According to the 2013 eighth biennial report of the GLSEN National School Climate Survey, 55.5% of LGBTQ students were reported to feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 38.7% because of their gender expression. 74.1% were verbally harassed for their sexual orientation while 55.2% were for their gender expression. 36.2% of LGBTQ students reported to being physically harassed for their sexual orientation while 22.7% were for their gender expression. As I state these statistics on the bullying that LGBTQ students face, one thing is clear: in the midst of all the progress that seems to be going on, these rates are still too staggeringly high.
In President Obama’s 2015 Pride Month proclamation, he declared, “for countless young people, it is not enough to simply say it gets better; we must take action too.”
On Spirit Day, participants can easily demonstrate their support for LGBTQ kids, teens, and young adults simply by going purple: wearing it, talking about bullying, and taking action in local communities.
At Boston College, I decided to celebrate Spirit Day and show our support for LGBTQ youth through a photo series featuring various students, both straight and queer.
For straight/cisgender allies, it’s important to understand how beneficial straightness and being cisgender is to allyship. In certain settings where being openly queer is unsafe, a queer individual may depend on a straight/cis ally to exercise their straight/cisgender privilege and stand up against homophobia/transphobia.
For queer allies, it’s important to understand that queerness is not a monolithic concept. Every queer individual carries unique lived experiences; a white gay cisgender man’s idea of “it gets better” may be vastly different from that of queer and trans people of color (QTPOC).
Unfortunately, many of my friends of color are not featured through this photo project, as they expressed fears of being seen as queer online. Knowing that this is a reality for many queer people, it is crucial to understand that allyship and high-profile visibility are not conflated. Allyship comes in various forms: whether that’s participating in a public photo campaign or through interpersonal work.
As we continue to define allyship and what it means to stand against bullying for queer youth, it’s important that we practice intersectionality and also condemn bullying against queer youth of color and trans and non-binary individuals.
Each year, millions of people "go purple" for Spirit Day in a united stand against bullying and to show support for LGBTQ youth. According to a 2015 GLSEN survey, more than half of LGBTQ students report being victimized based on sexual orientation, with a further three quarters of students who report hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks in school. Started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan, Spirit Day now draws the participation of celebrities, corporations, media outlets, sports leagues, schools, faith institutions, national landmarks, and individuals around the world, who join together in a united stand against bullying.
Check out glaad.org/spiritday for more about how to stand against bullying and show support for LGBTQ youth. Also follow @GLAAD on Twitter to keep up to date with #spiritday news.
Spirit Day is made possible by the generous support of its presenting partners Target and Wells Fargo, official partners, NBA and WNBA, NFL, Viacom, and WWE, and supporting partners, American Eagle Outfitters, Barilla, Comcast NBCUniversal, Kellogg’s, Kirkland & Ellis, Toyota Financial Services, and Zipcar. The translation of GLAAD’s Spirit Day Resource Kit into multiple languages is made possible by a generous grant from Google supporting GLAAD’s Global Voices Initiative. Global Spirit Day resource kits are presented by Logo’s Global Ally campaign.
Past participants in Spirit Day include the White House, the Empire State Building, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Cher, Laverne Cox, Kim Kardashian, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Shaquille O'Neal, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The View, The Talk, The Tonight Show, MTV, the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, WWE, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, the Las Vegas Strip, and more.
(Boston College students featured: photo one--Cynthia Gonzalez, Gabriella Zabbo, Sabel Flynn, Andrew Boucher; photo two--Edward Byrne, Julia Goetz, Joshua Frazier, Lily Nagengast; photo three--Anne Williams, Patrick Madaya, Connor Kratz, Eilis Bacon-Blaber; photo four--Collin Pratt.)
GLAAD Campus Ambassadors are a volunteer network of LGBTQ and ally college and university students who will work with GLAAD and within their local communities to build an LGBTQ movement to accelerate acceptance and end hate and discrimination.
If you would like to learn more about the GLAAD Campus Ambassador Program, please contact Clare Kenny— GLAAD Youth Engagement Strategist.