Today, millions will ‘go purple’ to support LGBT youth and take a stand against all-too-prevalent bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They’ll be wearing purple and using purple on social media as a way to show that they are supporting #Spirit Day, an annual event sponsored by GLAAD, and endorsed by New Ways Ministry and many other organizations. Catholics have actively participated in past years, impelled by their faith to protect some of the most vulnerable in this world — and I hope you’ll join (again) today!
Bullying among youth is always wrong, and worse still when LGBT teens and young adults are targeted because they often suffer from in person and online harassment at greatly elevated levels. Bullying, and the causative stigmas and phobias which it produces, leads LGBT youth to have higher rates of substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide.
Feeling excluded from one’s faith community or internalizing religious-based discrimination by church authorities can compound these problems. That is why Catholic participation as visible witnesses to a more loving and inclusive church are so important. As Fr. James Martin commented on #SpiritDay in past years, “This should be a no-brainer for Catholics, who are called by Christ to support those who suffer or struggle in any way, particularly those on the margins…You shall love your LGBT neighbor as yourself.”
How can Catholics participate in #SpiritDay? Here are a few suggestions:
- Go Purple: Wear purple today and change your social media pictures through GLAAD’s website, available here.
- Spread the Word: Engage those you encounter in a conversation about why you, as a Catholic LGBT advocate, are participating today.
- Use the hashtag #SpiritDay on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook to make your support of LGBT youth more public.
- Educate Yourself: Read more about issues impacting LGBT youth, such as suicide, bullying, and homelessness. Bondings 2.0 offers the following posts as a start:
- Homeless LGBT Youth Need Your Support This #SpiritDay
- How Can the Catholic Community Support LGBT Youth?
- Anti-Bullying & Teaching Resources (from the Diocese of Wollongong, Australia)
- What Every Church Should Know About Preventing Suicide (from US Catholic)
- Preventing Suicide: Warning Signs, Risk Factors, How You Can Help (from The Trevor Project)
- Reach Out to a Youth You Know: Send a message to an LGBT youth in your life to let him/her know of your love and support, especially because you are Catholic.
I close with a video posted at Young Adult Catholics. It is from an Irish priest, Fr. Donal Godfrey, who speaks about the suicide of his gay friend, a reminder of both why #SpiritDay is so necessary and why Catholics must continue our efforts for a just and inclusive church. You can watch the video below or by clicking here.
For more information on #SpiritDay, which is a project of GLAAD, visit their website at www.glaad.org/spiritday.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry