Once, when I was in seventh grade, a few guys came up behind me while I was putting my books in my locker. They called me names and asked why I even bothered to show up every day. "No one wants to go to school with a lesbian," they said. I tried to ignore them, afraid of what else they might say -- or worse, who else they might tell -- if I stood up to them. As I tried to leave, they pushed me against the wall. Suddenly, they slammed my locker shut on my hand and broke my finger. I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing. I didn't tell anyone, mostly because I didn't know who to talk to about being gay. I don't think I've ever felt so humiliated and alone.
Now, five years later, I look back at my seventh-grade self and wonder what could have been different. Perhaps I didn't know it then, but support was all around me. Why did I feel so isolated? I and kids just like me have spent years of our lives afraid to say anything about bullying because, in the past, there hasn't really been an effort to publicly show support for us. But looking back, it would have been so life-changing to see a public figure, a teacher or someone in my community show -- or, better, literally wear -- their support as a way saying that no one should be bullied or called names simply for being who they are.
That's why this Friday I'm joining millions of others who will be wearing purple for Spirit Day in a stand against bullying and to show our support for LGBT youth. But that's not all. I also started a Change.org petition asking President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney to wear purple on Oct. 19 for Spirit Day.
During tonight's debate, we'll hear both candidates' plans for how they plan to lead America to a better tomorrow. For young people like me and for families like mine, a better tomorrow is one where no one has to go to school afraid of being bullied because of who they are. Simply by wearing purple on Friday, President Obama and Governor Romney can take a bipartisan stand against bullying and show people like me that we're supported by our nation's leaders.
Last year on Spirit Day, I was so excited to see Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey wear purple on TV, see photos of Times Square lights in purple and feel supported by my friends on Facebook who changed their profile pictures to purple, and of course by the students at my school who wore purple in support. I want LGBT students across America, no matter where they are, to be able to look up and see someone who is showing us that they care about our lives. And who better to send that message than the two candidates trying to be the leader of our country?
I know what it's like to feel alone, and seeing two presidential candidates show that they care about our lives could make a huge difference. At a time when LGBT students are three to five times more likely to experience depression than their straight counterparts, President Obama and Governor Romney could take a big step toward ending that feeling of isolation.
Join me in asking the president and Governor Romney to wear purple on Friday for Spirit Day, and let's make sure bullying is voted down this November.