SAN DIEGO -- If you left home without wearing something purple today, you might want to turn around and change.
Today is "Spirit Day" and millions of people around the globe are expected to don purple apparel as a sign of support for LGBT youth and to speak out against bullying.
The gesture, which was originally organized and promoted last year through social media, has taken off on sites like Facebook and Twitter with thousands of people "colorizing" their profile pictures with purple and posting messages of support for the day.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan started the campaign in 2010 in response to the rash of high profile gay youth suicides that were being reported by media.
McMillan selected Oct. 20 as the date and posted the idea as an event on Facebook and thousands of people took hold of the idea.
Now in its second year, Spirit Day has become a phenomenon with major community organizations, media, and stars supporting the day. Organizations like GLAAD have been promoting this year's effort over the last couple of weeks through e-mail blasts, blog posts and through social media to remind people to wear purple on Oct. 20.
Gilbert Baker, who created the first rainbow flag in 1978, gave descriptions of each of the colors of the flag, said the Direct Action Network in an e-mail blast about Spirit Day. The flag quickly became internationally recognized as a symbol of the LGBT community, and organizers of Spirit Day wanted to use a color from the flag to represent this day.
Baker defined the purple color as symbolic of "spirit" so in support of LGBT victims of bullying, Spirit Day was born.
Hollywood and media join in
While the first annual observance of Spirit Day in 2010 gained the support of thousands of people around the globe, with the support of national organizations like GLAAD, dozens of celebrities have joined in this year.
According to GLAAD, well known figures such as Ricky Martin, Julianne Moore, Chaz Bono, and the casts of Jersey Shore, WWE, and Degrassi will join a large list of celebrities in speaking out against anti-LGBT bullying today by wearing purple.
Networks like MTV, LOGO, and the Sundance Channel will colorize their logos for the day, and a large list of other media partners, including Here Media, Gay.com, the Bilerco Project, the Washington Blade, and San Diego Gay & Lesbian News will participate in some way.
SDGLN has changed the skin of its website to include a background featuring GLAAD's Spirit Day logos for the day.
GLAAD also reports that the iconic "LAX Gateway Lights" at Los Angeles International Airport will be lit purple.
Hundreds of San Diegans have joined in the internnational campaign and have pledged their support by colorizing their profile pictures and posting messages of support to social media.
Vincent Pompei, who chairs the SDSU Center for Excellence in School Counseling & Leadership's annual educator conference, changed his Facebook profile picture to an icon that reads "I support #SpiritDay 10/20/11". Tuesday evening, He posted a status update that read "Will you wear purple tomorrow? I hope so!"
Local community activist and entertainer Alana O'Day changed her Facebook profile picture to an image of a purple rose and posted "I support Spirit Day. STOP THE BULLYING, STOP THE H8!!! Go purple today in honor of Spirit Day."
Other community members such as Michael Calles, Fernando Lopez, Ebony Aldridge, Tony Sclafani, Doug Case, Ken Pierce, Allen Martin, and many others posted messages of support and changed their profile pictures to some sort of purple image.
The San Diego State University Pride@State e-mail list encouraged campus community members to wear purple today, and reports from the campus say that dozens of people there this morning were already seen expressing their support either through clothing or by wearing a purple ribbon.
Pre-school teacher and community activist Courtney Ware said that she will be supporting Spirit Day by wearing purple for the second time this year.
"I care about LGBT youth and I want to let them know that there are so many of us out there who want to help and support them. They are not alone," said Ware.
Activist Gloria Cruz Isso agreed, saying that it is so important that we all continue to stand up against bullying and hatred.
"Once we become adults, many of us put away memories of being bullied or scolded for being different - we think that we have overcome it and move on with our lifes," said Cruz-Isso. "But if we don't become active in some way these type of acts will continue to happen and some youth wont have the same luck you have. That is why is important for me and for others to participate in spirit, to become active in some form and stand up against those who bully and spread hate towards our LGBT youth."
Cruz-Isso also said that as an immigrant rights activist, she tries to make sure that issues immigrants face are brought to the table.
"The rate of LGBT immigrant youth suicide is on the rise and is another reason why i try to stay active and bring light to such an important issue."
GLAAD has provided a number of online resources for people who wish to express their support.
Four easy to use social media applications will assist participants in colorizing their photos on Facebook, Twitter, Google, and mobile phones:
To "purple" your Facebook photo, click HERE.
To "purple" your Twitter profile, click HERE.
To "purple" your pics via iPhone, click HERE.
Using an Android, Blackberry, or iPhone, "purple" your pics using Mobli by clicking HERE.
"Purple" your Google and Tumblr pics HERE.
For more information about Spirit Day, click HERE.