Students from George Mason University taking part in a past National Day of Silence. File Photo

On a typical day, the average person says between 5,000 and 15,000 words. In a world where we rely heavily on communication, there is no substitution for this type of expression.

Imagine not being able to utter anything for 24 hours and then imagine the impact it would have on your world and those around you.

Participants in the National Day of Silence know all too well about the gift of speech and the power of words.

This is why they relinquish speaking for most or all of the day in an effort to raise awareness about the harassment, bullying and discrimination faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning members and their allies.

“I participated in it my freshman year,” said senior English major Jon Vela. “It was really great. Everyone was very supportive of each other, and everyone knew the significance of it. I would do it again if I could.”

On Friday, participants all across the nation will be taking a vow of silence. Held annually in April since 1996, the Day of Silence continues to make an impact in communities everywhere.

“It’s a time when students come together,” said Kristen Lucas, an intern at Mason’s Office of LGBTQ Resources. “[The Day of Silence] can be very effective. It generates lots of discussion for students on campus and opportunities for them to be aware.”

This year, student leaders from the Pride Alliance and Student Government organized the Day of Silence event on the Fairfax campus as part of Pride Week, which focuses on raising LGBTQ awareness and connecting students with counselors, activities, events and programs like CAPS. Stand OUT, a student organization, also helped with planning certain Pride Week events.

“Stand OUT is the newest LGBTQ organization on campus,” Vela said. “It’s geared toward more social activism and focusing on the community. We want to really make a change and do something significant. We want to get our members involved.”

The Day of Silence not only promotes awareness, but gets students thinking about more ways to include the LGBTQ community in everyday life.

“Instead of having just a Pride Week, we should have a Pride Month,” Vela said. “I’d like to see an LGBTQ studies minor. I’d also like to see more focus on LGBTQ issues in the classroom. It starts there.”

For participants, taking the vow of silence is a compelling challenge and it jump-starts their activism in support of LGBTQ rights.

It serves as a way to simultaneously bring people together, promote future endeavors and increase understanding of the hardships many LGBTQ members encounter.

“I think [the Day of Silence] does make a difference,” said Vela. “Students take it seriously because we really don’t talk. There are still a lot of inequalities that the [LGBTQ] community faces. We still don’t have the same rights that everyone else has. I think you can say it is the civil rights movement of our time.”