Hello everybody and happy Spirit Day! Being here in New York and watching all the tweets coming in is so surreal and I can’t believe I’m actually here! It’s so, so cool to be in the midst of everything this year and I’ve had so many incredible opportunities. One of those amazing opportunities was to interview my fellow Spirit Day ambassador, Avan Jogia.
Now, I know of Avan from a Nickelodeon TV show he was in called Victorious. Other than the fact that he played Beck, I didn’t know a lot about him, which is why it was really cool to find out that not only was he also from Vancouver, but he was involved in an organization called Straight But Not Narrow as well. I don’t know about you guys, but for me, it’s hard to imagine what actors and actresses do with their spare time. To see that Avan was busy fighting for equality when he wasn’t rehearsing scripts or filming and whatnot was really awesome. Needless to say, it is super exciting to have him on board with Spirit Day. (And you can still join us for Spirit Day by going purple right now on Facebook and Twitter!)
Is there a specific person or moment in time that inspired you to stand up in support of the LGBT community, and help out with Straight But Not Narrow ? If so, who/what was it and how did it inspire you?
Yes, many. Being brought up in a very diverse city like Vancouver, kids at my school had gay parents and my parents had many gay friends so it really was just the fabric of my life. Because of this I realized that for every person who identifies with a different orientation there is a Mom, Dad, Brother, Aunt and friends who are straight and when your son, brother, sister, friend etc comes out you kind of come out as well. For me, the story that really solidified that this was the thing that I wanted to take a stand on was Pink Shirt Day in Canada. It was a story about a new student who wore a pink shirt to school and he was teased for it. The next day a group of students led by David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high school protest and wore pink. You can't single out one when everyone rallies around to support you. Now whether this particular student was LGBTQ or not I'm not sure but it was such a strong message of support of a person being perceived in a certain light that it stuck with me. These students went out on a limb, not thinking twice about being being painted with the same brush. This got me thinking, there must be more people that would stand up so clearly there needs to be a place for the straight ally in all of this and so was born Straight But Not Narrow.
Do you have any personal experiences with bullying? And how did it help shape the person you are today?
No I didn't really have any major problems with bullying but it's not like I didn't see it happen to others. There's a few different camps in any school, The Bullies, The Victims The Allies and The Quiet Masses. And at any point in time you could be in any one of these camps and I'm sure that I was. But I definitely spent the majority of my time in the Ally camp, I don't see things in black-and-white, life is definitely shades of gray but when I saw injustice to one of my friends I certainly spoke my mind. I'm guessing that's probably one of the things that led to me founding Straight But Not Narrow. Why keep quiet when you have a voice.
What advice do you have to anyone who is currently struggling with bullying, whether that is based on their orientation or just in general?
Don't be silent. There's no need to struggle through any of these sorts of problems alone. If you really feel you can't tell your parents, tell a counselor, tell your friends. I know it's been said before but silence on bullying will not make the problem go away.
In your opinion, what is the best way that you can show support for the LGBTQ community?
I think it's pretty simple, things like joining a GSA (gay straight alliance)at your school of course is really helpful and gives you a better understanding but in the end result just being a good friend/person and state your opinion when you see injustice or insensitivity.
How will you be showing your support on Spirit Day this year?
I'll be on set shooting a new pilot so unfortunately my wardrobe is not my own choice that day but I will be changing my icons over to something purple to show support. This is one of the great things of social media, my avatar will be decked out!
To take part, you can download GLAAD’s Spirit Day resource kit which contains tools to get your local community involved. Spirit Day participants can also spread the word and tell their friends they’re standing up against bullying, download the Spirit Day app for iPhone and Android, and text PURPLE to 80888 to donate $5 to support the important work GLAAD, GLSEN and The Trevor Project do every day to end bullying and support LGBT youth. Another way to celebrate Spirit Day is to encourage the presidential candidates to come out against bullying by signing a new petition asking them to wear purple on October 19 and visit the American Apparel #SpiritDay store to get your own purple gear with a 10% discount and 10% of proceeds going to GLAAD.