​​​​​​​Youth matter: Get involved this #SpiritDay

Take the #SpiritDay pledge.

by Kara Kliewer
Staff Writer

“I have been bullied a lot due to my sexuality and gender,” says James Terry, a UCO student. “In high school specifically, I was called a lot of derogatory terms because of my gender and sexuality. I got into a lot of physical fights and felt really alienated.”

Over the past few years, bullying has continued to make headlines as a major issue plaguing youth across the U.S. Often, bullying originates as a means of belittling someone else for their differences. One of those differences causing a peak in bullying is identifying as LGBT+.

When it comes to verbal harassment alone, 74.1 percent were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation and 55.2 percent were harassed because of their gender expression, according to the 2013 National School Climate Survey.

Statistics like these only become more disturbing considering 61.6 percent of LGBT+ students who reported bullying said school staff did nothing.

“Speak up, ask for help,” implores Terry. “Don’t live in your fear alone. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and proud of who you are. There are tons of people who are going through similar situations and there is a ton of support and acceptance if you look in the right places.”

While support might not always come from schools necessarily, one organization is taking a stand to ensure that LGBT+ youth have the resources needed to feel safe and advocate for change.

Spirit Day began in 2010 as a way to show support for LGBTQ youth and take a stand against bullying, according to GLAAD. 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.

Purple is a color that “symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag.”

“I want to say that it [Spirit Day] has made me stronger,” Terry adds. “It has made me want to fight back, but at first that wasn’t the case. It took a few years to get to this point. Bullying lowered my self-esteem. It made me afraid to come out to the point where I denied my sexuality and gender to myself for a long time. I hid them both away and pretended like they were not a part of me.”

By creating #SpiritDay, GLAAD hopes to bring visibility to the issue and prevent youth like Terry from having to repress negative emotions resulting from LGBT+ related bullying.

“I want everyone in the LGBT+ community to know that they are not struggling alone,” concludes Terry. “There are people in the community who care about them, love them and are always there to support them.”

#SpiritDay occurs every third Thursday in October which means it falls on October 19 this year.

To show your support for LGBT+ youth this #SpiritDay, GLAAD is asking interested participants to follow a few easy steps. They provide how-to details for individuals, schools, organizations and in the workplace on their website, www.glaad.org.

Copyright The Gayly – October 19, 2017 @ 7:10 a.m. CDT.