When Gilbert Baker designed the first Pride flag in 1978 he was intentional about the meaning behind each color. Purple symbolizes the spirit. In 2010, a surge of LGBTQ teen suicides in the media related to bullying inspired, then teenager, Brittany McMillian to start Spirit Day. People everywhere are encouraged to wear purple the third Thursday of October to show support for LGBTQ youth and demand an end to bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month – which also happens to be LGBTQ History Month.
Ending bullying is no small task. Over 70% of all LGBTQ youth report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Bullying and harassment can surge at times like this when election cycles are ramping up, and high profile LGBTQ court cases come before the Supreme Court. When media outlets take these moments to disparage our community those sentiments get echoed by family, friends at school, faculty, and institutions of faith. Our divisive political climate has a huge impact on our youth.
We fight back against bullying and protect our youth by changing the culture. We must elect LGBTQ supportive officials who will create and enforce LGBTQ supportive policy at every level of government. We must connect with teachers and administrators who can ensure LGBTQ inclusive curriculum is taught, bullying is addressed, and that they are creating a safe learning environment that all students deserve. We must proactively provide access to resources for faculty, families, and youth so each can be their own agents of change.
Even calling out homophobia and transphobia in your daily life can make a difference for this generation of youth and the next. If we are going to continue making progress as a movement, each of us are needed. Not one less. One loss of life is one too many. Please do your part to confront and end bullying so that each of us can have a role in ensuring every life is part of our Legacy of Liberation.
P.S. If you know an LGBTQ youth who is ready to be an agent of change in their own school and community they can apply for our upcoming Pride Youth Leadership Academy here. Learn more about our youth programs here.
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made him a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.