Why Wear It Purple? The Meaning for LGBTQIA+ Youth
By Danielle Pore Villafaña
Wear it Purple is an organization which ‘strives to foster supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environments for rainbow young people.’ Founded in 2010, the organisation was founded in response to the alarmingly high rates of suicide and discrimination LGBTQIA+ young people face. To this day, LGBTQIA+ experiences some of the worst rates of mental illness in Australia. Wear it Purple day is celebrated every last Friday of August to celebrate LGBTQIA+ young people but also to raise awareness and advocate for the challenges they continue to face. These challenges include higher rates of mental illness, suicide, bullying and lack of access to gender-affirming healthcare.
I distinctly remember my first Wear it Purple day in 2017. It was my first year at Fort Street High School having previously attended a conservative Catholic school. I had never heard of Wear it Purple day before but seeing the whole school dressed in purple to raise awareness and money for LGBTQIA+ young people filled me with so much joy. Our school’s ‘wall of love’ was filled with messages including “love is love,” “you are loved,” and “you are not alone.” I had never experienced such an innate sense of belonging in my life.
This year has been a turbulent time for everyone especially LGBTQIA+ young people who haven’t had access to affirming communities and support systems due to COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions. As a result, many LGBTQIA+ young people are struggling more than ever making this years’ Wear it Purple day more important than ever. I spoke to some LGBTQIA+ young people from Australia to discuss what Wear It Purple means to them.
For many Wear It Purple Day was a day where they could be proud to recognise and celebrate their identity. An anonymous young person said “This year will be the first Wear it Purple Day I’ve spent knowing I’m gay! Although I’m only out to some friends, it’s comforting to know that we have a day on which our LGBTQIA+ community can be recognised and celebrated.” Another said “Wear it purple day is a chance for not only LGBTIQA+ folks to celebrate their identities, but an opportunity to have allies, friends and families to join in the celebration. It's about feeling validated whoever you are, by people that support you.”
These remarks were echoed by Adrien, 14, from Melbourne who said, “Wear It Purple Day is a day I can feel safe and can have visible joy in who I am, also a day I can see who are homophobes.”
For others, Wear it Purple day was a day to remember activism, the progress the community has made, and to continue important conversations. Liv, 17, from Greater Western Sydney said Wear It Purple was about “Celebrating the freedom we have now and the progress that has been made, and the journey forward.” Imogen, 18, from Sydney explained “To me it's a way of celebrating who I am with friends and allies. It gives me an opportunity to have important conversations and for friends to learn and show their support.”
Everyone I interviewed said that Wear It Purple day was important to them because it made them feel like they belonged. This is so important to young people who exist in a community that continues to face discrimination across the world. Darcey, 16, from Parkes in regional NSW shared their story with Wear it Purple day highlighting how truly important dedicated days for celebrating for LGBTQIA+ young people are:
“I brought Wear it Purple to my school 2 years ago, it was my first taste of activism. My school is not a very LGBTI-friendly place, and at that time it was contributing to pretty severe mental illness, so looking around on the day knowing that I had made this happen was incredible. I’ve been running it ever since, and it kind of feels like my baby at this point!”
These are the stories of LGBTQIA+ young people from all across Australia about what Wear it Purple day means to them. Their voices and opinions all reflect ultimately the importance of what this day means, and how crucial it is in our communities, schools and personal lives to celebrate this day.
* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.