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Millions 'Going Purple' Against Bullying for Spirit Day on Thursday

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Individuals, Celebrities, Media Figures and Corporations Joining Forces to Support LGBT Youth

Rich Ferraro
Director of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8011
ferraro@glaad.org

October 19, 2011

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.

Last year, millions took part in Spirit Day by wearing purple, changing their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to purple, and sharing the message via social media.  Public figures – from the cast of Glee, to Ellen DeGeneres, to Hillary Clinton – took part as well. This year, millions more are expected to show their support – and the support among public figures has grown. Celebrities like Conan O’Brien, Heather Graham, Cher and Aziz Ansari have pledged to go purple. Some of the nation’s biggest brands, including Facebook, Yahoo!, PepsiCo and Viacom are encouraging millions of their employees to participate. MTV will change the color of its logo to support a cause for just the second time in the network’s history.

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.

By covering this year’s Spirit Day, your audience will not only be informed of the bullying faced by so many LGBT young adults, but also the importance of showing support for this community.

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Potential Interviews:

  • GLAAD – speaking about the importance of celebrity and corporate support, and the message it sends to young people
  • GLSEN – speaking about the struggles that some young LGBT people face in their schools, communities, and online
  • Brittany McMillan –Teenager, Spirit Day Founder; speaking about her inspiration for creating this day
  • Janice Langbehn – LGBT advocate, recipient of Presidential Citizens Medal on Thursday; speaking about the importance of showing public support for LGBT youth.

Young people from the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center’s Youth Enrichment Services (YES) Program – As featured in the GLAAD’s Amplify Your Voice PSA series, these young people have experienced bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. See them at glaad.org/resources/amplifyyourvoice/youth.