'Go purple' Thursday for LGBT youth - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

'Go purple' Thursday for LGBT youth

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Many with social media accounts will use this banner to show support for LGBT youth. (Source: GLAAD) Many with social media accounts will use this banner to show support for LGBT youth. (Source: GLAAD)

(RNN) - What will Cher, Julianne Moore, Ricky Martin, TV talk show hosts, social media users and the Jersey Shore's Pauley D. all be doing Thursday?

They are all-in on a movement that will take America by storm, and it has nothing to do with Occupy Wall Street.

MTV, Facebook and even local landmarks will also join in on the pledge to "go purple" in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. 

"With their support, millions of Americans will help remind countless young people that it's OK to be who you are," said Seth Adam, communications and publications manager for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Thursday marks the second-annual Spirit Day, which teenager Brittany McMillan started as a response to several LGBT youths who took their own lives during the past few years because of bullying.

"At the end of the day, I want Spirit Day to make just one person feel a little bit better about his or her self, to feel safe enough in their own skin to be proud of who they are," McMillan said in an interview with GLAAD. "And even if it only stops one person from ending their life, that will be enough."

[Click here to read the Raycom News Network's interview with McMillan.]

Getting involved is open to everyone and easy, according to Adam, because all you have to do is wear purple.

"That's it. Just wear purple on Oct. 20 to show your support for LGBT youth everywhere, and take a stand against bullying," he said.

GLAAD has also provided a number of tools on its website to help people "go purple" online. Applications allow users to turn their social media and cell phone pictures purple and to decorate their blogs and websites with banners.

"Allies, friends and those who support LGBT youth can often be overshadowed by the outspoken and physical harassment of bullying," said Evan Cooper, a senior at Boston College. "Spirit Day is a simple gesture that demonstrates just how many people there actually are who are willing to speak out against bullying."

The main goal of the campaign, after all, is "visibility."

"Imagine how powerful it can be for a young person to have a visible marker of support from his or her teachers, family and friends - or by seeing your favorite celebrity take a stand against bullying," Adam said.

Conan O'Brien, Dr. Drew Pinksy and Windy Williams will join the casts of ABC's The View and CBS's The Talk in wearing purple on screen.

Cooper, along with other members of the school's GLBT Leadership Council, will wear lavender "Support Love" T-shirts on campus Thursday.

The shirts, which are sold annually, depict images of straight, gay and lesbian couples. The message is simple: Love is love.

"My transition from high school to college has expanded my sense of community and shown me that the world is so much more than the handful of bullies in your school or neighborhood," Cooper said.

Suicides among young people who identify as LGBT have once again dominated headlines in recent days after the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, who was reported to have been bullied by his classmates because of his sexuality.

A study released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), revealed that nearly nine out of every 10 LGBT middle and high school students were harassed in 2009.

And as a whole, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth experience more suicidal behavior than their peers, according to a Suicide Prevention Resource Center survey released in 2008.

"The greater risk of suicidal behavior among LGBT youth may be seen as largely a function of our social environment, including discrimination and stigma," the paper concludes. "Social stressors are associated with mental illness, isolation, victimization and stressful interpersonal relationships with family, peers and community. The effect of this stress is compounded by the fact that many youth-serving professionals and institutions are not effectively meeting the needs of LGBT youth."

GLAAD says that while Spirit Day was created by a young person for young people, the campaign reaches across generations.

"As stories of anti-LGBT bullying continue to make headlines, it's now more important than ever that we send messages of support to LGBT young people," Adam said.

Cooper is confident there will be a future without bullying. For him, it starts with a simple gesture of support, like Spirit Day.

"As the opposition to bullying continues to gain attention and support, I find it hopeful this epidemic of bullying and the tragedies that result from it will come to an end," he said.


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