This year, the LGBT community suffered the tremendous loss of several young people who died by suicide. While all students have a difficult time adjusting to the pressures of school and adolescence, LGBT and perceived-LGBT youth face disproportionate rates of bullying. To help combat homophobia in the classroom and send a clear message to LGBT youth that it's okay to be who you are, GLAAD worked to raise national visibility around the first-ever "Spirit Day", helping millions of people 'go purple' in support of LGBT youth.
The idea for Spirit Day came from Brittany McMillan, a Canadian high school student who decided to create a Facebook page asking her peers to wear purple in memory of several teens who died by suicide and to show support for all LGBT youth. As the event gained attention, some users on the event page posted explicit photos and called for violence against LGBT teens. The page grew quickly and soon reached over 1.5 million respondents and, working with GLAAD, Facebook began monitoring the page 24 hours a day to remove anti-LGBT speech and calls for violence against our community.
GLAAD also worked to promote the event by way of mainstream and social media, and created an online tool that helped people to update their status about Spirit Day and change their profile pictures to the color purple. Entire networks including E!, CNBC and MTV went purple online, on the air, and even in the office after working with GLAAD, and CNN featured a segment that encouraged viewers to wear purple in support of LGBT youth. High-profile celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Cyndi Lauper, Ricky Martin and Jay Leno also signed on to wear purple. Just like that, Brittany McMillan's idea worked its way around the globe.
The outpouring of support on Spirit Day brought the LGBT community and its allies together and sent a strong message that anti-LGBT bullying will not be tolerated. By sharing our messages of support, young people across the nation saw that there's simply nothing wrong with being who you are.