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.

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.

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HIGHLIGHTS:

-#SpiritDay is now a trending topic on twitter. Suggested tweet: End anti-LGBT bullying – wear purple & make your profile pic purple for #SpiritDay 10/20 at http://t.co/8gBO3AU7 #LGBT

-Good Morning America, Regis & Kelly, CNBC: Every anchor wore purple this morning!
-Ellen DeGeneres will be in purple on her show and mentioning Spirit Day in her monologue.

-Tweet from Tyra Banks: http://twitter.com/#!/tyrabanks/status/126762245832196097.

-THE TALK released this video of Sara Gilbert last night: http://www.cbs.com/daytime/the_talk/video/?play=true&pid=XfD2fEe4f2k2MZCYdt7zJKw4Y4PMl9Jf.

-We’ve also compiled inspiring plans by local high schools, Churches and colleges: http://www.glaad.org/spiritday/schools.

-Yahoo!, Viacom and Facebook, among many others are encouraging employees to participate

 

OTHER SPIRIT DAY HIGHLIGHTS:

Image: Autumn Sandeen in Purple, Spirit Day 2011-MTV has turned their on-air logo purple. This is only the second time in the network’s 30 year history they are changing the logo for a cause. Plus their Times Square billboard will be purple on Spirit Day and all MTV.com and MTV Act web properties.

-Celebrities including Cher, Chaz Bono, Heather Graham, Joel McHaleCarson Kressley, Suze Orman, Ricky Martin, Audra McDonald and the cast of TeenNick’s Degrassi, MTV’s Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, and Bravo talent will be participating

-NBCUniversal and Viacom are both notifying all employees about Spirit Day

-Conan O’BrienWendy Williams, The View, The Talk, Craig Ferguson hosts on CNBC, MSNBC, Access Hollywood, and E! will wear purple

-Companies including Facebook, Delta, PepsiCo, Goldman Sachs, Yahoo!, American Airlines are notifying employees and encouraging participation

-AT&T sent information to all 260,000 employees to encourage them to wear purple on Spirit Day. AT&T is planning to light their Dallas headquarters in purple on 10/20 and holding ‘purple-bag’ lunches about LGBT issues.

-The NBA, People en Espanol and Seventeen Magazine are changing Twitter photo purple

-LAX airport lights will be purple

-Middle and high schools including the Anoka Middle School for the Arts which is part of Michele Bachmann’s Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota where a case is “currently in mediation” that challenges anti-gay harassment in schools. Many other local schools/colleges are also participating.

-Sundance Channel and USA Network are notifying employees and turning online logos purple for Spirit Day.

-The American Federation of Teachers is spreading the word to their members

http://www.glaad.org/spiritday