By: Nikki Nuno

April 12th is a day observed by the LGBTQ+ community as the day we give tribute to those who have risked or sacrificed their lives through the expression of their sexual identity. Many individuals take this day seriously as it is a student-ran event to further push back anti-LGBT agendas and help all people feel free to love who they love. Day of Silence was originally formed by a group of college students at the University of Virginia. What was meant to be a project for non-violent protesting became an annual occurrence across the nation, having tens of thousands standing together to end the “endemic” of name calling, bullying and harassment of LGBT students. Those who partake in its observance take a vow of silence for the entire day and use cards to explain what their sacrifice is intended for.

How to get Involved?

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) became the official sponsor of the event in 2001. Search their website with the special link to register online or via text to show your support. Below the registration option is several other ways to take action in your school. You can join the Street Team to help spread the word in your community by receiving updates on new resources for April 12th. If you’re planning your silence, GSLEN gives great tips in starting up activities in your school beforehand. You can send in a sign to GSLEN telling how you plan to support at your school along with a selfie. The website also recommends printing out their speaking cards that explain your participation in the event.

Gay Activist Pioneers you should Know

  1. James Baldwin. Known as an author, activist, and playwright, Baldwin was one of the first individuals to venture into the correlation between race, class and sexuality (intersectionality). He was a highly active participant during the Civil Rights Movement; he attended numerous marches and helped stabilize the motivation of Africans Americans to fight for their human rights in the South. As for his reputation in gay rights activism, in one of his most renowned literary works, Giovanni’s Room,gave clarityto the dynamics of same sex marriages. This was a crucial breakthrough in early gay rights activism, giving answers to numerous stereotypes while making sexual identity a less taboo topic and leaving more room for conversation.
  2. Barbara Smith. As a black feminist, lesbian, activist and elected official, it seems as if the fight for gender/sexual equality was bound to be part of her future. In 1974, she became co-founder of the Combahee River Collective, which is known for its developments in the field of intersectionality. It also helped highlight that the “white” feminist movement helped only specific groups of women and excluded African American women. Through this organization, Smith gained some experience under her belt, and with the motivation of her friends, later founded the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. This was a national advancement not only for women, but the most oppressed group amongst us, colored women. The Kitchen Table was the world’s first publishing company to be operated exclusively by colored women. Once she received her chair in Albany, New York’s councilmen, she would serve two terms directed in addressing systemic imbalances in the city.
  3. Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes. Now retired, Senior Pastor Brent Hawkes has worked at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 35 years. He realized he was “different” at a young age and decided to keep his sexuality to himself. One day, he saw an ad for the Metropolitan Community Church and knew from there on he’d finally found a place where he could show all that he is and be accepted for it. He is the forefront of ministry for the Gay and Lesbian community of Toronto. He relishes his reputation with several human rights initiatives, especially benefitting those with unbound sexual identities. In 1994, he received the highest civilian award in Toronto, Award of Merit. In 2007, he was appointed the Order of Canada for his strong stance on social justice and human rights for LGBTQ+ members. This is currently the highest honor a country has given to a gay activist.

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