If you notice a sea of purple around you tomorrow, there’s a reason — and it doesn’t have to do with Halloween. For Spirit Day this year, GLAAD is calling on everyone to wear purple for an incredibly important reason.
In a new video on YouTube, LGBTQ advocate Dylan Marron met with 17-year-old LGBTQ activist Grace Dolan-Sandrino and GLAAD Campus Ambassador Leah Juliett to discuss a pervasive issue among high school students, especially the LGTBQ community: bullying. At the Hetrick-Martin Institute — home of the Harvey Milk High School, which was founded to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth experiencing bullying — Dylan led a discussion on Grace and Leah Juliett’s experiences dealing with pushback and cruelty from their peers.
“A boy, who I was trying to hide my sexuality behind, asked me for nude photos at age 14 and would not stop asking for over a year until I finally send him the photos,” Leah Juliett, who identifies as gender nonconforming, told Dylan.
The pictures were quickly used to shame and silence Leah Juliett for their sexuality. “[H]e posted the photos online in retaliation for me coming out as being queer,” Leah Juliett, who served as an Ambassador to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans under the Obama Administration, explained. “…[Bullying is] meant to silence me. It’s meant to harm me and humiliate me and shame me into submission.”
Just like bullying comes in many forms — from cyber-bullying to classic verbal put-downs — it can have many insidious effects, both mental and physical. “I began to retract in class,” Grace, who identifies as transgender, said. “I didn’t want to be part of the school community and I started doing really bad in class.”
This is why GLAAD is calling on everyone to take the pledge here to wear purple on Thursday in honor of Spirit Day, which the organization calls “a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth” due to the fact that the community disproportionately deals with bullying for to their identities.
If Grace and Leah Juliett could turn back and speak to their middle school selves, they’d focus on encouragement, love, and support, they said.
“[I’d say, b]eyond your hair, beyond your clothes, you are all that you say you are,” Grace answered. “You are a girl. You are an artist.
All this nonsense in the hallways, all these whispers at the table…one day they won’t have power over you anymore.”
Leah Juliett, meanwhile, would thank their younger self “for staying alive and for staying loud and for staying unapologetic. And for staying here.”
To stand up for students who are being bullied for their gender or sexuality, join in by wearing purple on October 19.