Today, 28 August, is the 10th anniversary of Wear It Purple Day.
Wear It Purple started in 2010 as an initiative to show support to at-risk LGBTQIA youth. Ten years ago, Australia’s attitudes towards the LGBTQIA (or Queer) community were very different. Since then a number of laws have been changed that make Australian society safer for Queer people.
In 2017, Australians were invited to express their views on whether same sex couples should be able to marry via a postal vote. The Marriage Equality survey was a traumatising time for many Queer people in Australia. Their lives and rights were up for a very public and unseemly debate, as evidenced by a significant increase in the number of LGBTQIA people accessing mental health support during that time, particularly for services catering to younger people.
The outcome of the survey was largely positive, with 61.6% of returned votes supporting marriage equality. The Marriage Act (1961) was then changed to allow same sex couples to marry by a landslide vote in the Federal Parliament.
More recently, and locally, the ACT Legislative Assembly has passed a bill banning ‘gay conversion therapy, including heavy fines and possible prison sentences for performing conversion therapy on a child or person with impaired decision-making abilities.
These are important steps towards equality for LGBTQIA people. However, there is a long way to go.
While many Queer people live healthy, happy lives; according to the National LGBTI Health Alliance, “a disproportionate number experience poorer mental health outcomes and suicidal behaviours than their peers. These health outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTI”.
These issues are more prevalent for young LGBTQIA people (aged 16-27). And this is where initiatives like Wear It Purple come in.
Many young LGBTQIA people have experienced bullying, harassment, and sometimes abuse on the basis of their sexual and gender identities. They’re also exposed to regular messaging that who they are is shameful, or wrong. Sadly, this means the world often does not feel safe, welcoming, or a place in which they belong.
Wear It Purple, and similar initiatives, are all about visibility to those people. It’s all about a big, loud, signal to anyone struggling with their sexuality or gender identity saying “you are safe here, and you belong here”.
Wearing something purple, or including an Ally image in our email signatures may seem like small gestures, but they can make a huge difference to how LGBTQIA people feel in our community.
The 2017 Marriage Equality survey commenced about a week after my wife and I had our first child. It was really hard receiving the ballot, feeling that people all around Australia were casting a vote on the legitimacy of my new little family.
When my daughter was two months old - the survey was still running - I brought her in to meet my colleagues in CECS Student Services, and the office was plastered with ANU Ally posters. There were rainbows everywhere! I know they didn’t do this for me - they did it so all the students who visited the office knew that LGBTQIA people are safe, and will be supported at CECS.
I’m one of those LGBTQIA people who lives a very healthy, happy life. But it was incredibly important for me to see such a clear sign of support and belonging in my workplace. Now imagine how important that would be for a young LGBTQIA person who is questioning their sexuality or gender identity, who has faced homophobic discrimination or abuse from people close to them, or has absorbed broader messaging that who they are is not ok.
There are a lot of resources you can check out to build on your knowledge of LQBTQIA issues and develop as an Ally. You can:
- re-read Being LQBTQIA Friendly at CECS
- take the ANU Ally Training and join the ANU Ally Network
- complete the 2020 Wear It Purple Learning Challenge (as an individual or in your teams)
- check out the ‘Brush up on your knowledge’ section of Minus18, an advocacy group for young LGBTQIA people.
We are extremely privileged to be working in higher education, and playing a part in guiding young people in their educational and personal journeys.
Wear It Purple Day is just one opportunity for us to show everyone - not just LGBTQIA people - that CECS is a safe and welcoming community. It’s up to each of us to keep educating ourselves and ensure our actions, language and behaviour continue to uphold that message.