I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about the Day of Silence and feel that it is a bad message, but I’m a supporter of it. The purpose is not to silence people, but to show people who participate how it felt to be “silenced”. So I don’t really want to argue about the day itself. I’m making this post to tell a story of why this day is important to me.
Warning: This story contains possibly triggering material (bullying).
Anyway, here’s my story.
It was a little less than a year ago when it happened. May of 2012 to be exact. I was a junior in high school. Now, I was an openly gay student. I had been the victim of bullying before. Both physical and mental. I’ve been called fag, dyke, and such. I’ve also been pushed down stairs at school and shoved in hallways. This was something I basically just dealt with. It wasn’t super bad, and I was afraid to speak up about it, so I just endured it. Then one day it escalated.
Every Monday my school has “morning meeting” for the whole high school and teachers and students make announcements. That morning there was an announcement that they were looking for people to lead GSA next year, as the current leaders were seniors and were leaving next year. I expressed interest. At the time, I was the ONLY openly gay student in the entire school (keep in mind my school is a private school and is only about 400 people in the high school). The next class I had went on normally like a regular day. It wasn’t until I had my free period that the trouble started.
As usual, I checked my tumblr during my free period. I opened firefox and say that I had 4 new messages in my inbox. Those 4 messages turned my regular day into a nightmare. Here’s the screenshot I took of them:
I stared in disbelief at my screen. I had gotten tumblr hate before, but this was different. These messages included information that you only would have known if you had been at my school’s morning meeting that day. These messages were from someone at my school. The only way to describe what I felt is shocked and empty. It felt like my heart sank to my stomach. I couldn’t even comprehend what had happened for a few minutes. Then the tears started coming. I hate crying in front of people, so I held them in the best I could. Thankfully, not many people were around and those who were around weren’t paying attention enough to see that I was crying.
At that moment, I made a decision. I was tired of bullying and this had gone too far to ignore. I took this screenshot of the four messages and posted them on facebook. The response I got was that of shock. Everyone was utterly disgusted by these messages, and were shocked that this sort of thing happened at our school. After that, I went to speak to the head of the upper school. We attempted to trace the source of the messages and learned they were sent from a school computer, but we couldn’t tell who was logged in at the time so we still had no idea who did it.
These messages triggered a chain of events that I never thought was possible. It all started on facebook.
That night, one of the senior girls who was one of my softball teammates posted a status that I was tagged in. All it said was “I support Stella Bernstein.” Then the storm of notifications hit. Within 20 minutes, there were 50 more statuses. All of them said the same thing: “I support Stella Bernstein.” This continued. It came from school friends, cosplay friends, family members, and even people who I had never met from other schools who had heard about what had happened. There were HUNDREDS of statuses, all saying they supported me. It was the single most amazing feeling I have ever experienced. I couldn’t help but cry. It was unbelievable to think that so many people cared. But that wasn’t the end of the support. No, it got more unbelievable.
That Tuesday morning I went to school to find these on my locker.
They were sticky notes. Every single note was a message to me. Every single one of them said how they supported me and how I was strong and brave. And they were all signed by different students and even some teachers. It struck me speechless. Never in my life have I experienced this sort of kindness.
But still, it got better. After my morning classes I returned to my locker to find it like this:
The number of notes had multiplied, and they now formed a heart around my locker. Each and every one of them, like the first few, had a personal message written on it by different students and teachers. By the end of the day, there were over 200 notes on my locker.
At that point I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I was so amazed and thankful for all this overwhelming support and love. I remember kneeling in front of my locker and just crying. Before I knew it, I was being hugged by some of my classmates. They all said that they loved me and supported me and that if they ever found the asshole who said those things to me they would make sure that they would be expelled.
I have never felt as much love and support as I did that day. It was surreal, yet it was my reality.
This is why the Day of Silence is important to me. So many people are afraid to stand up to bullying. But I’m living proof that if you stand up to bullying and make what has happened to you publicly known, you will get support. You will get support and love even from the people you never expected to get it from. So don’t hide in silence. Stand up and tell someone. Stand up to bullies. I know you can do it.
To this day I still don’t know who sent me those messages. But you know what? That’s ok. Because even if that person wasn’t formally punished for their actions, the support given to me was enough of a victory for me. Even though they were never caught, that bully lost. I won.