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Penn students attend a talk at the LGBT center after ending their Day of Silence to raise awareness about marginalized members of the LGBT community.

Fifty-three Penn students took vows of silence yesterday in honor of the Day of Silence, a national day that aims to promote awareness of anti-Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender harassment in schools.

The day, according to College junior and Lambda Alliance chairman Dennie Zastrow, served as a reminder that "the LGBT community is still marginalized, and there are a lot of rights that everybody else has that LGBT people don't."

This year's Day of Silence was held in honor of a 12-year-old student who committed suicide because of anti-LGBT harassment, according to Eliza Chute, College junior and co-chairwoman of Allies, a group of LGBT and straight students alike dedicated to supporting LGBT issues and the group that organized the day.

The national Day of Silence - started in 1996 at the University of Virginia with approximately 150 participants - was held at schools around the country last Friday, but holding the Day of Silence on the first day of Spring Fling would have presented "some difficulty," said Tyler Ernst, Wharton and Engineering freshman and treasurer of Allies. As a result, Allies decided to hold Penn's Day of Silence yesterday.

In addition to bringing attention to anti-LGBT bullying, Chute said, the day is also an effort to show "support for people who don't feel as if they could come out."

"It makes a pretty powerful statement," said Ernst, who remained silent all day. "Everyone notices, and I think it's a very good way to bring attention to the issue."

Zastrow agreed. "It is a big commitment," he said, which showed the extent of participants' passion for promoting awareness of LGBT issues.

The day aimed to "get a lot of people talking," he added, "which is kind of ironic."

Zastrow pointed out that although Penn is a relatively safe environment for LGBT students, many other places are not. "Just because on Penn's campus, it seems like everything's okay, if you look at the big picture, it's still not," he said.

In addition to those who took vows of silence, Zastrow said, many students are supportive of the day's goals but can't make the commitment to stay silent all day.

The staff at the LGBT Center, for example, could not participate. "It's impossible for us to conduct important business without speaking, but we support the endeavor in principle," said LGBT Center director Bob Schoenberg.

After the day was over, speakers and non-speakers alike were invited to break the silence at the LGBT Center, where students were asked to share stories about their experiences staying silent all day.

The event also featured poetry readings from several students and a performance by the Excelano Project, a spoken-word poetry group.

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