Pink Shirt Day 2013

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Pink Shirt Day

Hearing about this, the Grade 12 boys bought 50 pink shirts and emailed classmates to spread the word about plans to wear them to school. The next day, a group of students wore the pink tees, and many more showed up dressed in their own pink clothes. Thanks to these allies, the bullied student (who has never been identified), walked into a school where he knew he was supported.

It’s a great achievement that, years later, schools, clubs, youth organizations and celebrities promote this anti-bullying event worldwide. But the focus on bullying in general masks the original motive for the harassment: Homophobia = the fear or hatred of gay men, bisexual people and lesbians, and heterosexism = the belief that heterosexuality or being straight is better or more normal than same sex/same gender attraction, or than bisexuality. These are what motivated the threats against the boy in pink.

The bullies were enforcing the homophobic and heterosexist rules for how society expects boys and men to act and dress. These stereotypes fuel sexism, the belief that men or masculinity are superior to women or femininity, and cisgenderism, the belief that biological sex determines your social gender, and that anyone who’s gender expression and biological sex don’t “match up” (transgender people, feminine men, masculine women, and genderqueer persons) is confused, or wrong.

When we talk generally about “difference,” we hide the fact that bullies target specific people for harassment, exclusion and violence for identifiable reasons.  Bullies target socially vulnerable people for their race, their physical or intellectual dis-abilities and many other specific prejudices, based on what society considers not being normal, desirable or necessary. This intolerance can only be countered if we are clear about its motivation.

This Pink Shirt Day, let’s honour that Grade 9 student for expressing his freedom from gender and sexuality norms. Let’s fight homophobia, heterosexism and transphobia as we seek to support all vulnerable groups to be themselves.

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