Keyes participates in Day of Silence at UI

By Nick Escobar

Maya Keyes, daughter of Republican Alan Keyes, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, will speak today at 5 p.m. at the “Breaking the Silence” rally on the Quad to conclude the Day of Silence.

Keyes, a gay rights activist, will speak on the problems lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youths face when their parents or guardians are not accepting of their sexual orientation.

Kicked out of her parent’s house after revealing that she was lesbian earlier this year, Keyes has struggled with homelessness and only recently got an apartment. She said she was frustrated and hurt by her parents’ actions but said that there is no reason for her to dwell on the negative.

“Young people have a harder time on the streets,” she said. “Forty percent of street youth are LGBT.”

Keyes’ friends have offered her tremendous support, along with places to stay through her troubles. She added that her two brothers have also been supportive of her decisions.

“It was easier for me because I was already an adult,” she said. “I try to keep a positive attitude.”

Keyes will attend Brown University thanks to a scholarship from The Point Foundation, which grants scholarships to LGBT students.

“She has been through a lot over the past few months and I think her voice should be heard on this campus,” said Jon Monteith, sophomore in LAS, co-coordinator of the Day of Silence and Illini Media Company employee. “Her background as an out lesbian whose father is one of the most outspoken religious conservatives in the country adds a truly unique perspective to our event.”

Keyes is participating in the national Day of Silence, hosted by PRIDE and the Office of LGBT Concerns. The Day of Silence began in 1996 and has occurred at the University since 2000. This year, it helps to commemorate the 30 years of the PRIDE organization on campus. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, people on the Quad and across the country will observe silence in a non-violent protest of the hatred, violence and oppression that LGBT people face daily. Participants will wear all black clothing and a gay pride rainbow ribbon to show solidarity.

“There is a lot of hate on this campus,” said Sue Kazmierczak, co-coordinator of the Day of Silence and graduate student. “It’s a way to educate people and make it more visible.”

Kazmierczak said some participants will walk the Quad wearing tombstones of those who have died or were killed due to their sexual orientation.

“There are people who aren’t active and were here to stand up for them,” Kazmierczak said.

Kazmierczak said opposition to the Day of Silence has come from church groups in the past and participants respond to confrontation from these groups by handing them Day of Silence cards – which state why they cannot talk – until they leave.

The cards list five goals the LBGT community on campus hopes to achieve – one of which is to convince the University to hire more LGBT faculty and staff.

“(Having more) LGBT faculty would broaden the scope for students,” said Curt McKay, director of the office of LGBT concerns. “Students would be able to learn from them and could turn to them for guidance.”

Another goal of the Day of Silence project is to raise awareness and further educate the community about transgender issues. Kazmierczak said this is a major concern within the LGBT community because of last week’s incidents: the anti-transgender graffiti outside of Allen Hall and Daily Illini columnist Chris Kozak’s column on unisex bathrooms.

The event organizers hope that the event will bring the LGBT community closer together.

“Groups tend to split,” said Kevin Cates, sophomore in LAS. “It’s not their fault. I think it’s a representation of the University as a whole.”

McKay said he hopes that people will continue to show support for LGBT concerns on Thursday by wearing LGBT question mark T-shirts. He said he also hopes that people will take the online LGBT Campus Climate Survey to assess the relationship between the LGBT community and the University.

“We hope people will feel more comfortable in an anonymous setting to tell us what they really think,” he said.

Kazmierczak said she hopes the event will help people gain the courage to stand up for LGBT rights.

“Challenge people when they make anti-gay remarks,” Kazmierczak said. “You have a voice, use it.”

The closing rally will be held in 314 Altgeld Hall, 1409 W. Green St., in case of bad weather.