Pink Shirt Day is on February 28th.
Pink Shirt Day is all about raising awareness and funds to put an end to bullying. Why is Pink Shirt Day so important? On The Pink Shirt Day website it states:
Bullying is a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and online.
– Pink Shirt Day website
A big message that Pink Shirt Day sends is that EVERYBODY has the right to be true to themselves.
Pink Shirt Day captures how far we’ve come
It’s reassuring to witness how much schools have improved. A safe, accepting and inclusive environment is part of The Ontario Ministry of Education’s mandate. Even better? We see these policies in action. At the school and student level there are clubs to create awareness around LGBT youth and many events to celebrate diversity. At the teacher and board levels there are conferences to troubleshoot and share best practices.
When I was in school none of these support systems existed and there was no internet to help you connect. Can you imagine how isolating that would be?
Pink Shirt Day aims to prevent prejudice
When I realized there wasn’t a tooth fairy I immediately arrived at the conclusion (spoiler alert) there isn’t a Santa Claus either. And it made sense to apply this line of reasoning to other truths.
My first experience with people I respected sharing their narrow views around sexuality shocked me. I thought: “What about Rosa Parks? Haven’t we learned anything? How can we have prejudice against another human?”
George Clooney lives Pink Shirt Day
George Clooney is an activist. He stands up for a variety of issues. What’s the common thread? Human rights. He summed up my tooth fairy analogy much more eloquently than I have, when The Advocate Magazine asked him: When did you decide to get involved in the fight for marriage equality?
It’s always been this albatross that stood out to me as the final leg of the civil rights movement. It really came to a head during the 2004 elections, when it was used as a wedge issue, and it was a very effective tool to keep the Republicans in office and to avoid talking about other issues. Well before Prop. 8, I’ve made the point that every time we’ve stood against equality, we’ve been on the wrong side of history. It’s the same kind of argument they made when they didn’t want blacks to serve in the military, or when they didn’t want blacks to marry whites. One day the marriage equality fight will look as archaic as George Wallace standing on the University of Alabama steps keeping James Hood from attending college because he was black. People will be embarrassed to have been on the wrong side. So it’s encouraging to know that this too will seem like such a silly argument to our next generation. There are even a lot of young conservatives today for whom marriage equality isn’t an issue. It always takes government an extra generation to catch up to the people.
– George Clooney, actor
Statistics capture bullying at the most basic level
The hard facts indicate high levels of bullying going on in family homes. As Cyndi Lauper stated in the Huffington Post:
Twenty to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Shock was the first thing I felt when I heard this statistic, and then sadness that there are so many young people who are either thrown out of their homes or run away out of fear and despair because they are gay or transgender.
Homelessness is just the start of the struggle
What’s worse, when young people are rejected by their families and end up on the streets, so many spin-off struggles ensue, from drug abuse to prostitution. Best captured in this quote I found on the Toronto District School Board website:
The crucial development stage leading up to the teen years can be riddled with pressures, stresses, and challenges. Issues like drugs, bullying, and stereotypes can become overwhelming for adolescents. Without proper guidance and support kids can make poor life choices that can affect their families, communities, and futures.
How did Pink Shirt Day begin?
Sadly, fear of the unknown leads to bullying. When something unfamiliar some people are interested and open to learn more. Others feel threatened. And that’s why bullying is a reflection of ourselves. Anything someone says about another person really gives you an eye into how they think. What they focus on or fear. Which brings us back to the boy who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of high school.
Charles Mcneil got up that morning and headed off to a new school. Then two boys bullied him for his choice in clothing.
David Shepherd and Travis Price are heroes. They chose not to be bystanders. Together they purchased and distributed 50 pink shirts to their fellow students. What a peaceful way to stand up against bullying. The pink shirts tangibly united their school.
The pink shirts were invisible jackets that blocked the insecurities of others (to draw on a message from one of my favourite movies: Shawshank Redemption).
David and Travis started Pink Shirt Day in 2007. Since then many countries around the world have embraced the concept. In 2012 the United Nations declared an official Anti-bullying Day. It is May 4th.
Change starts with kids.
Are you participating in Pink Shirt Day?
Check out the Pink Shirt Day website to learn more.
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