On Oct. 20, 2010, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) sponsored Spirit Day as a way to support and reach out to LGBT youth. To show support, people were asked to wear purple in order to let these young people know that they are not alone, and that life will get better.
Sadly, many LGBT youth not only do not have the awareness that they are loved and supported no matter what, but face bullying and ridicule from peers, schools, communities, and churches. Recently, several young people have been driven to suicide brought on by bullying and lack of support.
I spent the day dressed in my purple shirt. I was out and about near my home, a suburb not far from Anoka, MN, where 15-year-old Justin Aaberg recently committed suicide in response to being bullied for being gay. I did not see any more purple than I would on any other day. My daughter, who goes to a local community college — and was also clad in purple — saw some, but not nearly enough. The biggest message I got was while it will get better, there is still much to do.
While I was disappointed in the lack of local spirit on Spirit Day, there are encouraging signs as well. Loring Park in Minneapolis held a candlelight vigil recently for LGBT youth where more than 800 were in attendance. In addition to The Trevor Project, which is based out of California, which runs supportive services as well as a crisis line for LGBT, there are also more local programs. The Twin Cities hosts groups like Dist 202 – a group that holds events for LGBT youth, such as an annual LGBT prom, which my daughter attended last year and had a blast. Finding a strong support system and bonding with LGBT peers makes a huge difference for these kids, and can even be a matter of life and death.
Of course, many celebrities and politicians got on the bandwagon for Spirit Day. Leading the pack in his message was Joel Burns, City Councilman in Fort Worth, Texas. relaying his own experience with bullying as a child as well as his later success. Burns has since appeared on several news and talk shows, and on Spirit Day was a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show.
Ellen, of course was dressed in purple. Other shows also got in the “spirit”– such as “Today” and “The View.” GLAAD also encouraged people to turn their Twitter and Facebook profiles purple for the day in support of Spirit Day. On Facebook alone, over 1.5 million people declared they would attend the Spirit Day “event,” and Facebook worked closely with GLAAD to keep negative messages off the page.
Although Spirit Day has passed, the need to support our LGBT youth has not. If you’re in need of help, please reach out to The Trevor Project or a local group in your community. And if you’re in a position to help, please do what you can. These lives are too precious to lose.
Christian Science Monitor
My Fox TwinCities
The Trevor Project
Joel Burns City Council Speech
Facebook Spirit Day Event Page