How You Can Support LGBTQ Youth On Spirit Day & Beyond
Every year on the third Thursday in October, millions of people around the world band together on Spirit Day to show their support for LGBTQ youth and fight against bullying. Canadian high school student Brittany McMillan came up with the idea in 2010 after several LGBTQ youth died by suicide around the same time. Since then, GLADD has worked with her to create a movement that's inspired celebrities, politicians, community members, and entire organizations to wear purple, the color that symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag, on Spirit Day. In addition to wearing purple, there are many ways to show your support for the LGBTQ community on this day of celebration and throughout the year.
Spirit Day also falls during National Bullying Prevention Month. The number of LGBTQ youth who have experienced bullying in school, at social events, and online makes it clear why this day and the general movement to support LGBTQ youth is so important. According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) 2017 National School Climate Survey of 23,001 LGBTQ people between the ages of 13 and 21, 70.1% of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed, and 59.5% of LGBTQ students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Even when LGBTQ students found the courage to report the incidents, 60.4% of them said that their school staff was unhelpful or simply told them to ignore the behavior.
Living in a country where our highest court has debated whether LGBTQ people can be fired because of their identity or marry the person they love can certainly make LGBTQ youth question their place in society. “Our dignity is not up for debate,” Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer of GLAAD, tells Bustle. “And I think that we need more days like Spirit Day. We need to carry that message and that energy and that momentum throughout the year.” That is why it's important to come together and support LGBTQ youth who may be going through hard times.
Here are some ways to get involved on Spirit Day and year-round:
1. Wear Purple
The simplest way to stand with LGBTQ youth and speak out against bullying this Spirit Day is to wear a purple outfit. By sharing a photo on social media with the hashtag #SpiritDay, you can join a community of people around the world who visibly show their support for LGBTQ youth, making them feel less isolated and alone. You can also use the GLAAD Facebook Frame to add a purple border to your profile picture and make it clear to your family and friends that you are a proud supporter of the LGBTQ community.
“A lot of the magic of Spirit Day happens on that grassroots level,” Ferraro says. “It’s amazing that you have this message of LGBTQ youth being supported and an open dialogue about bullying happening at the local level all the way up to some of the highest and most watched media programs.”
2. Sign The National Education Association Pledge Against Hate & Bias
After the Trump administration proposed to remove protections for transgender people in existing laws in 2018, the National Education Association created a pledge to show its support for students and educators who identify as transgender, gender non-binary, gender expansive, and/or intersex. The organization says on their website that they “oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights” of the LGBTQ community. To support this mission of inclusion and equality, take the pledge.
3. Take The GLAAD Pledge Against Bullying
First formed in 1985 as an outlet to combat the sensationalized media coverage of the AIDS epidemic, GLAAD continues to serve as a major force against the discrimination of LGBTQ people in the media.
To support LGBTQ youth and the goals of the organization, you can take the anti-bullying pledge. This pledge reminds you to take a stand against bulling every day, in addition to promoting the cause on Spirit Day.
4. Donate To Or Volunteer With Organizations That Support LGBTQ Youth
Fortunately, there are many organizations that work to support the LGBTQ community and improve the quality of life for people of all gender and sexuality expressions. To specifically support LGBTQ youth, here are three organizations, in addition to GLAAD, that dedicate time and resources to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children and young adults in this community:
The Trevor Project: A nonprofit that works to end suicide in the LGBTQ population.
Family Acceptance Project: A research initiative to support the mental health of LGBTQ youth, parents, and families.
True Colors United: A resource to help end LGBTQ youth homelessness.
5. Buy 'Spirit Day: A Book About Spreading Joy'
GLAAD partnered with Little Bee Books to create Spirit Day: A Book About Spreading Joy this year. While LGBTQ inclusion in kids’ TV has been growing, GLAAD noticed that there was still a drop off in children’s books, Ferraro says. To mend that discrepancy, GLAAD has previously published five LGBTQ inclusive kids’ books with Little Bee Books, and this new sixth one is the first about Spirit Day. The book is technically intended for children, but it’s a great way to learn about the initiative and its goal to end bullying against LGBTQ youth. It's also great way to get the children in your life involved in the fight against bullying from a young age, so that they can work to combat discriminatory behavior in academic and social settings.
6. Support LGBTQ-Friendly Brands
This year’s Spirit Day brand partners include Pantene, Kellogg’s, NBA, WNBA, Johnson & Johnson, and more. Kellogg’s created “All Together Cereal," a diverse combination of existing Kellogg's cereals, for Spirit Day to sell at its NYC café, and the brand will donate all the proceeds to GLAAD. While it’s important to know which companies support Spirit Day, it’s also important to shop from companies that support LGBTQ rights and give back to the community year-round. Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi, for example, continually donate proceeds to LGBTQ community initiatives.
As the largest visual display of support for LGBTQ youth, Spirit Day provides many opportunities for people to stand with the community. But it’s also important to remain committed to LGBTQ youth initiatives year-round. By taking pledges, shopping at LGBTQ friendly brands, and educating yourself on the need for these campaigns, you can do your part to support those who may not feel comfortable expressing themselves or using their voices.
Rich Ferraro, Chief Communications Officer at GLAAD