October 17th marks the seventh annual celebration of Spirit Day, a worldwide campaign to stand up for LGBTQ+ youth against bullies.
Being a young queer BB can be seriously lonely, whether you’re out of the closet or not. Dealing with bullies is, sadly, an all-too-common experience for LGBTQ+ youth, and when even the adults in your life don’t understand how to help, where are you supposed to turn for support?
That’s why Brittany McMillan started Spirit Day in 2010. A high school student at the time, she posted on Tumblr to ask her fellow students to wear purple in support of LGBTQ youth. Seven years later, millions of people worldwide “go purple” on this special day in October. Supporters wear purple T-shirts, hold purple parades, and turn their profile pictures purple — all to show solidarity with young LGBTQ+ people and give a big metaphorical “F you” to bullies.
On Friday, GLAAD released videos of several LGBTQ+ and ally celebrities sending messages of support to young people ahead of Spirit Day.
In one video, actress Angelica Ross of “Pose” pointed out that supporting LGBTQ+ folks has to go beyond lip service on social media.
“We all need to take a stand against all forms of bullying,” she said. “But we have to go beyond just turning our profile pictures purple. Because I see a lot of folks out there giving us lip service, and you think you’re doing everything by turning your profile picture purple, but then when we need you the most, when Trump is attacking trans Americans, you’re silent. Love is an action, and trans people need to see that love out in the open.”
In another video, “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy sent encouragement to any young person who may be facing a bully.
“Bullies are acting out of fear and insecurity, and that’s an important thing to know if you are bullied, because it’s not about you, it is only about them,” he said. “Keep shining, keep staying strong, and celebrate your life, because if someone is coming after you, it means you have something they don’t. You are special, you are loved. Keep going.”
Drag queen Peppermint echoed Levy’s advice, noting that it’s that special “individuality” that makes someone into a star.
Meanwhile, comedian Jaboukie Young-White joked that anyone who bullies someone in high school has already hit their peak. “Check on them in 12 years,” he said. “They’re going to look so bad, they’re going to be tore up, and you’re going to be popping. Just wait on it.”
Actress Jameela Jamil, well-known for her body positivity activism, directed her message to bullies themselves. “You can really take a life [by bullying]. You don’t want blood on your hands, so just be a better person. … Understand that we’re all the same. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, what your sexuality is, what your race is. We’re all the same.”
It’s common to hear older folks comfort young LGBTQ+ folks with the advice that “It gets better.” But the best way to believe that it really can get better is to see proof — like the thriving queer and trans adults who appeared in GLAAD’s videos. Spirit Day shows that, bullies or no bullies, there are countless people around the world who understand, care, and have your back.
As Jaboukie said: “Know that one day, you’re gonna flex on all those haters.”