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Op-ed: Why I'm Wearing Purple Today

Op-ed: Why I'm Wearing Purple Today

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Today is GLAAD's Spirit Day. Join millions of others in wearing purple to support LGBT youth.

Last week I sat in awe as I watched from afar events unfolding in my home state of South Carolina. The U.S. Supreme Court had just announced that it would not hear any marriage equality cases this term, setting the stage for a wave of new states to be added to the list of those recognizing the freedom to marry for all people. There, in the probate judge's office, two women -- friends of mine, no less -- applied to receive a marriage license. Their application was accepted.

It was a day that was a long time coming for the first state to secede from the Union, and one that has often been among the slowest to accept change. And indeed, the fight there is certainly not over for loving and committed couples, but it's well on its way to a successful conclusion.

Despite the dramatic gains on marriage equality in South Carolina and elsewhere -- and in spite of so many other policy victories we have seen for LGBT Americans in recent years -- much of life remains unchanged today for kids growing up Bishopville, like I did three decades ago.

That LGBT young person is likely to be one of the eight out of 10 who reports being bullied at some point before he or she reaches adulthood.

But it doesn't have to be this way. That's why today, I am going purple for Spirit Day.

When you join me and "go purple" for Spirit Day, you can do more than make a wardrobe choice or turn your Facebook and Twitter profiles purple. You become a much-needed voice of support for underserved youth. This support for LGBT youth empowers them to dream of a fairer and more equal world, a world I could not have imagined growing up in a small, rural Southern town.

The news media has reminded us all too often recently of the plight of America's marginalized youth. Teens who are LGBT come up against high rates of homelessness, bullying, social isolation and rejection, academic troubles, and health disparities. And it doesn't stop when they get older, as they are confronted with a society that too often denies them access to health care, employment protections, parental recognition, marriage equality, or even basic safety and respect.

Spirit Day is itself proof of what develops when teens have the support they need. In 2010, 15-year-old Brittany McMillan decided to take a stand against bullying youth and laid the groundwork for this international day of solidarity. Now GLAAD continues to collaborate with Brittany -- now in college -- to keep Spirit Day growing and its impact multiplying.

Since Spirit Day began four years ago, schools and celebrities, the White House and Oprah, every major American sports league, faith-based organizations, leading corporations, national media outlets, landmarks, and everyone in between have "gone purple" on Spirit Day. As a result, their public displays of support for well-being, safety, and equality of LGBT youth have reached millions. When, all over Times Square, sky-high billboards urge crowds to support LGBT youth, people notice -- including that kid in South Carolina who needs to hear that he or she is loved, valued, and supported.

Join me in turning your social media channels purple today and show your support for America's LGBT youth.

ZEKE STOKES is the vice president of programs at GLAAD. Follow him on Twitter @zekestokes. To learn more about #SpiritDay, or to download the GLAAD Spirit Day App, visit GLAAD.org/spiritday.

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Zeke Stokes