Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I Am Wearing Purple

Today many people are wearing purple to call attention to the issue of bullying faced by so many of the LGBT youth across the country. Over 19 years as an educator, I have seen bullying swell to epidemic proportions in the lives of young people. Certainly, bullies are nothing new. There have always been the Nelson Muntzs of the lunchroom and playground. There has always been the mean-girls club. This bullying is easy to see, and while not easy to stop, everyone knows it when it happens.
The bullying epidemic of the last decade, and the one claiming so many lives of young people today, occurs much more subtly - most often out of sight and sound. Today’s bullying rarely produces visible bruises. Instead it destroys the soul of the individual as it invades their most safe places with a message far more damaging than, “I’m tougher than you.” Today’s bullying thrives on the message, “you do not belong in the world.”
Particularly making news in recent months were the tragic suicides of young people taunted for being gay or for being perceived as being gay. As LGBT persons have gained recognition and much more acceptance in society, more and more young people have accepted their identities at a younger age, but at an age when their peers are developing their identities conflicting identities prove threatening.
Unfortunately, our political discourse encourages taunting and demonizing of anyone different. As our leaders have become less civil, our youth have taken that lesson to heart. The public, demonstrated lack of respect is the most bi-partisan activity our leaders have accomplished in the last four years. It is no wonder there is such distrust and disgust over all legislation passed; someone instantly discounts it.
When such messages dominate the media, why do we wonder that our youth would employ the same strategies in their lives?
I am wearing purple today, not just for LGBT youth who  have been bullied, but for all facing the torment of bullying through whispered denigrations, emailed threats, texted taunts, as well as the shoves, hits, and vandalism. I wear purple today to call attention to this plague across the country affecting our young people and society as a whole because if one thinks bullying ends at graduation, one has likely not paid attention at work.