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In their own words: Why students, educators support LGBT youth and #SpiritDay

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Spirit Day, this October 17th, is about uniting in solidarity with LGBT youth everywhere by standing against bullying. A few of the students and educators participating this year are making their voices heard, explaining why it's important to support the youngest members of the LGBT community through grassroots initiatives.

GLSEN has found that of the many students who reported not having supportive staff members at their school, more than three-fourths of them feel unsafe in their school. GLSEN further reported that in the past year, 81.9% of LGBT students were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation and 63.9% were verbally harassed because of their gender expression. GLAAD recently brought you the stories of the tragic results of bullying for teen girls in Florida and Nevada.

High schools, colleges, and graduate schools throughout the country have signed on as Spirit Day partners. A few of them have spoken with GLAAD about their interests in going purple and raising awareness about anti-LGBT bullying.

Jennifer Carruth, a student at Mississippi State University, is a member of her school's Safe Zone Advisory Board and president of the LGBTQ and Ally Service Sorority Delta Omega Lambda. Speaking to the importance of ending anti-LGBT bullying, she told GLAAD, "There are so many tragic endings that can be prevented if allies would raise their voices and protest bullying, educate others on LGBTQ issues, and advocate for LGBTQ youth… No one should have to live a life of fear and isolation because they are afraid to be who they are. Everyone deserves the right to shine, enjoy life, and be their true self."

Spirit Day is an opportunity for a diverse range of communities to come together in their support for LGBT youth. Stonehill College, a Massachusetts school rooted in Catholicism, is one such example.

Mary Charlotte Buck, Student Government Associations' Executive Board Vice President and an ally to the LGBT community, played an integral role in partnering Stonehill with GLAAD for Spirit Day. Mary Charlotte, who has an extensive background in working with teenagers, sees an important link between her school's traditions and allying with the LGBT community. She said, "I think respecting, honoring, and loving the inherent dignity of all people is one of the most important aspects of our Catholic Identity, and I'm psyched we've chosen to recognize such a great day and cause! I'm proud to say we'll be joining the schools supporting this day."  Faith based organizations from a variety of religions and denominations are going purple this year.

Faculty and students at Connecticut College, which recently ranked as one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly schools in the country, are going purple this year, too. Carol Akai is an Assistant Professor with the school's Human Development department who specializes in children's developmental psychology. She provided GLAAD with her professional opinion on supporting LGBT youth.

"One of the most compelling aspects of human development is our enormous capacity for change," said Professor Akai. "As a society, we are at the beginning of what I hope is a paradigm shift toward the insistence of just treatment for individuals with LGBTQ identities under every circumstance."

Spirit Day is about creating a safe and supportive environment in which all kids, teens, and young adults are given the opportunity to flourish. Educating people on the daily struggles of our community's vulnerable members is the key to ultimately strengthening our at-risk members as well as the cause at large.

Spirit Day initially launched four years ago when Brittany McMillan, then a high school student in Canada, took to Tumblr to promote remembrance of the young lives lost as a result of bullying. Now, Spirit Day has grown into an international movement and is a testament to young people's transformative powers as agents of change.

Professor Akai added, "As today's college students become scholars, I hope they will combine their academic knowledge with their generational influence to affect widespread change that replaces intolerance and ignorance with kindness and complex understanding."  

There's still time for you and your school to get into the spirit by:

  • Turning your Facebook, Twitter and other profile photos purple at www.glaad.org/spiritday and spreading the word by using hashtag #SpiritDay
  • Wearing purple on October 17th and encouraging classmates or coworkers to do the same
  • Uploading photos of you wearing purple to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr using hashtag #SpiritDay and Spirit Day graphics
  • Downloading the Spirit Day App
  • Educating your friends and family about bullying and the LGBT community
  • Getting your school, GSA, organization, etc. to become a Spirit Day partner

Time is running out to go purple on Spirit Day as a participant and partner, and to join the Facebook event! Sign up today and spread the word.

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