Silence was the unspoken message for students at Wanganui Girls' College and Wanganui High School yesterday.

No one was speaking to friends and there were no arguments as they took part in a day of silence - a national event intended to discourage bullying based on gender identity.

Jessalyn Silvester, a 16-year-old student at Girls' College, learned of the day from Facebook.

"Straight after I read what it was about, I wanted to be part of it," she told the Chronicle.


"I am part of the GLBTP (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender and Pansexual) community and I know how it feels to stay quiet about it for years because you're scared to let people know.

"Then when you tell people they start to change their opinion of you, I suppose.

"My day has definitely been interesting, and a lot of people have told me they think it's very cool that I'm doing this. I will be staying quiet right up until midnight, which is quite weird for me as I talk a lot.

"My friends have made playful jokes about how it should be difficult for me, but really they've been quite supportive and proud of me."

Youth 07, a University of Auckland report, showed that same or both-sex-attracted young people were three times more likely to be bullied than their heterosexual peers. Depression and self-harm, anxiety and drug abuse were the side effects.

"The campaign is about drawing attention to the silencing effect that bullying can have on young people who have a diverse sexual orientation or gender identity," said Tabby Besley, chairperson of QSA (Queer Straight Alliance).

Starting in the United States, founded at the University of Virginia in 1996, the National Day of Silence was first observed in New Zealand at Nayland College in Nelson in 2007.