In 2010 American teenager Tyler Clementi took his own life after being subject to harassment and bullying for being gay. Tragically, the narrative wasn’t new, but it struck a chord.
Reports of other teenagers in similar predicaments spread like wildfire and high-profile advocates weighed in on the despair, with Ellen DeGeneres commenting: “this needs to be a wake-up call to everyone – teenage bullying and teasing is an epidemic.”
Since its inception the day has grown into an international movement that sees safety and support for young queer people championed during the annual campaign, and countless advocates and allies donning purple attire to promote acceptance and inclusivity.
Board member in the Australian arm of the campaign, Brock Galway, says that for himself, the day is filled with empowerment.
“I remember around the time of me coming out as gay, I was so worried,” he says.
“I was conscious of what others would think, how they would react, and what life would be like once I was open to everyone.
“Having something as powerful as Wear It Purple back then would have played a key part in me being able to feel proud and to know there was support out there.”
Galways adds that it’s important to have a day that targets queer youth in particular.
“It’s simple – no-one should feel isolated or feel like they can’t be proud of who they are,” he says.
“A strong show of support for all rainbow youth helps to give them hope, support, empowerment, and most importantly a reason to feel proud of who they are.”
Young members of the LGBTI community face far higher rates of mental health issues than their cisgender and heterosexual peers, with queer people aged 16 – 27 five times more likely to attempt suicide.
Operations Officer at Wear It Purple, Naomi Graham, says the research shows that a lack of social change and support contribute to mental health issues among LGBTI young people.
“Reports have found that support from organisations such as Twenty10 are key to wellbeing, as is the support of family members and support generally when they disclose difficulties or questions they may be grappling with,” she says.
“The implication of this is that every individual has the potential to influence.
“We all may support a young person who comes out to us, or may do so in the future, by embracing celebrations of diversity such as Wear It Purple day.”
The theme for this year’s Wear It Purple day in Australia is “celebrate”, a theme that urges LGBTI people and their allies around the country to celebrate the diversity that surrounds them.
The day will see two official community events being held – one in Hyde Park, Sydney, and the second in Queens Park, Brisbane, marking the first time the campaign will be having an official presence in Brisbane.
In Sydney, the event will take place with the support of the NSW Police Force and the City of Sydney, in addition to various other community organisations.
Galway says the work undertaken by Wear It Purple extends far beyond the annual day.
“We share the excitement by inviting young people to join us and be part of our Youth Action Council (YAC),” he says.
“This gives people the option to get involved in the planning around Wear It Purple day events, and important discussions around celebrating the right to be proud.
“We also invite the public to get involved and be a part of initiatives like the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.”
If you would like to show your support on August 25 for young queer people, head over to wearitpurple.org/register-your-event to get access to free resources.