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October 20, 2010

I'm wearing purple what?

I'm wearing purple today and it doesn't matter. Wearing purple is part of a social media campaign responding to a number of youth suicides that recently made the news. This isn't to say that there are more teen suicides, but rather they became the news meme of the week a couple weeks ago. 93 people, of all ages, will kill themselves in the U.S. today. Teen suicides continue daily. Many due to bullying, many because the kids are gay and don't live in supportive environments.

So I'm wearing a purple shirt today. My fashion choice impacts no one and nothing. I don't see kids at work, on my commute, and there won't be any at the meeting I'm going to tonight. If I a kid did see me, they'd need to be aware of the campaign and guess that of all the people on my Metro ride, I'm wearing purple as part of the campaign. I don't think the two men in pink shirts count. If they do know about the campaign, they probably have the resources that they need.

Social media campaigns are useful for risk free and effortless symbolic gestures. I was not asked to give money, contact a politician, talk to anyone, or take any kind of action that would be noticed tomorrow. GLAAD, promoters of Spirit Day, asks for no actions other than changing your Facebook picture and status.

Like most people, I won’t explain why I'm wearing a purple shirt today instead of yesterday or tomorrow. If you boycott a store, it isn’t a boycott unless you tell the store why you aren’t shopping there. Otherwise it is just a consumer decision. Wearing purple is meaningless in of itself…other than it compliments my eyes.

We could be doing something. We could be taking action to make a difference. GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is promoting federal anti-bullying legislation.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2262) will require schools to take steps to address bullying and harassment. This bill will require schools to implement comprehensive policies to protect all students from bullying and harassment, and provides them with tools and resources to focus on effective prevention strategies. It also requires that schools maintain and report data regarding the incidents of bullying and harassment that occur.

Go to their website to learn more about it and contact your members of Congress. I live in D.C., so I don’t have any voting representation in Congress. You can also get in touch with people working to pass state or local versions of the law, or start a local effort yourself. It just starts with a call your councilmember or representative. It will have consequences beyond a fashion trend. It may save a life.

If you are more inclined to donate then to advocate, consider giving to GLSEN and the Trevor Project.


Some Facts About Suicide from the Trevor Project:   

  • In the United States, more than 34,000 people die by suicide each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC 2007).
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds, accounting for over 12% of deaths in this age group; only accidents and homicide occur more frequently (National Adolescent Health Information 2006).
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses (CDC 2008).
  • For every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey 2003).
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey 2007).
  • More than 1/3 of LGB youth report having made a suicide attempt (D’Augelli AR - Clinical Child Psychiatry and Psychology 2002)
  • Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt (Grossman AH, D’Augelli AR - Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior 2007)
  • Questioning youth who are less certain of their sexual orientation report even higher levels of substance abuse and depressed thoughts than their heterosexual or openly LGBT-identified peers (Poteat VP, Aragon SR, et al – Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2009)
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection (Ryan C, Huebner D, et al - Peds 2009;123(1):346-352)

Additional Facts about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth

  • Nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school; three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and about one-third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe (GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2009).
  • LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22% vs. 7%) and 90% of LGBT students (vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year. (GLSEN From Teasing to Torment 2006)
  • Sexual minority youth, or teens that identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, are bullied two to three times more than heterosexuals. (Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH 2010)
  • Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (89%) (GLSEN: Harsh Realities, The Experiences of Transgender Youth In Our Nation’s Schools 2009).
  • LGBT youth in rural communities and those with lower adult educational attainment face particularly hostile school climates (JG, Greytak EA, Diaz EM – Journal of Youth & Adolescence 2009)
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than are heterosexual teens (Marshal MP, Friedman MS, et al – Addiction 2008).
  • It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (2006 National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: An Epidemic of Homelessness). 62% of homeless LGB youth will attempt suicide at least once—more than two times as many as their heterosexual peers (Van Leeuwen JMm et al – Child Welfare 2005)


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Bob, thanks for posting this.

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