'Day of Silence' gives voice to LGBTQ community, supporters

Fredrick Lee knew several years ago that being silent was no longer an option.

The Detroit senior decided to come out about his sexuality as a high school sophomore to his church, and later to his family and friends.

Lee marched publicly for the first time on Wednesday afternoon with about 30 others during Pride Week's "Day of Silence." Their quiet was intended to symbolize members of the LGBTQ community who have been subjugated into silence.

"I feel like it is my job to go out there," Lee said. "It helps open up people's minds and thoughts about what 'gay' is."

The march began at Charles V. Park Library and ended at the Warriner Seal, where the marchers tore red tape from their lips and thrust their signs into the sky — breaking their silence for the day.

Macomb freshman Justin Gawronski led the march. He said people too often neglect to talk about the silenced voices in the LGBTQ community.

"I think that a lot of times we forget all the voices that have been silenced by bullying or by suicide," Gawronski said.

One of the solutions is to come out and to be comfortable in your own skin, he said.

When Lee came out, it was a liberating experience, he said, and he encourages others to do the same.

"(Coming out) actually helps you accept yourself when you let people know who you are," Lee said. "I actually had a lot of support there and friends that I talk to now from my church that know I am gay."

Grand Rapids freshman Kaylin Haff stood front and center during the march. Haff said too many people think being gay is a bad thing, a sin or not normal.

"We need to raise our generation knowing that being yourself is the most important thing in the world," she said. "I want the next generation to have the same warm and loving welcome that I did."

After the march, Lee said he just wants people to see him as a person who loves to have fun like anyone else.

"I am able to be myself," Lee said.