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It was study period, my junior year of high school. Activists in the state of Maine were pushing for marriage equality to be passed that year. It was a school-wide discussion; in a small rural town, any news was big news.
Around me sat four or five seniors, wearing different plaid sweaters and Timberland boots, with “Don’t Take Away My Guns!” stickers plastered on their laptops. My ears perked up, as they always did, when marriage equality entered the conversation.
Their brows furrowed as they discussed what a “fag-free” world would look like.
“Ya know what, here’s what we should do: We should round ’em up, just put ’em all on an island and hunt ’em. It’d be fun.”
“Yeah we’d call it fag-huntin’.”
They laughed, while every muscle in my body tightened. My mind flashed to their trucks just out back. Their gun racks.
I glanced at the teacher, just 20 feet away. Had she heard? I realized at most she’d say, “Guys, cut out using the f-word!”
I glanced around the table. These people had guns. They wanted to find people like me. They wanted to hunt people like me. They wanted to kill people like me. They had guns, and me? I was alone.
Day-in, day-out those comments gripped my heart with terror. But it was there I had my first boyfriend. It was there I came out at the end of my first year of college. It was there the first time I went to therapy. It was there I went to my first LGBTQ+ club meeting. It was there I transferred to one of the most friendly LGBTQ+ campuses.
Then it clicked.
I had just been elected chair of my college’s LGBTQ+ advocacy club, and I expressed my worries about how to make the club a safe space to my co-chair.
“It isn’t our job to provide a safe space. The world is unsafe,” said my co-chair. “Our job is to help queer people build community.”
I thought back to that day in high school. I saw the scared kid at that table. I could feel what he felt. And I vowed that for the rest of my life I was going to work as hard as I could to make sure no one ever feels like I did then.
So it’s here at the cross-sections of activism and LGBTQ+ bullying that Spirit Day was created. Spirit Day is a way to speak out against LGBTQ+ bullying and to stand with LGBTQ+ youth by going purple. But it’s more than an awareness day. It’s a day to visibly signal to queer youth that they have support. It’s the start of a conversation. It’s a youth not being afraid to say “I need help.” When over 80% of LGBTQ+ students report being verbally harassed, the impact of Spirit Day is monumental.
In this movement, we all have a role. Whether it’s going to a rally, speaking out or wearing purple, we can all make a difference. It’s that first step that leads us to a better world.