This post is part of 2 Billion Under 20′s partnership with GLAAD around Spirit Day in support of our LGBT contributors and community members. Spirit Day is a movement against LGBT bullying started by Brittany McMillan. Find out more about Spirit Day here.
I can hardly believe that it is already the fourth year the world has celebrated Spirit Day. It seems like it was just a few months ago that I was in 10th grade, reading the stories of several boys and girls who committed suicide in the month of September. I can still remember how angry I was after reading their stories and discovering before they had all died, they had all been bullied based on assumptions or the fact that they were gay.
Now some of you know my history and some of you do not. When I was seven, my parents got divorced and all throughout my life, my immediate family has not gotten along very well. I am the older sister of two and my parents’ divorce put a lot of pressure on me to be the messenger between my parents when they refused to answer one another’s phone calls, e-mails or letters. Overall, my home life was a struggle growing up and that left me with the safety of school.
I loved going to school as a child. I participated in a lot of leadership activities, I had lots of friends and I got good grades. I got along with a lot of my teachers and by the end of grade seven, almost everyone in our grade was friends with one another. It was great but it made coming to high school all the more difficult. Upon entering high school, I had lost almost three-quarters of my friends who went to a different high school than I did. The quarter that stayed disbanded almost immediately and I felt really alone. Not long after, I became a victim of bullying where I would get shoved into lockers and harassed online by my peers. All in all, my life sucked. My family was always arguing at home and now I didn’t even have a safe space at school to escape the arguing because I was being bullied. At this point, I wasn’t as involved in my Church as I am now, so I couldn’t go there either. Adding in the factor of my genetics, the end result is that I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I’ve only been diagnosed with depression and anxiety for about two and half years now, but I’ve probably had it for approximately six years. Through that time, I’ve battled a lot of times where suicide was heavily on the forefront of my mind. I’ve made several attempts on my life and though none of them were successful, I knew just how badly you had to feel to even think that suicide was the only way out.
So after hearing about these boys and girls who had committed suicide after, what is largely assumed to be because they were either gay or presumed to be gay, I was outraged. I could understand how they felt, but I couldn’t understand how their bullies could feel so righteous and proud of what they’d done. When I realized that not a lot of people knew about these deaths, I wanted to do something to remember them, something that would get people to think about the circumstances of these suicides and say “Hey! That’s not right!”
On October 20th, 2010, I asked people all over the world to wear purple to stand up to homophobic bullying, show support for the LGBT community and to remember the lives of the boys and girls who commit suicide every year because they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. With the help of GLAAD, who found my idea on Facebook, we helped spread the word and over 2 million people wore purple that year. The following year, following the death of Jamie Rodemeyer, over 3 million people wore purple and last year, 4 million people wore purple.
As I said before, this is the fourth year that Spirit Day will be held and I can’t wait to see the results at the end of the day. Each year I am astounded at the amount of support that comes in from celebrities, TV networks, companies and faith groups. It is amazing to see students, teachers, parents, co-workers and friends coming together to stand up for something they believe in. I have heard so many stories – everything from finding the courage to come out, showing support for a friend or even finding a reason to give life another chance – and they inspire me to keep putting everything I have into Spirit Day and its preparation. I have been so blessed with the opportunity to take a stand with the rest of you and to have had the incredible experiences I have had with GLAAD, Seventeen Magazine and now, 2 Billion Under 20. I am so grateful for these experiences and I look forward to seeing everyone decked out in purple this October 17th.