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Spirit Day a Way to Remember and Show Solidarity

Wearing purple October 20 for gay suicide victims


The LGBT flag represents life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony (blue), and spirit (purple). Photo by Flickr user Kevin Wong

The death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi on September 23 made international headlines and cast a spotlight on an issue all too often ignored: the bullying of gay teenagers by their peers. The Rutgers University freshman leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge after a roommate secretly taped him having sex with another man, then posted it on the internet.

Even more shocking, Clementi was one of seven teenagers believed to have killed themselves in recent weeks because of relentless bullying over their sexual orientation. Two of the boys who died were just 13.

People across the United States and Canada are being urged to wear some article of purple clothing today in remembrance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth who have taken their lives because of taunting by peers.

The event, called Spirit Day is the brainchild of Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan. The 16-year-old suggested the color purple for a reason. “Purple represents spirit on the LGBTQ flag, and that’s exactly what we’d like everyone to take with them today,” she says. After coming up with the idea, McMillan wrote about it on her blog, Tumblr, and then asked readers to repost and promote Spirit Day among their peers.

The idea took off. More than a million Facebook users have pledged to wear purple today. McMillan says that “we will wear purple in memory of the recent gay suicides. Many of them suffered from homophobic abuse in their schools or in their homes. We want to take a stand to say that we will not tolerate this.”

Among those at BU planning to take part in Spirit Day is Elizabeth Breen (COM’12), who says she has many LGBT friends and today’s event is a chance to show solidarity. “I just think it’s hard enough for people to be themselves anyway,” she says. “I can’t imagine being yourself and people hating you for it.”

McMillan hopes that everyone will participate in Spirit Day. People “don’t necessarily have to agree with homosexuality to wear purple, nor do they have to be LGBTQ,” she says. “They just have to recognize that it’s wrong to bully someone for their sexual orientation.”

Spirit Day will be held worldwide today, Wednesday, October 20. Participants are asked to wear anything with the color purple to commemorate the deaths of seven students caused by peer bullying over the past several weeks. More information is available here.

Nicole Rojas can be reached at nrojas@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @nrojas0131.

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