First of all, what is Spirit Day? This is what it says on the website.
Spirit Day began in 2010 as a way to show support for LGBT youth and take a stand against bullying. Following a string of high-profile suicide deaths of gay teens in 2010, GLAAD worked to involve millions of teachers, workplaces, celebrities, media outlets and students in going purple on social media or wearing purple, a color that symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag.
Spirit Day now occurs every year on the third Thursday in October, during National Bullying Prevention Month, and has become the most visible day of support for LGBT youth.
An amazing teenager, Brittany McMillan, wanted to remember those young people who lost their lives to suicide and to take a stand against bullying.
Now, for the hard part. Why do I care? I’m not gay, neither is my child. I don’t know anyone who has committed suicide over being bullied (that I know of anyway), so why does it strike such a chord in my heart? Why does it bother me so much?
Because it should bother all of us.
No child should ever be made to feel like dying is the only way to escape a terrifying, miserable situation. It doesn’t matter if you are being bullied by strangers, other kids at school or someone in your family, you should never be made to feel like you are facing it all alone.
I was bullied as a kid. I can still vividly remember what it felt like standing in the middle of that school playground, surrounded by kids, even some that I considered to be friends. I was taunted and called names and at some point, one of the kids knelt behind me and another pushed me backwards, causing me to fall. (Now I’m older, I realize they were kind of stupid. I fell hard on the kid behind me and elbowed him in the head.)
At that point, I’d never felt more alone in my life, although my other memory of that day was my little sister booking it for home as fast as she could run, screaming at my tormentors over her shoulder to leave me the hell alone. (Thanks sis). I’m sure it wasn’t more than about 15 minutes that I was stuck there, unable to get away, sobbing my heart out because I couldn’t figure out what I’d don’t to deserve that kind of treatment. I was a fat kid and that was about where my sins ended. I was a good person and a good friend. I liked everyone and would do anything to help someone out. I took care of my brother and sister, did okay in school and loved my folks. But, none of that mattered more to those kids in that circle than the fact that I was fat. Even now when I say it out loud, it sounds stupid to me.
My mom came to my rescue that day. When that car screeched up to the curb and she came flying across the field (in her slippers) threatening to beat the living crap out of every one of those kids, I’d never been so glad to see her.
I was lucky that day. Unfortunately, not every child is and for members of LGBTQ community, the chance that they will end up being bullied is even greater.
It drives me a little insane to think that someone could be literally bullied to death because of who they love. Shouldn’t we all be more worried about who people hate than who they love?
In my house, there is only three words that are completely banned. Everyone knows that saying them in my presence will most likely get you smacked up the back of the head and the power of my disappointment is even worse.
In my house, the f-word isn’t what you think it is. I say fuck on a daily basis (I’m working on it, okay?) but say the word “fag” or “faggot” and I will most likely escort you out of my house and probably my life (unless you actually are talking about a cigarette in Britain or a burning bundle of sticks, but you’d better clarify quickly).
In case you’re curious, the other two words I can’t stand? Cunt and nigger. The first one will get you smacked across the fact, no matter who you are, and the second will get you a huge lecture and then the whole escort out of my house thing. Those three words are probably the most disrespectful words than can be said and are only ever said to hurt.
And in my house, no one says “that’s so gay” because they know I will give them shit. Gay is not a synonym for stupid or dumb and I make sure everyone knows it.
So, what does this all have to do with my participation in Spirit Day? Because I can relate. What I went through as a kid was really nothing compared to what some kids face every damn day and there were times that I felt like I didn’t actually want to survive.
I wear purple every Spirit Day along with my rainbow bracelet and my HRC pin (ok, I wear the last two most days) and when anyone asks, I tell them about Spirit Day and kids like Tyler Clementi, Blake Brockington, Jaime Hubley, Alexander McQueen, and Leelah Alcorn. I tell them about being lost and alone at a time when so much is happening in life and how I’m saddened that any life so bright can be snuffed out my bigotry, ignorance, cruelty and stupidity.
I tell people LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and that these same youth are 8 times more likely to try killing themselves if they have been rejected by their families.
I also tell them that both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at a higher risk of suicide than their peers and children who are both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at the highest risk.
And I tell them if they know a youth who is a part of the LGBTQ community, whether a friend or family member or the kid down the street, they should always let them know they support them as they struggle their way toward adulthood. And you should remind them that eventually, things get better and they need to be around to see it.
I’m closing this out with this amazing video from Todrick Hall called “It Gets Better”
I’m also adding one of the most beautiful renditions of “True Colors” I’ve ever heard. From the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.