5 ways to support LGBTQ young people in honor of #SpiritDay

LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) youth disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their sexual orientations and gender identities. Anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination can have serious and damaging consequences, such as negatively impacting a student's school attendance, GPA, collegiate aspirations, and mental health. GLSEN's 2015 National School Climate Survey found the following facts about LGBTQ students:

To counteract these negative trends, millions will go purple this October 19 in a united stand against bullying and in support of LGBTQ youth. Going purple on Spirit Day is an important demonstration of support for young people victimized for their identities. However, our support of students experiencing bullying and harassment also must continue after Spirit Day ends. Here is a list of ways to support LGBTQ students beyond October 19.

1. Respect pronouns

For many transgender and non-binary students, pronouns are an important way of expressing and affirming their gender identity. Using correct pronouns makes transgender and non-binary students feel more comfortable, safe, and respected. You can't always know what somebody's pronouns are just by looking at them. When you meet someone, ask them for their pronouns—and introduce yourself with your pronouns, too. Some examples of pronouns are: He/Him, She/Her, They/Them, and Ze/Hir.

To learn more about pronouns, how to conjugate pronouns that are unfamiliar to you, and what to do if you make a mistake, click here.

2. Stand up against anti-LGBTQ language and behavior

When you hear anti-LGBTQ comments and jokes, even when they are not directed at a specific person, let the one making the comments know you find them offensive. You don't have to identify as LGBTQ to be put off by anti-LGBTQ comments and to speak out against them. If you see anti-LGBTQ bullying, let the perpetrator know their behavior is wrong and harmful. If the situation is such in which you do not feel safe intervening, alert a teacher or administrator immediately. If you know someone has experienced anti-LGBTQ bullying, let them know you are on their side and make an effort to spend time with the person at school.

3. Support LGBTQ people on social media, too

Bullying isn’t limited to harassment in the classroom, the hallways or the locker room. Countless kids, teens, and young adults are bullied online each and every day – a phenomenon known as "cyberbullying." Here are some tips to put an end to anti-LGBTQ cyberbullying.

  • Report harassment: Facebook has report links throughout the site, on virtually every page, and all reports are anonymous. Facebook relies on everyone who uses the site to be an extra set of eyes and ears and to report content that may violate user policies.
  • Block bullies: When you use the “Block” feature on Facebook, any ties you currently have with the person you’ve blocked will be broken, and they won’t be able to see your profile or contact you. You can block people by clicking on the "Account" link and then selecting "Privacy settings" where you’ll see "Block Lists" at the bottom, or by clicking the "Block" link at the bottom of any profile.
  • Stick up for others: Don’t let anyone you know be victimized by ignorance. Reach out and offer a word of support, and remember to report the bully to Facebook.
  • Think twice before posting: It’s also important to be aware of how your own behavior can harm others, even unintentionally. Before you post a comment or a photo that you think is funny, ask yourself if it could embarrass or hurt someone. If in doubt, don’t post it.
  • Go purple online on October 19: Turning your social media purple on Spirit Day and sharing Spirit Day anti-bullying resources is a great proactive way to show your support for LGBTQ students online. Take the Spirit Day pledge here and learn more about how to spread the word about anti-bullying here
  • Get help if you feel overwhelmed: Facebook has relationships with organizations that can help if you or someone you know is in danger of self-harm. Visit the Trevor Project’s website for information about warning signs, or call the Trevor Lifeline at (866) 4-U-TREVOR (866- 488- 7386) immediately if you need support. Trained volunteer counselors are ready to talk to you 24/7 and all calls are free and confidential.

4. Educate yourself

LGBTQ people can't always carry the responsibility all by themselves of explaining their identities to others. Fortunately, there are many educational resources online to help you learn more about the many different parts of the big and beautiful LGBTQ community. Here are a few to get you started. 

5. Recognize that LGBTQ people also face other kinds of discrimination

People within the LGBTQ community hold countless complex and intersecting identities, beyond their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ people can also be Black, Muslim, Mexican, undocumented immigrants, and so much more. It is important to remember that, in addition homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, or queerphobia, LGBTQ people can also face discrimination against their other identities, such as their race, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, or ability status. Supporting LGBTQ students also means supporting all of their intersecting identities and fighting against all kinds of systematic oppression.

About Spirit Day

Each year, millions go purple for GLAAD’s Spirit Day to support LGBTQ youth in a united stand against bullying. Started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan in response to numerous young LGBTQ lives lost to suicide, Spirit Day now draws the participation of celebrities, schools, faith institutions, national landmarks, corporations, media outlets, sports leagues, and advocates around the world, all joining together to stand against bullying and support LGBTQ youth.

As anti-LGBTQ policies, hate crimes, and harassment are on the rise, it is now especially important to let all marginalized youth know they are supported.

This year, Spirit Day is on October 19, 2017. Take the Spirit Day pledge to show LGBTQ youth you've got their backs at glaad.org/spiritday. Follow @GLAAD on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up to date with #SpiritDay news.