Today is Spirit Day…no, this is not some new holiday Hallmark created just to sell more $8 cards that play an annoying music loop. Spirit Day began in 2010 after a string of LGBTQ-youth took their lives due to bullying, which got a lot of media/public attention. On Spirit Day people are asked to wear purple to show their support for LGBTQ youth and take a stand against bullying.
Here’s the deal…even today, in 2016, it really is still THAT BAD for many LGBTQ youth. Yes, we have absolutely progressed as a society, but it’s still damn hard for young people. According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) national/biannual 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, lesbian/gay/bisexual high school students were found to be 3x as likely to have skipped school in the past month due to feeling unsafe, over 2x as likely to experience bullying (GLSEN has this statistic even higher, at over 50%), and 4x as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year. Mind you this survey did not capture the results of trans youth, who we know from other data always have even worse experiences than lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. These numbers are terrifying and unacceptable.
The truth is, when you’re younger and different (in any way) you are more likely to be a target for bullies. In this digital age, bullying can follow you around everywhere…in your text messages, on your FaceBook or Instagram feed, and in so many other places where people are wide open to public ridicule. For many young people it can get so bad that it feels like the only solution is to end their lives. The mantra “It gets better” can almost feel like a slap in the face to a young person who has to endure ridicule, alienation, and torment on a daily basis.
Wearing purple one day a year is a nice sentiment, but it’s not enough. Every single day, we all need to be acknowledging the seriousness of this crisis that many of our youth face. We need to be doing everything we can to encourage people—younger and older—to be kind, to take a stand against bullying behavior, and to in fact celebrate difference.
I’m tired of seeing these horrific statistics and tragic stories. It’s time we all take LGBTQ bullying seriously. What might you be able to do to help create a kinder and more compassionate society, particularly for young people?