Today is the GLSEN Day of Silence – a national student-led movement highlighting the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ+ people. Students take a vow of silence to protest the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ+ people in schools.

Did you know that? Because I had no idea until a few days ago. However, the Day of Silence began around 10 years after I graduated high school, so I feel a little let off the hook. Had it been started during my high school days, I suspect it quickly would have become “punch a fag” day. Amazing what 10 years will do.

Also amazing that 82% of LGBTQ+ students experienced first-hand harassment or bullying in their school. That 71% of students reported that their classrooms did not include any LGBTQ+ topics. That more than 30% of LGBTQ+ students reported missing school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. And that over half of all LGBTQ+ students of color experienced in-person victimization based on race/ethnicity.

As part of this year’s theme of Rising Up, educators and others are supposed to spend the day speaking up offline and online in defense of the rights of LGBTQ+ students, while students aren’t saying anything.

However, with state legislatures working to ban everything from LGBTQ books in schools to drag shows to gender-affirming care for transgender children, perhaps now is the time for students to be as loud as possible. Yes, a day of silence is likely to cause some disquiet among administrators and teachers. But imagine the level of discomfort when those students finally say enough. When being quiet is no longer getting them anywhere.

Watching trans kids sit down in front of legislators essentially begging them to understand how harmful the bills they are passing will be – and make no mistake, laws will continue to be passed and be signed –  is heartbreaking. No child should have to beg for their existence.

Except it shouldn’t be a handful of kids speaking out. For every one, there should be a thousand standing behind them waiting to take their turn.

And I understand the limitations on students in being able to publicly protest. To walk out of classes in protest of the latest draconian bill that’s going to see anything queer related ripped out of classrooms and school libraries. To rally against having their identities erased by politicians looking to simply score points off anyone they feel is marginalized enough to not fight back.

I think back to the heart of the AIDS crisis and the idea of Silence = Death. Activists didn’t sit quietly waiting around for others to help them. A lot of noise was made to bring awareness to what was happening in the queer community.

Perhaps instead of educators and others speaking for students this year, GLSEN should have asked students to start speaking for themselves. To start making as much noise as possible to protest what is happening not just at an educational level but at a personal level. To think of themselves as the next wave of activists that can help move the needle on queer issues. To finally make the adults around them feel uncomfortable.

To start creating a sense of disquiet, and see just how much can be done.