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Spirit Day Began With One High School Student's Tumblr Post

Spirit Day Began With One High School Student's Tumblr Post

Spirit Day Began With One High School Student's Tumblr Post

Who knew a simple blog post could spark a movement?


Like many high school teenagers, Brittany McMillan spent her afternoons on Tumblr. But one week in October her Tumblr feed was especially dark, with several articles about LGBTQ+ kids committing suicide as a result of homophobic bullying. 

"For about ten days straight there was one article I read every day, and for the most part it was because they were part of the [LGBT] spectrum or perceived to be on the spectrum and were bullied at school or home because of it," she tells PRIDE. "I realized I hadn’t been hearing anything about it from the news or on TV, so I wanted to spread awareness.”

She posted this photo on her Tumblr blog, which she estimates had 70 followers at the time:

Brittany McMillan's first Spirit Day post.

She wrote an accompanying paragraph that read:

It’s been decided. On October 20th, we will wear purple in memory of the recent gay suicides. Many of them suffered from homophobic abuse in their schools or in their homes. We want to take a stand to say that we will not tolerate this. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th to remember all the lives of LGBTQ youth that have been lost due to homophobia. Tell your friends, co-workers, neighbors and schools.


It was the Tumblr post that sparked a movement. As of this writing, the original post has 28,500+ notes.

McMillan and her friends at her North Surrey Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia, wore purple for the first Spirit Day.

McMillan says that she was bullied at school too. “I had also dealt with depression and anxiety and I knew what it’s like. I’ve definitely had suicide attempts so I know how poorly you have to feel to think that’s the only way out.”

Then GLAAD got involved. 

McMillan estimates that it was about a month later that she was contacted by GLAAD, a non-profit that advocates for positive representation of LGBTQ in media. “I think at the time they must have sent me a message on Tumblr first, and then we emailed,” McMillan says.

GLAAD started promoting Spirit Day across its social media.

GLAAD encouraged everyone — celebrities, activists, organizations, and anyone who supports LGBTQ+ youth — to do the same. Years later, the social campaign for #SpiritDay is nationwide.

Today, millions of people wear purple in a stand against LGBTQ+ bullying. Schools, organizations, and college gay-straight alliances across the nation will go purple.

Proving that you're never too young to make a difference, McMillan says she hopes to see Spirit Day expand globally. “I have no idea where it’s going to go from here,” she said. “I hope it expands to other countries that really need it.” 

One Tumblr post make the world a better place. What are your plans for Spirit Day?

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Alexander Cheves