Bright and early this Spirit Day morning, GLAAD Media Institute alum Justice Horn, Chair of the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City posted to X: “Today, we ‘go purple’ to stand with LGBTQ+ youth and recommit ourselves to creating a welcoming and affirming community! We also unequivocally stand against bullies–that also includes adult[s] who make it their political agenda to attack LGBTQ+ youth.”
Today, we “go purple” to stand with LGBTQ+ youth and recommit ourselves to creating a welcoming and affirming community! We also unequivocally stand against bullies—that also includes adult who make it their political careers to attack LGBTQ+ youth. pic.twitter.com/GqkV4uB1gx
— Justice Horn (@JusticeHorn_) October 19, 2023
Horn, known as one of the youngest Gen-Zers in Kansas City public office, was not alone. The GLAAD Media Institute together with LGBTQ advocates, known as GLAAD Media Institute alumni, are, and have been, activating for Spirit Day in cities like Las Vegas, Kansas City, and Houston over the last three months.
These particular LGBTQ advocates learned how to share their stories and work together to fight for equality. On Spirit Day they’re advocating for the end of bullying against LGBTQ youth. Spirit Day is the world’s most visible anti-bullying movement inspiring LGBTQ youth, especially transgender and nonbinary youth, to live their lives in their truth and authenticity.
“To go purple on Spirit Day is important for me, because I want to honor my younger self who was bullied as a kid and teenager. It was because of the experience of being bullied that I chose to go into the helping profession. I wanted to be a support to those who felt like they had no one in their corner. It’s important that we eradicate bullying of LGBTQ+ people of all ages,” Andrè Wade, the state director of Silver State Equality told GLAAD.
Wade, GLAAD’s host for a late-September workshop with the LGBTQIA+ Center of Southern Nevada, wore purple then as he does today.
During that training session many other advocates spoke to what it meant to fight the culture of bullying when they were growing up.
For instance, GLAAD Media institute alum Zakkiyyah Niamah-Salaam, a Las Vegas podcaster and LGBTQ ally, said that when she was growing up, her parents instilled anti-bullying values about standing in community in the face of diversity and difference.
“When I was growing up my parents were very adamant about me being an individual and loving people for their individuality,” said Niamah-Salaam. “I just embraced and loved people for who they were and never judged them, and understanding the fact that we are all different and that’s what makes us beautiful.”
Not all of GLAAD Institute alumni had that experience of being embraced or embracing those that were often bullied. Some persevered through bullying into adulthood as trans elders in the wider LGBTQ community.
Li Arnee, Community Health Worker at Silver State Equality, reflects on his youth.
“I was more bullied for being overweight, than I was for being (then considered to be) a lesbian, and then a transgender person. What I would like to tell the youth in our community is: It gets better. If I could go back to that 13-year-old child and tell him how my life would be today, what a wonderful thing – that would’ve brought me so much joy if I could go back and tell him that ‘you weren’t different,’ and that ‘you are loved’. The way my life would’ve evolved would’ve been totally different.”
This is similar for Texas-based GLAAD Media Institute alum Cameron Samuels. Right now, they’re working with the American Library Association conference coming off of Banned Books Week. Samuels is the co-founder of Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (S.E.A.T.). They, with a team of college-aged students, work hard to fight bullying from all angles, especially from adults in power. S.E.A.T. did a workshop with GLAAD in mid-August.
“Let’s take a stand against bullying and support marginalized youth,” S.E.A.T. posted to their Instagram story.
Samuels isn’t the only LGBTQ youth fighting bullying at a state and national level, so is Missouri-based Atlas Mallams. He is a first year student at the University of Kansas City.
The youth told GLAAD that “Spirit Day is about not giving in and not giving up.”
“It’s saying yes, we are being discriminated against, but not taking that and going ‘Oh, well that’s just life.’ No, that’s not just life. I deserve to be treated with respect. I deserve to be loved. I deserved to be cherished, and valued for who I am and not who the world wants me to be,” Mallams said after a training session in mid-October.
#SpiritDay is the world’s most visible anti-bullying movement inspiring LGBTQ youth, especially transgender and nonbinary youth to live their lives in their truth and authenticity and in the spirit of being the person I needed when I was younger I add my voice to join those who… pic.twitter.com/9p9hUk5Wp7
— Álvaro Ontiveros (@AlvaroKCMO) October 19, 2023
Each year, GLAAD organizes celebrities, media outlets, brands, landmarks, sports leagues, faith groups, school districts, organizations, colleges and universities in what has become the most visible anti-LGBTQ bullying campaign in the world. Purple also symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag.
The annual tradition was started in 2010 by GLAAD and then high school student Brittany McMillan, in memory of the LGBTQ youth who died by suicide. McMillan encouraged her friends to wear purple on a day in October — a day that came to be known as Spirit Day.
Today, LGBTQ youth, and especially trans and nonbinary youth, are experiencing a level of scrutiny in schools we have never seen, leading to an environment rife with stressors beyond the peer-to-peer bullying of the past. From book bans, to bans on trans youth in sports, to bathroom restrictions and teachers barred from using correct pronouns, the means by which a student can express themselves and see others like them are increasingly being challenged.
GLAAD’s 2023 Social Media Safety Index found severe harassment for LGBTQ users when compared to 2022 and found that all five major social media platforms continue to fail on LGBTQ safety. This anti-LGBTQ rhetoric then translates to real-life harm and has been cited as drivers of many of the more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in states around the country this year alone, many of which target our LGBTQ youth.
For more information on Spirit Day, visit glaad.org/spiritday and follow @GLAAD on social media to keep up to date with #SpiritDay news.
GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.