Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yesterday I Wore Purple: Suicide, Gay Youth and Bullying

Photo by Nono Fara
Purple happens to be my favorite color, but yesterday when I went to put something purple on, my heart was heavy. Yesterday, people all over the country chose to wear purple to honor the young gay teens who took their lives because of bullying. People wore purple to show solidarity in standing up against hate.

Will wearing purple erase homophobia? Will it bring back those that we have lost? No. But never underestimate the power of the masses to bring change. When someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts or feels confused about their identity, one of the biggest lifts they can experience is to know they are not alone. To know that others have struggled and come out the other side. To know that “it gets better.”

In the past few weeks, the collective grief around these losses has been everywhere, and people with influence to do something about it are also being visible and vocal:

• An openly gay Council Member from Fort Worth Texas speaks candidly about his experiences with bullying and lets teens know that things can be different. His powerful taped testimony goes viral on YouTube.

• The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education release an op-ed piece taking a stand on the issue.

Ellen DeGeneres makes several public remarks expressing her concerns.

Last year, the Carson J Spencer Foundation and Regis University developed a suicide prevention campaign to empower allies to “come out” and save lives by actively working to create safe spaces for gay college students. This social justice campaign was called “Allies in Action” and components of it are now being replicated on other campuses.

Together, as our collective voices become louder, we will reach the ears of the struggling teens to let them know, “there is something on the other side of your distress.” And we will reach the minds of the bullies to let them know, “you are wrong, and we will not tolerate hate.”

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