Metro Weekly

Companies, celebrities, and students don purple for Spirit Day to combat bullying and harassment

Day is designed to show support for LGBTQ youth and remember victims of suicide caused by bullying

American Eagle Outfitters in Times Square celebrates Spirit Day – Photo: GLAAD, via Twitter.

Companies, celebrities, and students across the nation are donning purple to celebrate Spirit Day, a day dedicated to combating bullying and harassment against LGBTQ youth and remembering those LGBTQ youth who have committed suicide.

Begun in 2010 after high school student Brittany McMillan posted the idea to her Tumblr page following several high-profile LGBTQ suicides — including, most notably, Tyler Clementi — Spirit Day coincides with National Bullying Prevention Month.

As part of Spirit Day, people are encouraged to take the Spirit Day pledge promising to stand up to bullying in all forms. The event is most commonly celebrated in schools, but celebrities and major corporations have gotten in on the action in recent years.

Each year, GLAAD helps hundreds of celebrities, media, brands, landmarks, sports leagues, faith groups, school districts, colleges and students to show their support for LGBTQ youth by wearing purple clothing or changing their branding to purple, the color that signifies “Spirit” in the Pride flag.

According to statistics from GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, 85% of LGBTQ-identifying students said they’d been verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 63% reported hearing negative comments or remarks due to their gender expression. More than 57% of LGBTQ students report feeling unsafe at school.

A similar study by the Human Rights Campaign and researchers at the University of Connecticut found that LGBTQ teenagers have a high incidence of depression, and 95% report having trouble sleeping at night. LGBTQ youth of color and transgender teenagers also experience elevated stress, either because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity, or some combination of all four.

That study found that only about one-quarter of LGBTQ youth feel safe in their classrooms, and only 5% say their teachers or school administrators are supportive.

At GLAAD’s prompting, Twitter launched a #SpiritDay hashtag and purple heart emoji to mark the day.

On Wednesday evening, the day prior to Spirit Day, singer, songwriter, activist, and GLAAD Board Member Justin Tranter hosted “BEYOND,” a Spirit Day concert benefitting GLAAD in Los Angeles.

Among those who performed were musical artists Darren Criss, Nick Jonas, Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, and Shea Diamond. Celebrities Julianne Hough, Derek Hough, Katherine Langford, Raymond Braun, Trace Lysette, Johnny Sibilly, Tommy Dorfman, JoJo, Bea Miller, and others also participated.

Kellogg Company launched a special edition “All Together” cereal bringing together a combination of its various brands at the company’s New York City cafe to help raise money for Spirit Day. The special edition “All Together” box features a number of Kellogg cereal mascots mixed together. All proceeds from the cereal purchase on Spirit Day will directly benefit GLAAD.

Other companies participating in the day by advocating for anti-bullying efforts include Hilton, Target, Wells Fargo, Barilla, Johnson & Johnson, the NBA and WNBA, Kirkland & Ellis, and Zipcar.

Several television and radio networks will also participate in the day by promoting it via word of mouth or donning purple clothing when they are on air. Among those participating are ABC/Disney, CBS, FOX, Freeform, HBO, iHeartRadio, NBC, Showtime, Telemundo, TNT/TBS, and Univision. Shows whose hosts are participating in the day include: CNN New Day, Despierta AméricaE! News, Entertainment TonightExtraFull Frontal with Samantha Bee, Good Morning AmericaJimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Live with Kelly and RyanMSNBC Velshi & Ruhle, The TalkTODAY, The View, and Watch What Happens Live.

Singer Britney Spears, the winner of the Vanguar Award at the GLAAD Media Awards, will make a special appearance at a Spirit Day rally in Toshiba Plaza, on the Las Vegas strip, at 6 p.m. The event will be broadcast live on lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres’ YouTube channel.

In the lead up to the day, GLAAD released videos of celebrities discussing bullying and encouraging people to participate or take the Spirit Day pledge against bullying and harassment. The list of participating celebrities includes: Laverne Cox, Tyra Banks, Kyle Richards, Jay Versace, Alyssa Milano, Mj Rodriguez, Michelle Visage, and Ross Matthews.

Even sports teams got into the celebration, with two baseball teams, the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds tweeting their support for Spirit Day and combating bullying. 

The Boston Red Sox, in partnership with Fenway Sports Group President Mike Gordon’s Gordon Family Foundation, donated $200,000 to support Boston’s local LGBTQ-affirming health center, Fenway Health. The money will go directly to Fenway Health’s youth, anti-bullying, and anti-violence programs, including its Violence Recovery Program.

Other sports figures taking a stand against bullying for Spirit Day include Nascar driver Stephen Rhodes and NBA stars Reggie Bullock of the Detroit Pistons, John Henson of the Milwaukee Bucks, Michael Beasley of the New York Knicks, and Jeremy Lin of the Atlanta Hawks. GLAAD partner Athlete Ally, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating homophobia and transphobia in sports, will also participate.

“Spirit Day is a day of national importance that highlights the serious issue of bullying and its disproportionate impact on LGBTQ youth,” GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “It also sends powerful messages of support, letting LGBTQ and other marginalized youth know that they are not alone — something sorely needed in our culture today.”

For more on Spirit Day, visit glaad.org/spirtday.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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