friday.

The campus community's annual Day of Silence, created to spark discussion about gay rights, kicks off in the morning and students will remain mum for the entire day in sympathy for those they say are not able to communicate candidly.

Students take a vow of silence and experience a day where it's not possible to communicate with their family, friends and classmates, said Lauren Groves, organizer of the U of A event.

“There are a lot of people who face their everyday lives in silence,” she said. “Even something like a friend saying, ‘that’s so gay’ can be terrifying to speak out against, because there’s a reason they’re saying that. There’s a stigma attached to it.”

Every year, a different colour from the rainbow flag is chosen to represent the event, which is organized on the U of A campus through the Residence Halls Association. The colour for this day—the U of A's ninth annual—is red.

The annual event focuses attention on anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools and universities. The day in silence is observed to echo the silence that LGBT and allied students face every day, say organizers. The Day of Silence started in 1996 in Virginia, but quickly spread throughout North American and Australia. The U of A was the first Canadian university to participate.

In the last year, discussion about gay rights has gathered a lot of media attention, following a string of tragic suicides of gay youth in the U.S. High-profile campaigns like the celebrity-driven “It Gets Better” and “F*** Hate” have sparked a lot of dialogue, said Groves.

“A lot of these movements come out of the United States and England. None of them are coming out of Canada,” she said. “I think there’s this idea that we’re doing OK because we have legislation in place; we have gay and lesbian rights written into our human rights act, and we have gay marriage legislated federally. But there are still very similar situations in our high schools. There’s still bullying and there’s still a need to make things better.”

At 3 p.m., in the Alumni Room in the Students’ Union Building, the Day of Silence will end with a countdown to break the silence.