Breaking the silence

Afsha Kasam

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Supporters club (GLASS) observed the Day of Silence last Friday and encouraged the Quinnipiac community to do the same. For this national event, people from all across America choose to not speak for a day in order to mimic how LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) people are pressured to stay silent when being bullied or harassed.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) organizes the day, which falls on a different Friday each year.

“When someone participating in this day is silent, he or she is representing the feeling of a LGBTQ person has when they can’t share their sexuality with anyone,” said Jilian Pfeifer, junior and president of GLASS.

Pfeifer has always been an advocate for the gay community. However, when a close family member came out, it prompted her to become even more involved in the cause. She did this by joining GLASS during her freshman year at Quinnipiac and was elected to be the club’s president by the end of her sophomore year.

“We live in such a heteronormative society,” Pfeifer said. “Our culture just assumes that an individual is straight and that shouldn’t be the case.”

In a heteronormative society, there is the belief or assumption that heterosexuality is the “right” sexual orientation. According to Pfeifer, the Day of Silence illustrates an understanding of the struggle many people feel because of this idea.

“A LGBTQ individual does not come out once; they need to tell almost everyone they meet,” she said.

After remaining silent for nearly a whole day, GLASS had the rising and renowned comedian, Adam Sank, break the silence. Sank, a gay man, performed at 7 p.m. in the cafe on Mount Carmel campus.

Sank admits he only heard about the Day of Silence this year, but he likes the idea behind it.

“It calls attention to discrimination,” he said. “I also like how it mostly takes place on college campuses because college shapes you into the person you’ll be; it shaped me.”

Students who participated in the Day of Silence, like freshman Lizzy Mirasola, agree with Sank.

“Many people are afraid to talk aloud about their sexuality, but they should be who they want to be and not feel discouraged by anyone else,” Mirasola said.

Mirasola’s experience was challenging because at times she forgot that she could not speak. But once Sank hit the stage, people were free to speak and laugh to their hearts’ content.

Sank was a contestant on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and has also been featured on VH1 and truTV.

“[Comedy is] an interesting way to reach people,” he said.

Sank’s sexual orientation did play a role in leading him towards comedy. Humor was his defense mechanism for when he was teased or bullied.

“Growing up, I felt like an outsider,” Sank said. “I used my words as weapon instead of my fists.”

Sank grew up listening to stand-up comedy albums and has always had a passion for musical theater, but he said he would have turned to stand-up comedy “if [he] were gay or straight.”

There were not many gay people in the audience, so Sank assumed that the rest of the audience “must be supporters or here for the ice cream.”

Sank did his research about Quinnipiac because prior to performing here he only knew about the Polling Institute. He joked about Toad’s Place and its dirty floors, the high ratio of women to men on campus and the Quinnipiac-Yale rivalry.

The audience not only found Sank funny, but inspiring too. He had some advice for the LGBTQ community.

“Revel in the triumphs. We have gone a million miles since the gay rights movement started in 1969,” Sank said. “We are on the cusp of marriage equality but we can’t get too confident. There are still people suffering so we need to keep fighting.”

Photo by Julia Perkins