I first heard about Spirit Day in 2010, its first observed year. A high school student named Brittany McMillan started Spirit Day in response to young members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT*) community who had taken their own lives. Around October 20, a date close to the deaths of five high-profile boys in October 2010, millions of people around the country celebrate Spirit Day each year. Participants wear purple, the color symbolizing spirit on the rainbow gay pride flag, to show support for the LGBT* community.
After I knew I was coming to Chewonki and rose to a leadership position within Spectrum (my sending school’s gay-straight alliance), I knew I wanted to bring Spirit Day to Wiscasset. I saw the big semester calendar on the first day and thought about October 17th,, 2013. I thought about how to announce it, how soon to announce it, and how much support people would give. I wondered about sending schools’ LGBT* activism and how active that activism was.
In a Chewonki sort of way, something unexpected happened as Spirit Day got closer and closer. On October 17th, every student in the semester would be up at the girls’ camp in the Debsconeag wilderness. I decided that moving the Chewonki celebration four days after the national celebration would make more sense. A week before October 21st, I got general information about Spirit Day from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation website, announced it at morning meeting, and asked for a show of hands from participants. To my surprise and excitement, almost everyone raised their hand!
On the morning of Monday October 21st, still getting back into the schedule after Debsconeag, I went to morning gather and a sea of purple greeted me. I was glowing from seeing so much spirit and support. Even a few people who didn’t have purple to wear expressed their support! It was a real display of that incredible Chewonki enthusiasm and community support.
Some people have thought, “What’s so special about wearing purple? Seeing people wear a particular color for one day won’t stop bullying.” It’s true- I originally thought the same thing. While purple is a great color, it lacks magical bully-stopping qualities. But purple, like the rainbow flag, is a symbol, not the thing itself. That sea of purple on Monday was a symbol for further support and conversation about current LGBT* issues. I hope to talk about how we as a semester can be supportive to LGBT* students, discuss what could be the social movement of our times, and support larger gay rights movements beyond Spirit Day. I believe strongly in the Chewonki spirit and can’t wait for our next step after Spirit Day.
Source for Spirit Day background- The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)https://www.glaad.org/spiritday
-Izzy Ryde, Miss Porter’s School