While the world has been shocked by the story of US student Tyler Clementi — who killed himself in September after fellow students posted a clip of him kissing another man on the internet — one Sydney schoolgirl is saying enough is enough.
Katherine, 17, who attends a school in Sydney’s 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 Southern Star Observer.
“It prompted me to think if this is happening in America, what’s happening in Australia?”
Clementi is now one of at least four reported teenagers to commit suicide in the US last month from bullying on account of their sexuality.
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 their heterosexual counterparts.
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 occurring 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 it’s these statistics that 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 in which people are encouraged to wear purple to commemorate the young gay and lesbian people who’ve taken their lives.
Rainbow Network Victoria project and Safe Schools Coalition coordinator and Roz Ward told SSO it’s vital the issue of GLBT self-harm and suicide rates continues to get attention when the headlines die down.
“If people read some of this data it’s shocking enough … there is the thing about a high-profile incident, but then that happens and the story goes away and people forget about it again.
“Part of it is [ensuring there’s] consistent work around challenging homophobia, it has to be more day-to-day, week-to-week.”
info: Follow the Wear It Purple campaign on Facebook and Twitter.