Thursday, 20 October 2011

Spirit Day

One year ago today the first SPIRIT DAY was held. Although primarily a day originating in America, through Facebook it became a global commemoration.

Spirit Day is held to raise awareness of the homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and related bullying that is experienced by students at schools, colleges and online. It was given the name Spirit Day from the purple stripe on the original Rainbow Pride flag created in 1978. The flag’s creator, Gilbert Baker, defined the purple stripe as representing “spirit”. From this the suggestion made by Canadian student Brittany McMillan that people wear purple on Spirit Day spread via Facebook.

A spate of homophobic-bullying-related suicides among students across America was the catalyst for Brittany to begin her Facebook campaign. By 20th October 2010, the day Brittany designated for Spirit Day, over 1½ million Facebook users had joined specially formed support groups.

The problem of bullying has got “nastier” since the creation of social networking sites, and some schools have been known to refuse to help victims of online bullying from classmates because it didn’t occur on school premises. Even worse, a school vice-president even put on his Facebook page that he wants all “fags” to commit suicide. He later apologised and resigned. But is that enough?

Only a few weeks ago another young teenage student, Jamey Rodemeyer, committed suicide because of bullying. The death is even more tragic considering Jamey had joined the “It Gets Better” project which aims to convince young victims that life “gets better” after bullying.

Tragedy often brings positive responses. It was Jamey’s death that prompted American actor Zachary Quinto (of “Heroes”, and the young Spock in “Star Trek”) to come out last week.

I don’t support the “It Gets Better” project because I’ve not experienced that it does, and Jamey’s death proves that the message is pointless. Campaigners should not be saying that things will GET better, but that they should BE better. Bullying continues after school. I experienced it myself when I left school and went to college in Worksop, and it also occurred in my 40s. And the tragic loss of a friend last month because of conflicts in his own family prove to me that we shouldn’t lull youngsters into believing “it gets better” as you get older. We should be more realistic.

I hope more people will observe Spirit Day. More importantly, I hope more school and colleges observe it.

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