Wear it Purple Day has a different look this year with LGBTQI+ students and supporters mainly at home, but the sentiment is not lessened by that, and our young rainbow people still feel the love.
From the police to the ambulance service, to big and small businesses, to schools and to new services across the country, including The Echo, thousands of people are wearing purple today to support LGBTQI+ youth
In 2021 the Wear It Purple crew are inviting ALL Australians to start the conversation about supporting the LGBTQI+ people in our community, but once it’s started, it’s important to keep it going.
The Echo started a conversation with two young people in the area who shared their experiences with us.
Though many LGBTQI+ people don’t like labels, they have generously identified themselves for the purpose of this story. Liam is a 17-year-old gay man and Bear* is 22-year-old trans man.
Liam is in high school
Liam is still at high school and is studying for his HSC. Liam says that his cohort and much of the school are aware of his homosexuality. ‘Over my time in high school I’ve managed to build up the confidence to be open in my identity with the majority of people I interact with within my school community. I first came out to someone other than close friends in year 9 and then slowly came out to more people as I became more comfortable in my identity.’
Liam says he feels fortunate to have not been the subject of bullying. ‘I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by many supportive people as well as a relatively accepting school community, however, homophobic comments and behaviour is still a fairly common occurrence.
‘I have met many people that have been subjected to homophobia in their school community and it has had a lasting impact on them.
‘I acknowledge my privilege in relation to the support surrounding me.’
Liam says he feels Wear It Purple Day is a great thing that can help LGBTQIA+ people feel safer in their school and the wider community. ‘It also provides a platform for many people that may not have much access to information about our community as well as people who are questioning or closeted to be more comfortable in their identity.
‘Representation and conversation are always a good thing.’
Closest friends were really accepting
Bear* is a 22-year-old university student who says he didn’t realise he was trans until after school. ‘I was in TAFE at the time. My closest friends at TAFE were really accepting, and the people in my classes were fine with it too. Everyone took to my name pretty quickly, they even used my temporary name until I found my new one, as I was uncomfortable using my given name.
‘When I was in high school I had loads of friends within the LGBT circle. I think some of them were probably avoided by others or possibly bullied.
Bear believes Wear It Purple Day is a positive thing for young people in need of support whether they’re questioning or struggling with discrimination due to their sexuality or gender identity etc…
Still some people holding us back
‘Even though we live in a world where acceptance is becoming more and more available to people of all different walks of life, there are still some things and some people holding us back. If we can have organisations that both help those people that are discriminated, and kindly educate and those that disagree with a diversity of sexualities and gender identities, then how could it ever be a waste to try and help people.’
Bear says he feels Wear It Purple Day helps young people in particular. ‘Anyone of any age can experience bullying due to sexuality and gender identity, which is a terrible thing that exists, unfortunately. Teenagers growing up are in the moment of trying to figure out who they are and experience emotions almost all the time. It’s easy for a teenager, not just within the LGBT circle mind, to hit rock bottom due to incessant bullying.
‘If I were trans and in high school, I think I probably would have felt some connection towards an event like Wear It Purple Day, but I’d feel too helpless to ask for some support. But I reckon I’d still wear something purple.’
Wearing it purple in lockdown
Both Bear and Liam say that even in lockdown, they plan to find something purple to wear today. ‘I don’t believe I own anything purple right now anyways,’ says Bear. ‘I’ll see what I can find.’
Liam and Bear both agree that there is more needed to help our rainbow youth. ‘There are many other things that could be done to help support LGBTQIA+ youth such as services specifically for queer young people including peer support in regional areas,’ says Liam. ‘Better and easier access to mental health services, better awareness and education of LGBTQIA+ culture in the school system and wider community, and more opportunity for young queer people to build community in regional areas.’
Bear says he has hope for the future. ‘It’s really wishful thinking, but I wish we could talk to the kind of people that oppose anything and everything LGBT and have a constructive discussion or friendly debate over our issues. I don’t like that most of the world is split into pro LGBT and anti LGBT.
’It’d be nice if we could reach an understanding. Of course, this is way easier said than done.’
Wear It Purple – Start the conversation and keep it going…
Bear* is a name chosen for this story to provide anonymity.