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why you should wear it purple today

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On their website, Wear It Purple’s argument is stated plainly and simply: to see ‘young people everywhere [knowing] that they have the right to be proud of who they are’. Celebrated in August each year, their call-out is also simply stated: ‘Wear purple [today] if you agree!’

Of course, the convictions and aspirations of initiatives like Wear It Purple are more complex than the aforementioned exclamations might initially suggest. Wear It Purple was originally founded as a social media campaign in 2010, aimed at addressing the stigmatisation and bullying of LGBTI+ students within school environments. Over the years, owing to support by various institutions and notably, through the dedicated work of students across Australia, it has become a nationwide initiative.

Not everyone seems entirely happy with such progressive and educational campaigns, though. Sydney tabloid, The Daily Telegraph – not entirely surprisingly – actually seems to have outdone itself this week, when it published this article proclaiming that the activities encouraged by Wear It Purple constitute ‘pro-gay propaganda’, and have the potential to disturb and damage impressionable students. This is disgraceful not only because it implicitly condones homophobia and transphobia, but it also discourages people from showing support and solidarity; something that is absolutely vital in schooling environments.

Childhood and adolescence are significant stages in any individual’s life. For LGBTI+ youth, especially, this period is often filled with confusion and tumultuous emotion, of journeys of self-discovery and affirmation. At these times, it is more essential than ever that they feel part of positive school environments, and of communities that can provide support and guidance.

Naturally, in a society where youth are spending more and more time online, the dynamics of the ‘supportive school community’ is adapting rapidly. And in such a changing world, social media has become a platform that has the potential to both create and destroy – a fact that many LGBTI+ youth know full well. To see positive outpourings of support for the rights of LGBTI+ people is most definitely a fantastic thing. Additionally, online campaigns are also inclusive of those who may not have the opportunity to safely proclaim their support otherwise, and they also create means of reaching people who may not otherwise be able to access such information.

However, online campaigns – in my experience, at least – tend to breed a certain complacency; one which affects some (but of course not all) pockets within our society. This can especially affect younger generations, whose relationship with social media is constant but too often passive. The problem with participating purely in online campaigns is that oftentimes people are led to believe that that’s where their work ends. And in order to spur significant change, more people must be willing to actively stand up for the rights of minority and marginalised groups. This necessarily requires stepping out from behind keyboards, computer screens and comfort zones, and being vocal in one’s real communities, in real daily interactions.

It is essential that LGBTI+ youth feel supported, welcomed and included not only virtually, but in the real world, too. It takes significant courage to proclaim oneself an ally to a social justice cause in societies where often, supporters are treated just as harshly as those directly affected. And of course, it takes immense courage to stand up as a member of an affected demographic and say ‘I am proud of who I am’. Ignorance, prejudice and discrimination is alive and well, and is often felt and experienced daily by LGBTI+ identifying people. But bravery is an invaluable tool. Bravery is a powerful catalyst for progress. And bravery is liberating.

So Wear It Purple day is not only an opportunity for allies to actively express their solidarity with the collective ‘rainbow struggle’. For those who identify on the LGBTI+ spectrum, for those people who ever been made to feel somehow flawed for their sexuality and/or gender identity, Wear It Purple day is an opportunity to be proud. To stand up and proclaim – proudly, loudly and colourfully – that we are not, and will not ever be made to feel ashamed of who we are and who we love. To not only acknowledge difference and diversity, but to actively celebrate it.

As the inception and evolution of Wear It Purple has testified, social media has the power to inspire important change. But as the campaign also suggests, support does not end when you log off. Allies of the LGBTI+ community, and supporters of equality in all spheres, need to realise that in order to ensure a united rejection of homophobia, transphobia and any sort of discrimination, being vocal in the ‘real world’ is just as important. Good wifi or not, you must remain connected. So if you feel like showing your support and celebration of LGBTI+ youth, wear it purple today. And every other day of the week, if you’re so inclined. Because purple is honestly just a really flattering colour.

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