What is Spirit Day? Why celebrities are going purple to support LGBTQ youth: 'We stand against bullying!'

·4-min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:   Sofia Carson, Courtney Love, Justin Tranter and Adam Lambert attend the 'Believer' Spirit Day Concert presented by Justin Tranter and GLAAD at Sayer's Club on October 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California  (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for GLAAD)
Sofia Carson, Courtney Love, Justin Tranter and Adam Lambert 2017's "Believer" Spirit Day Concert, presented by Justin Tranter and GLAAD. (Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for GLAAD)

If you’re wondering why you’re seeing a wave of purple today, here's your answer: It's Spirit Day!

Commemorated on the third Thursday of October every year, Spirit Day encourages millions to “go purple” in efforts to stand against the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ youth — a population that is disproportionately impacted.

Started in 2010 by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan in partnership with GLAAD, the inaugural Spirit Day was a response to the wave of LGBTQ students who died by suicide due to excessive bullying — including Tyler Clementi, a college student who took his own life after learning his roommate secretly recorded him having a romantic encounter with a man. 

Spirit Day has since become an annual event for LGBTQ people and their allies to wear purple to show their support for the cause. And the need for such a day is still warranted. 

According to a 2019 report (the most recent available) by GLSEN, a teacher-led organization created to advance learning environments for LGBTQ youth, the life of queer students is anything but easy. 

The report showed that the vast majority of LGBTQ students (86.3 percent) experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender expression. Furthermore, 68.7 percent experienced verbal harassment while 25.7 percent experienced physical harassment based on sexual orientation.

Nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, mostly because they “doubted that effective intervention would occur,” according to GLSEN's report. Their assumption isn’t entirely off-base, given that 60.5 percent of LGBTQ students who did report an incident claimed that “school staff did nothing in response or told the student to ignore it.”

Those who experienced higher levels of harassment based on their sexual orientation were also nearly three times as likely to have missed school and to have lower grade point averages than those who experienced other forms of bullying.

Related video: Spirit Day encourages LGBTQ awareness

A 2021 national survey by the Trevor Project also showed that the majority of LGBTQ youth (52 percent) who were enrolled in middle or high school report being bullied either in person or online in the past year. 

Furthermore, 80 percent of LGBTQ youth said that celebrities who are out and proud have positively impacted the way they feel about being LGBTQ themselves, driving the importance for visibility. 

Since the inaugural Spirit Day in 2010, GLAAD has organized hundreds of celebrities, media outlets, brands, landmarks, sports leagues, tech leaders, influencers, faith groups, school districts, organizations, colleges and universities in what has become the most visible anti-LGBTQ bullying campaign and united show of support for LGBTQ youth. 

Purple symbolizes spirit in the rainbow flag. Check out some of the immense support that's been circulating online today: 

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