In 2010, teenager Brittany McMillan started Spirit Day as a response to all the LGBT youth that had taken their own lives that year. It has now become an annual event as GLAAD is encouraging those in the U.S. to wear purple on October 20th as a sign of support for LGBT youth and to speak out against bullying. This year, GLAAD approached The Marin Foundation to co-sponsor this national event, which we are happy to do to get the message out there that bullying is wrong and should never happen in any context.
While Spirit Day and wearing purple (and turning your Facebook profile picture purple here and Twitter profile here) may seem like a small gesture to some, it could mean the world to closeted and openly LGBT youth in your everyday and online social circles who may be going through a difficult time because of the perceptions and harassment they face as a result of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Showing a visible sign of your support can help to let LGBT youth know that they are not alone while personally making a statement that you will stand up to harassment and derogatory language aimed at LGBT youth.
While it is important to stand up to and speak out against bullying for any reason, it is quite apparent that we need to be intentional about specifically combating bullying and harassment directed towards LGBT youth as research shows that they are disproportianately affected, and combating bullying for any reason in general will not address the underlying issues bringing this specific type of bullying about.
- Nearly 9 our of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation (GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2009). LGBT students that were polled were three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say they did not feel safe at school (GLSEN From Teasing to Torment 2006).
- Students that identify as LGB are bullied two to three times more than heterosexual students (Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH 2010).
- One-third of LGB youth have made a suicide attempt (D’Augelli AR – Clinical Child Psychiatry and Psychology 2002).
- While I could not find a specific percentage for youth, 41% of the 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals that were polled for the Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey 2011 indicated that they had attempted suicide. This is compared to 1.6% of the general public.