While the world has been shocked by the story of US student Tyler Clementi — who killed himself after fellow students posted a clip of him kissing another man on the internet — one Sydney schoolgirl says enough is enough.
Katherine, 17, who attends a school in the inner west, is holding a Wear It Purple armband day on Friday, October 15 so Australians can show support for gay teenagers at risk of self-harm.
“I saw the recent spate of suicides in America and there were four last week, and my friend sent me a link to an Ellen DeGeneres video about it and I confess I cried across my keyboard, I was so shocked,” she told Sydney Star Observer.
“It prompted me to think if this is happening in America, what’s happening in Australia?”
Clementi is one of at least four reported teenagers to commit suicide in the US last month as a result of sexuality bullying.
The picture for Australian teens is no less bleak, with studies showing young GLBT people up to six times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals.
Further research also shows around 80 percent of GLBT Australians have experienced public insult, 70 percent verbal abuse, 20 percent explicit threats and 13 percent physical assault.
A 2005 nationwide study of same-sex attracted (SSA) youth found that nearly 38 percent of SSA young people had experienced discrimination, with almost 50 percent reporting verbal abuse because of their sexuality, 74 percent of that abuse at school.
Self-harm rates are higher for GLBT young people, particularly young females, and GLBT Indigenous Australians and those living in remote areas face increased pressures.
Katherine said these statistics have prompted her to call on Australians to wear a purple armband on October 15.
“That’s what we’re really trying to show these kids, that they are loved and they are accepted and they’re not alone,” she said.
“While this is in people’s minds and while people are angry, we’ve got to do something about it.”
The Wear It Purple campaign in Australia is set to mirror action to be taken in the US on October 20.
Twenty10 managing director Rebecca Reynolds said the youth organisation was behind the day as a positive way to address GLBT suicide and depression.
“I had a young person question why the [US] story had become such a big issue over there and it wasn’t the same over here,” Reynolds said.
“We’re really happy to support this event because it’s about getting the discussion going.”
Reynolds said young people involved with Twenty10 will make their own armbands for the day.
“There’s been a very enthusiastic and lively response,” she said.
“I think they feel that someone closely connected is doing something about it, and it feels like they can.”
info: Follow the Wear It Purple campaign on Facebook and Twitter.