Spirit Day is just one day out of 365 to fight homophobia
Bullying can mean so many things to so many people. However, there is consensus that bullying has significant, negative impacts on the health (mental and physical), and the overall well-being of a person. The impact of bullying is not limited by one’s age or gender. When a person diminishes your sense of self-worth or instills fear — whether one is 16 or 60, male or female — those feelings and thoughts are forever embedded into the person being bullied.
Speaking from my own experience as a gay, white, male (who recognizes the privileges that come with these attributes), trying to navigate the world as a teen was complicated. I was always in fear of being exposed, and living in a rural Ontario definitely compounded that fear. Added to this was that gut-wrenching feeling that I was so different than the general population, and if someone found out, then life would forever be hell.
It eventually happened. I was called faggot, sissy, fruit, and the list goes on. I still remember the first time I wasn’t picked to play on a gym team because my classmates didn’t want to pick the “homo” in fear they’d be perceived as gay too; or the one time at 13 years old, I was thrown to the ground, punched and kicked repeatedly by my older brother because he thought he could “beat the gay out of me.” Reflecting back on that experience now, I often wonder if my challenges are even comparable to those of today’s youth.
The fears that LGBTQ+ youth face today are real. Despite the milestones the queer community has achieved in recent years — and the gradual changes in society’s attitude toward the LGBTQ+ community — our youth continue to be bullied. It’s not just in the schoolyards or playgrounds. It has emerged on various social media outlets. It has gone beyond typical adolescent behaviour and become absolutely unacceptable. Beautiful lives are being lost.
Movements like Spirit Day, which happened on Oct. 15, are intended to educate and raise awareness of bullying so that people understand what bullying is and the impact it has on its victims. Spirit Day also aims to show LGBTQ+ youth that there is support. I made the choice many years ago to be vocal against bullying. Being vocal allows me to do what I can to ensure no kid has to endure the same constant fear I experienced.
Spirit Day is one day. However, I challenge each of you to make the same commitment to stop bullying against LGBTQ+ youth or others not just this one day but every day.