‘Wear Purple Day’ to honor anti-gay harassment victims

Cristen Friddell

Bullying – both in person and online – played a role in the recent suicides of at least six gay teens across the country.

This week, some WKU students are taking part in an online effort to honor them through a “Wear Purple Day” campaign on Facebook.

Louisville freshman Ty Gillenwaters said she thinks the Facebook event, “October 20th: Spirit Day – Wear Purple!” will help others see what effect their words and actions can have on other people.

“People cause other people lots of pain without realizing it,” she said. “It’s awful, but I think talking about it will help.”

Gillenwaters said she is wearing purple to support tomorrow’s event, hoping it will spark questions among her peers.

“People really need to know about this,” she said. “I think the vast majority of the population simply has no idea.”

Louisville graduate student Dustin Seabolt said he’ll also be wearing purple.

“I’m appalled at what these teens must bear every day,” he said. “It’s time for people to stand up and help these teens.”

The Facebook page lists the suicides of Tyler Clementi, 18, Ridgewood, N.J.; Seth Walsh, 13, Tehachapi, Calif.; Justin Aaberg, 15, Andover, Minn.; Raymond Chase, 19, Monticello, N. Y.; Asher Brown, 13, Houston, Texas; and Billy Lucas, 15, Greensburg, Ind.

The Associated Press reported that the suicides of Cody Barker, 17, of Shiocton, Wis., and Zach Harrington, 19, of Norman, Okla., are also linked to anti-gay harassment.

Tommy Johnson, minister for the Baptist Campus Ministry at WKU, said these cases of abuse stem from an emptiness, where young people choose to put others down in order to satisfy their own longing to be accepted.

“It reflects a societal need for understanding and love for all,” he said. “You can love and respect people without agreeing with their lifestyle.”

Johnson said the violent persecution in these cases was a misapplication of the teachings of Jesus. “Jesus taught us we must challenge. But to do so in a loving way.” he said.

Kat Michaels, president and co-founder of the Student Identity Outreach at WKU, said the organization has no plans for hosting events on Wednesday because it wants to focus on the message of the day.

“Students are wearing purple on campuses all over the country,” she said. “We didn’t want to overshadow that.”

But Michaels said the group was excited to participate.

“Everyone from the SIO is wearing purple,” she said. “I encourage others outside of SIO to do the same.”