Here's why it's worth 'going purple' this Thursday.
In 2010, high schooler Brittany McMillan organized the first Spirit Day, a way for allies to stand up to LGBT bullying.
She teamed up with LGBT media advocacy group GLAAD to help spread the word, urging people to show solidarity with LGBT youth and send an anti-bullying message by wearing purple on a specific date in October. Since its founding, Spirit Day — which is now an annual event on the third Thursday in October — has become an international movement celebrated by millions of people around the world.
But c'mon, it's not like it's that hard being an LGBT student these days, right? Well...
More than half of LGBT students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Nearly 75% of these students have been verbally harassed, and 36% have been physically harassed for being LGBT.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me, though, right?
According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)'s 2013 National School Climate Survey, hostile school experiences have a very real, lasting effect on students. Verbal harassment has been linked to lower grades and self-esteem and a higher risk of depression, and it makes it less likely that students will go on to college.
But that's just kids being kids, right? Surely teachers and school staff have their backs, right? Not really.
"It's a Christian school. The teacher didn't care, and even told kids to watch out for me because she thought I would turn them gay," an Alabama high school senior told GLSEN in the survey.
More than 60% of the time, school staff ignored reports of anti-LGBT harassment by students. The harasser received any form of punishment only less than 20% of the time. Most disturbingly, in roughly 10% of reports, the student doing the reporting was the one disciplined. (WTF?)
Sometimes, anti-LGBT discrimination is built right into school policy.
Just this week, a suburban Chicago school district defied the federal government by banning a trans student from using the restroom, citing privacy and safety issues — even though there's absolutely zero evidence that a trans student poses any sort of threat.
Spirit Day is an important reminder to vulnerable LGBT youth that they aren't alone, that they have support.
Whether you're able to show your support in person by wearing purple or just online (yes, there's an app for that), Spirit Day is a quick way to say, "Hey, I've got your back."