On Wednesday, October 20th, people all over the world will be wearing purple to commemorate the recent suicides in the news caused by homophobia and homophobic abuse. Six gay adolescents in the U.S. killed themselves last month due to anti-gay bullying caused by their peers. Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman, committed suicide after his sexual encounter with another man was broadcast on the Internet. Fifteen-year-old Justin Aaberg and 13-year-old Asher Brown killed themselves following severe harassment by their peers. There are many more youth like them.
With this recent surge in gay-related suicides, parents and schools across the nation are being forced to confront the issue of anti-gay bullying and the vulnerability of gay adolescents. Nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transsexual students experience harassment at school, making them 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers. Consequently, while youth of every sexual orientation are at risk for suicide, a young person who is struggling with his or her sexual identity is at a much greater risk.
“According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. That means that more than 5,000 U.S. teens and young adults take their own lives every year” – AolHealth.com
There is no denying that the death of these teens is devastating to hear, but one good thing that has come out of it is the social movement that it has started. Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Daniel Radcliffe and numerous other celebs have spoken up against gay bullying and harassment, in the media. The Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youth, has started a campaign called “It Gets Better,” where individuals are invited to submit online videos encouraging LGBT teens that are struggling with bullying and harassment, to not give up because their lives will get better.
On Wednesday, October 20th, SFU Residence will be hosting “Spirit Day” on the Burnaby campus. Students, teachers, and staff are encouraged to wear purple to show their support for youth who are struggling with anti-gay bullying and harassment. There will be a booth in the dining hall, from 5 to 7pm, with information on suicide prevention and the things you can do to help. Purple is one of the colours on the LGBT pride flag and it symbolizes spirit, and the strength to be proud of who you are. Therefore, everyone is invited to wear purple on October 20th and be part of a day celebrating the unbeatable spirit of the LGBTQ community.
It’s important that LGBT youth know that the views of society can and WILL change.
Show them that you care. Wear purple on Wednesday!
By Flavia Kajoba