Spirit Day to honor recent homosexual suicide victims

In response to recent suicides, Spirit Day aims to raise awareness of harassment against the LGBT community. Supports are urged to wear purple on Oct. 20.

In the wake of several suicides by gay teens, a teenage girl from Canada sent out a call for a worldwide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Spirit Day. Posted and re-posted from blogs to Facebook to other social networking sites, her call for remembrance spread across the Internet in a matter of days.

With the use of her Tumblr account, the announcement asks people to wear purple on Oct. 20 in memory of those bullied and harassed for their sexual orientation.

“On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the seven gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months, many of them due to homophobic abuse in their homes or at their schools,” Brittany McMillan said. “Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality.” __ Tumblr is like the Twitter of the blogging world where users are able to post text, photos, quotes, audio, and video with speed and ease. Using her account, McMillan was able to spread her request with chain-letter like speed.

The Tyler Clementi tragedy at Rutgers University was the most widely reported of the suicides. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge three days after footage of Clementi’s sexual encounters from a webcam were streamed across campus.

Sex advice columnist Dan Savage, will be visiting the Student Center Ballroom Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.

“There are accomplices out there: uncaring teachers, criminally negligent school administrators, classmates who bullied and harassed Tyler,” said Savage. “ ‘Christian’ churches and hate groups that warp some young minds and torment others, politicians on the right and left who exploit and perpetuate anti-gay prejudice, perhaps even Tyler’s own family.”

In addition to remembering the lives lost, Spirit Day also seeks to raise awareness of problems that arise from bullying based on sexual orientation. Though some students may have dodged bullying in their middle and high school years the taunts and pain are all too real to those who were forced to face it.

“For about a year or two in high school I had a few jocks that would shout gay, queer, and fag a couple times a week,” junior Eric Kiturkes said.

This summer the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network published their 2009 National School Climate Survey on the bullying of gay teens. The survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found nearly 9-out-of-10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school.

In the past year, nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of concern for their own safety.

Some schools are working towards making it right. In response to one suicide, the Tehachapi, California Unified School District with the city’s police department announced it will hold an assembly on tolerance.

Some wish the school district would focus on acceptance over tolerance, but students and teachers don’t have to wait to educate themselves on these sensitive issues.

“Simply have teachers being observant and teaching them how to intervene would be a start to ending [this bullying],” said Kiturkes. “Teachers are all too often silent, because they don’t know or don’t feel comfortable stepping in to say something. Or they let their own feelings get in the way and choose to ignore it because they don’t agree with it.”
Gay rights groups from across the country have joined in, addressing the recent suicides.

“Words have consequences, particularly when they come from a faith leader,” said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “When a faith leader tells gay people that they are a mistake because God would never have made them that way and they don’t deserve love, it sends a very powerful message that violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable.”

“We need to learn wmore. And more charges need to be brought,” Savage said. “Not just criminal charges against a couple of stupid teenagers who should’ve known better but didn’t. But, ethical charges need to leveled against adults and institutions that knew better but didn’t care.” __

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