According to The American Association of Suicidology, 4,000 young people aged 15 to 24 take their own lives in the United States each year. Of all the American teens who commit suicide, 30 percent are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
Prompted by the Facebook event “Spirit Day” and the group “Wearing purple for the LGBT,” Samo students donned purple attire on Oct. 20 to speak out against homophobia and hate crimes against gay teens across the country.
In September alone, six gay youth –– all of whom allegedly endured homophobic bullying –– took their lives. Among those “bullied to death” was Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his sexual encounter with another man was broadcast on the internet.
Justin Aaberg, 15, of Minnestoa and Asher Brown, 13, of Texas also killed themselves after severe harassment.
“I think [the suicides] are a cry for help,” Olivia Mugalian, co-president of Samo’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), said. “I think those people were finally getting fed up with [bullying] and couldn’t take it anymore.”
Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and almost 85 percent of LGBT teenagers are harassed in high school because of their sexual orientation, according to the 2007 Massachusetts Youth Risk survey and the 2009 Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network survey.
According to “Wearing purple for the LGBT,” it is this trend that prompted students across the nation to wear purple in support of their LGBT classmates.
On the “Spirit Day,” page, the creators Tasha Gawkowski and Malcom Zawaci wrote, “Purple represents spirit on the LGBT flag, and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you. 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.”
Together, both the Facebook event and group reached over 1.6 million people worldwide.
“It hurts me to think that people of our community and of our age don’t have help and somewhere to go like the GSA that we have on campus,” GSA representative senior Emily Engle said.
Mugalian agrees: “In comparison to many schools in California, in the country, and probably around the world, we are very safe and very open. We obviously have our fair share of people who use gay slurs, but not to the extent that LGBT people have to live in fear.”
In response to the recent suicides and to “Spirit Day,” President Obama released a video on Oct. 21 for the purpose of reaching gay teens threatened by bullying.
“Even though it was just Facebook event, it’s still good to see that people care. Its a good step, and its a good thing,” Mugalian said.