This Wednesday April 12th is Day of Pink – the international day against bullying, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and transmysogyny.
An act of support
It didn’t start out meaning to be a day recognized around the world; it started as an act meant to support one person. Jadrien Cota – a high school student in Berwick Nova Scotia – was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. The reason: homophobia. (By the way, you don’t have to be LGBTQ to be a victim of homophobia or transphobia). Two fellow students (David Shepherd and Travis Price) decided to buy and distribute 50 pink shirts the next day, for students to wear to support Jadrien. That act of allyship has become the Day of Pink – a day when people show support for those they know, and for people they will never meet.
What it means to be an ally
This is what it means to be an ally.
To stand up for, speak up for and be a support for people who cannot always do this for themselves.
Allies can wear the pink shirts that get the people they stand up for beaten up, harassed, sometimes killed. Allies can say the words that those who are harassed cannot say, without being are accused of being too sensitive or not being able to take a joke. Allies are heard because it’s “not personal”.
Allies push back, point out, and most of all show solidarity for people who need to spend that same energy getting through the day, surviving in a world that sees them as less than.
What Day of Pink means
Day of Pink celebrates being LGBTQ with a symbol that was originally the focus of ridicule, used to belittle and shame. It’s another example of reclaiming something negative, and making it positive by re-association. It’s a day that allows LGBTQ people to be seen and heard differently, because of the support of allies.
It’s a day when allies are more visible, because of the shirts they wear. Often allyship is invisible unless there is a problem, but on April 12, people who identify as LGBTQ get to see the people who are in our corner, if they choose to wear pink.
That may mean nothing to you if you’re straight or cisgender, but imagine what a sea of pink will do for the kid at school who is queer or questioning and who feels like they are alone, don’t know who to talk to, or not sure where it’s safe to say the words “I’m gay”.
Imagine what a sea of pink means for the new employee, unsure if they can come out and be all of who they are at work.
Imagine what a sea of pink on the public transit means for an LGBTQ newcomer to Canada who is a refugee from a country where being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans could mean death.
Imagine if we signaled this level of support every day, in ways that left no doubt about where it was safe, who one could turn to or count on, who might be a refuge.
Imagine what support like this on a regular basis might do for youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- For the 1 in 5 LGBTQ youth who report being physically or verbally assaulted.
- For those LGBTQ youth who attempt suicide at a rate 4 times that of their peers.
- For the LGBTQ youth who are asked to leave their homes or who leave out of fear or because of violence due to their sexual orientation or gender identity – and who make up 20% homeless youth in Canada (and 21% of the homeless population in Toronto, compared to their 2-4% of the general population). (for more statistics and information please visit www.egale.ca)
Imagine what support like this on a regular basis might do to make the world a safer place to love who you love, dress the way that makes you feel good, and live as the gender you innately feel you are.
What you can do
And then pick out your pink shirt for Day of Pink this Wednesday (or get one if you don’t have one).
But also consider how you will continue to make your support visible once the shirt goes in the wash on Wednesday night. Because people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two Spirit, queer and questioning need allies 365 days of the year. And in some places (close to home and far away) our lives depend on it.