04/20/2012 12:17 pm ET Updated Jun 20, 2012

Stepping Out of the Silence

It's that time of the year again. The Day of Silence 2012: A day when students around the country vow to be silent in order to call attention to the silence many LGBT individuals face each and every day in the face of bullying and harassment. This year will be my fourth year participating in the Day of Silence. Every year is a unique experience.

The first year I participated, I was a junior in my small-town high school. This day was quite a challenge for me and the few fellow classmates who also agreed to take the vow of silence with me. I hoped to use the Day of Silence to bring the issue of bullying to the school's attention and also to show the many so-called 'Christians' in my community that bullying is an issue that needs to be addressed. I wanted them to know that it is an issue God would want addressed too.

While making our shirts for the day, I personalized my shirt by putting "Just as I am, Lord" on the back. This was a reference to an old hymn written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835. I remember listening to these comforting words while sitting in the pews at the church that had shunned me for identifying as a lesbian just months before. "Just as I am, Lord. Just as I am." The theme goes along with Psalm 139:14, which reads "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." For me, the passage means God made me in His image, and He will love me just as I am.

A lot of students in my high school were outraged and hurtful on this day. One student even approached the principal complaining, "She is using the Bible out of context!" I, however, believe I was using the Bible in the absolutely correct context. God made me in His image. God has a purpose for me.

Being gay is both a challenge and gift from God which empowers me to be strong in my faith and witness the love of God to others. After being shunned from a church in my town, my family and I began attending the Episcopal Church, where they supported me in every single way. Having support from my home church was encouraging throughout my struggle within my school and community.

College is, of course, a whole new environment. I'm currently a sophomore at Purdue, and I have had only positive experiences within this school. Although Purdue University is perceived as being conservative, the university community accepts the advocacy and education provided by the campus LGBT organizations. Right now, the Purdue LGBTQ Student Alliance is hosting 'Gaypril,' a series of LGBT education and advocacy events in which the Day of Silence is one of the main focuses. This year, we are performing a series of flash mobs on campus. These flash mobs will bring attention to the purpose of the day for the general student population that might not know about the event. As a member of the progressive national sorority, Gamma Rho Lambda, I will also help in holding a comedy night event prior to the Day of Silence, with proceeds benefitting The Trevor Project, and serving as a precursor to the Day of Silence.

But, of course, not all stories are as positive as mine. The importance of recognizing this day is immeasurable. In the face of numerous LGBT teen suicides, education is necessary for the public to know of the nightmares happening within the LGBT community and to realize the significance of this day. LGBT individuals should not have to silence themselves out of fear.

Everyone should be able to be loud and proud about who they are without consequence. We are in an ever-changing world that needs our enthusiasm and drive towards making necessary changes. Schools, families, and churches should all be on board towards promoting love. For me, John 13:34-35 comes to mind: "A new command I give you: Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." I hope that by my participation in the Day of Silence, people will recognize the love that I have for them.