In the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, separation from community support structures has been one of the greatest struggles that Rainbow people have faced. It’s hard to watch the world burning, and it’s harder when you feel you’re watching it alone.

However, in times like these, it’s important to remember that while we may be distant, we’re never alone. But, not in a creepy way.

Wear It Purple has been serving and supporting Rainbow young people since 2010, and a lot has happened in the past 10 years. We’re finally allowed to get married, we see representations of ourselves in mainstream television, and Delta Goodrem even released three more studio albums.

In light of ‘recent events,’ Star Observer sat down with Wear It Purple to talk about youth, ‘the gays’, and Wear It Purple’s annual Wear It Purple Day on August 28 to raise awareness for safe spaces and suicide prevention among Rainbow young people.

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 Youth Action Council Executive of Wear It Purple, Izzy Calero, told Star Observer that while celebrating the anniversary for Wear It Purple during a global pandemic is “heartbreaking,” there is still plenty to look forward to in the coming month.

“The minute I am asked this question, I am filled with instant pride and happiness,” she said while being asked about this year’s Wear It Purple Day plans.

“Initially, the thought of celebrating our 10 year anniversary during a global pandemic was so heartbreaking. We’d normally have people from the NSWPF, Newtown Performing Arts High School and the Newtown Hub. We’d have live performances, cupcakes, food trucks, music playing and an all-around good time.”

Like many of us, Izzy is missing the simple comforts unavailable in a COVID world.

“It sounds so selfish – people are dying, and I was concerned about missing a street party – but, the team and I came up with some excellent ways to celebrate and give back to the community, particularly young people. I won’t give away too much, but there was a little hint there for you,” she said with a wink. “I’ll also add that it is so lovely to know that there have been an immense amount of virtual experiences for Wear It Purple Day. Some landmarks such as Barangaroo’s International Towers will also be lighting up Purple to mark the date!”

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 Co-founded by Katherine Hudson and Scott Williams, Wear It Purple is an international movement that focusses on the principles of awareness, opportunity, environment and collaboration.

When several rainbow young people across the globe took their own lives in 2010 following systemic bullying and harassment, the Wear It Purple community stepped up and took action.

While Co-founder, Katherine Hudson said that the inspiration behind the purple motif was simply because “all the good colours were taken,” Izzy also clarified that the royal colour scheme stems from its purpose as a “secondary colour.”

“A secondary colour is made up of other colours which embodies the message of diversity and inclusion,” she said.

“My personal answer links back to what the colour purple represents – pride, creativity and magic. If you ask me, Wear It Purple couldn’t exist without that.”

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 In their 10 years of youth service, the Wear It Purple group have achieved these principles by providing supportive resources for Schools, Universities and Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSA’s), as well collaboratively assisting in creating inclusive experiences for Rainbow young people.

Izzy believes that while Wear It Purple has gone above and beyond in outspokenly advocating and celebrating Rainbow young people, as well as raising awareness about the challenges faced by sexual and gender diverse people, there is still much work that needs to be done.

“While the goal of Wear It Purple is to cease to exist once there are safe spaces everywhere for Rainbow young people, I’ll always have a feeling that there will always be more than can be done; we could be around forever,” she said.

“We intend to make a much larger footprint with the help of our corporate supporters and fellow charitable organisations that dedicate their services to communities of the youth.

“Collaborating with young minds doesn’t just start and end with LGBTQI groups, Wear It Purple plans to continue our mission and broaden our horizon in order to make every and all young people feel safe.”

 Star Observer has comprehensively covered the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australia’s LGBTQI community. One issue that has been highlighted continuously is the damaging effects for Rainbow youth of having to self-isolate with unaccepting family-members or friends.

Many in our community risk assault, intimidation, and even being rendered homeless – not to mention the ongoing psychological damage of continuous isolation in a hostile home environment. While isolation continues to stay on the forefront of Australia’s’ mind (Melbourne, we feel for you), Izzy explained that Wear It Purple is doing its best to account for this new world order.

“This isn’t something we, like many people and organisations, have had to experience before; we’re trying to continue to spread our message of visibility while trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” she noted while laughing.

“At the beginning of lockdown, the team huddled together to discuss how government restrictions affect LGBTQI people just that little bit more harshly than other people. We came to the unanimous understanding that for young LGBTQI people who mightn’t feel safe at home, this time is devastatingly difficult because staying home is the only option.

“We’ve created a Facebook group for young Rainbow people under the age of 25 to have a sense of safety, community, inclusion and empowerment.”

 However, she says that the news hasn’t been entirely negative. A post-COVID-world has provided more opportunity to focus on reach-out initiatives, and encouraged creativity from organisations and community members on how best to maintain some sense of normalcy.

“We have also seen an increase in the amount of enquiries in regards to virtual celebrations in workplaces, schools and communities which is something that is really empowering – people haven’t put Wear It Purple Day on hold due to COVID,” she said.

“I feel that the COVID-19 outbreak put a lot into perspective… Particularly that doing things virtually may be the best way to reach young people across the entire nation – it ensures that no Rainbow young person is forgotten whether they live in the metro or rural.

As a youth-led organisation with a current team of 45 Youth Action Council members, Izzy noted that the pandemic has also inadvertently forced Wear It Purple to go back to basics – in the best way possible. Like many other community organisations and non-profits, it can become hard not to fall into an echo chamber that loses touch with the ordinary person’s reality.

We’ve all had those moments of dissonance where we realise that what we want, is not necessarily what people need. Combined with the tricky task of having to represent a community that is as large, as it is diverse, and sometimes it can be hard to hear everyone’s voice equally.

 Izzy says that as a result, Wear It Purple has changed its engagement (rather than its execution) in ensuring Rainbow voices are heard on matters of community-support in a post-COVID world.

“We really have gone back to our roots of paying attention to, listening to and advocating for young people,” Izzy explained.

“Our intention never changed; the execution didn’t either, but it can be easy to fall into a trap and only listen to the young people around you. So we decided to recruit new members of the team, get some fresh faces, ideas and perspectives and continue to flourish.

“We have a diverse team of young people with differing skills and interests which really does make such an impact on the growth and development of Wear It Purple leading up to our anniversary.”

Wear It Purple is doing work where it counts, at the ground-level. 

In 2019 the community-resource reached over 600,000 students which is four times the amount reached in 2018. Needless to say, this year has been a little bit different.

 While 2020 has been a year for introspection, it’s important to remember that many young Rainbow people need support during the pandemic – and need to know that despite the post-apocalyptic scenery, that they aren’t alone if they need help.

While we encourage (and slightly demand) that cashed-up queers volunteer and donate, the most impactful way you can help this year is simply by inviting your school, workplace or community to wear something purple on the last Friday of every August.

Better yet, maybe go online and buy some Wear It Purple merch? I mean hey, if ASOS can still turn a profit this quarter than surely a cute lapel pin or some funky socks won’t break your budget. As Izzy puts it:

“This way, you’re donating to the cause, and you’ll never be without something to wear on Wear It Purple Day.

“But, trust me, there’s nothing more impactful than the feeling you give young Rainbow people when you visibly display a form of respect, inclusion and empowerment. It’s highly possible that you could save a life.”

PS. Wear It Purple are always looking for new people to join the team. So, if you’re under 25 years young, are passionate about LGBTQI pride, diversity and inclusion, and swear on the bible that you aren’t a cake – get in touch at contact@wearitpurple.org

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