Over the past few weeks, 10 American teenagers have died. Epidemiologists would describe this alarming death rate as an “epidemic”.
Far from being caused by a new variant of the flu, the deaths of American teenagers Aiyisha Hassan,19, Chloe Anne Lacey, 18, Asher Brown, 13, Seth Walsh, 13, Billy Lucas, 15, Raymond Chase, 19, Tyler Clemnti, 18, Caleb Nolt, 14, Felix Sacco, 17, and Cody Barker, 17, were suicides caused by bullying and homophobic abuse they experienced in their homes or schools.
To commemorate the lives of these and other young victims of this kind of abuse, the York Federation of Students has joined today’s national Spirit Day campaign. Created by Canadian teen activist Brittany McMillan on Facebook, Spirit Day encourages people to wear purple in remembrance of the lost promise of these teens.
“Purple represents spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit,” wrote McMillan on her Spirit Day Facebook page. “Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality.” York students will be among the more than 1.3 million people worldwide who have pledged, in response to McMillan’s call for action, to wear purple to honour the memory of the 10 American teens and others victims of homophobic bullying.
“People should care because these youth are not nameless, faceless people. They are our brothers, sisters and friends. It is the responsibility of all of us to fight homophobia everywhere,” says Steven Broadley, vice-president of operations for the YFS.
The YFS is offering purple armbands to York community members who want to show their support for youth experiencing homophobic bullying. It has organized an information table and video station today in Vari Hall, where students, faculty and staff can pick up an armband and record messages of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered & questioning (LGBTQ) people.
Visit the YFS table in Vari Hall between the hours of 10am and 6pm today to record an “It Gets Better” message of support. To launch the YFS effort, Toronto Mayor David Miller has recorded his own YFS “It Gets Better” video:
The YFS videos wil be posted on Youtube as part of the international It Gets Better Youtube video campaign started by American journalist Dan Savage. The campaign has received support from numerous icons in the public and private sector as a way to encourage queer and trans youth that life gets better after high school.
For more information, visit the YFSLocal68 Youtube channel to view a collection of “It Gets Better” messages of support created by York students, faculty and staff. If you cannot make it to Vari Hall and would like to record a message of support, e-mail Broadley at email@example.com to set up an alternative time.