The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is raising the profile of the fight to stop bullying, something LGBT youth disproportionately face in schools.

Last fall, the nation mourned after the suicide deaths of more than a dozen young people who were LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) or perceived to be LGBT. These tragic losses and the reports that these youth were bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity sparked a nationwide conversation about bullying, especially with regard to LGBT young people. Their stories also inspired a movement toward encouragement, which included Spirit Day (10/20) and the “It Gets Better” Project.

Unfortunately, many LGBT young people continue to face bullying and harassment:

  • A 14-year-old boy from Williamsville, NY, named Jamey Rodemeyer died by suicide last month. He endured near-constant anti-gay bullying at school and online.
  • In early October, a teenager at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tenn.,says he was physically assaulted by his own principal for wearing a shirt that supported the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school.
  • Last Friday, the LGBT teen son of a City Councilor in Ottawa, Ontario, died by suicide.

Just this weekend, vandals spray-painted the words “F*GS BURN” and “DIE on the entrance to the LGBT center at North Carolina State University.

[cont’d.]

These stories are why this year’s Spirit Day is just as important as last year’s.

Spirit Day was founded last year by teenager Brittany McMillan as a simple but powerful way to show support for LGBT young people and to honor those who had been lost. The idea is for people to display the color purple, which symbolizes “spirit” on the rainbow flag, as a way of showing LGBT youth that people in their communities and throughout the country want to show them love and support, right now.

Beyond the nation’s media, celebrities and brands, students and youth are taking action:

  • At Palisades Park Jr./Sr. High School in New Jersey: The students and faculty have been made aware of Spirit Day. Everyone has been asked to wear purple on Thursday. At the end of the day, all students and staff members wearing purple will be called down to the lobby to take a picture.
  • At Troy High School in Troy Michigan: The Gay-Straight Alliance is distributing purple wristbands and asking teachers to have a one minute word with the class explaining Spirit Day and handing out wristbands.

Churches and congregations are also ‘going purple.’

This year’s Spirit Day, like last year’s, has an urgency to it. There’s a need for our communities and our culture to show these young people that they are accepted and cared for. Every person who wears purple on Thursday creates a slightly bigger safe space in the world of an LGBT young person.

GLAAD notes that many celebrities are already participating by wearing purple and sending messages of support to LGBT youth. If you haven’t already, make your Twitter profile pic and your Facebook profile pic purple at www.glaad.org/spiritday.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding