On Thursday about 60 people, most of them high school students, rallied for Spirit Day at Bicentennial Mall in Nashville. The annual GLAAD event urges people to go purple for the day and stand against bullying and stand up for LGBT youth. Tennessee Equality Project was honored to partner with GLSEN Middle TN to put the event together and we are grateful for generous funding for our recent youth events from the Nashville Predators Foundation.
How might the event have made an impact?
1. I hope the youth who attended felt supported. We know that bullying is a huge problem throughout the state and we also know that family acceptance for LGBT youth is a challenge. Some students attended with their parents and that was gratifying. Surrounded by friends, family, and allies, they got a chance to be themselves.
2. It provided a counter-balance to the negativity they hear in state government. Our Legislature unfortunately offers few affirming messages for LGBT youth. But Metro Nashville Council Member Nancy VanReece, who is the first out lesbian to be elected to a legislative body in the state, and an FBI agent spoke to the group about their support.
3. Coincidences in the media. Three networks covered the event. Fox17's coverage followed a story about a congregation severing its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America over new pro-gay policies. WSMV's rally story followed a piece about a teen who had been bullied and sexually exploited. Here is a link to Channel 5's coverage. Had there been no Spirit Day coverage, the picture for youth in our area would have been pretty bleak.
4. Working together. LGBT organizations in Tennessee work together all the time. But the community may not see it often enough. I think they got to see a strong partnership tonight and will continue to generate solutions for safer schools.
5. Adults seeing the need? I put a question mark on that one because I just don't know. The media thankfully included the bullying statistics for the state in their stories. I hope adults in power to change policy noticed. I know we'll have to keep making our case.