YEM Honors ‘Spirit Day’ by Highlighting LGBTQ+ Young Adult Characters

In honor of GLAAD’s annual “Spirit Day” on October 21st, YEM is highlighting five LGBTQ+ characters who’ve dealt with bullying of various types as part of their journey.

What is Spirit Day?

From GLAAD’s web site:

“LGBTQ youth disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Each year, millions go purple for Spirit Day to support LGBTQ youth in a united stand against bullying. Pledging to “go purple” on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — global and local brands and companies, world leaders, celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with youth and to take part in the largest, most visible LGBTQ anti-bullying campaign in the world.”

In an effort to highlight how common of an issue bullying is for millions of LGBTQ+ youth, and because of how important GLAAD’s cause is, here are five young adult characters who were affected by bullying, just because of who they are and how they identify:

Victor Salazar from “Love, Victor”

In Season 2’s LoveVictor episode, “There’s No Gay in Team,” Victor faces homophobic bullying from his basketball teammates. Once Victor comes out as gay at school, some of his teammates no longer want to get dressed in front of him. Most of Victor’s teammates don’t even want to pair up with him at basketball practice for passing drills anymore either. It gets to the point where the homophobia is too much for Victor and he decides to quits the team. As the series goes on, thankfully the players eventually become more accepting of Victor and he rejoins the basketball team. Watch “Love, Victor” on Hulu in the U.S. and Disney+ in the UK.

Cooper Clay from “One of Us is Lying”

Cooper is a star high school baseball player on the verge of receiving a college scholarship because of his exceptional play. However, Cooper’s got a secret – he’s gay. Cooper’s Dad thinks if he comes out, it will effect his future baseball career. Because of this, he bullies Cooper into staying quiet about his sexuality. You can watch how this plays out by streaming the show on the Peacock network.

Omar Shanaa from “Elite”

Omar’s father has very traditional religious beliefs and appears to have a particularly strained relationship with Omar, seeing him as a constant disappointment because of his low grades in school. Meanwhile, Omar’s sister received a college scholarship. As a result of not feeling accepted by his family, Omar conceals his homosexuality from his parents. As the series goes on however, Omar becomes more comfortable in expressing who he is despite his religious upbringing. Check out Elite on Netflix.

Mark Adams from “The (Un)Popular Vote”

This 2021 book follows Mark, a transgender teen, who after seeing acts of homophobia in his school, decides to run for student body president. Soon Mark’s confidence builds, engaging with voters and even starts a new romance. Trouble arises however, when an investigative journalist begins digging into Mark’s past, his father tries to silence him, and the bully frontrunner for student body president becomes an ever-present concern, especially if Mark wants to win the campaign. Mark has to decide what’s more important: worrying about how he’s perceived by his classmates or living in his truth. This debut by trans author Jasper Sanchez expertly portrays political drama, toxic masculinity, and activism all in a character who ultimately embraces his queer identity.

Kate Messner from “Everything Sucks”

Everything Sucks takes places in the 90s and follows the story of high school students in the audio visual (A/V) club and drama club.One of the main characters is Kate Messner, who at 15 is trying to come to terms with her sexual orientation. Kate has a more complicated journey than most however, because her Mom committed suicide when she was only five years old and her Dad is the principal of her high school. Rumors eventually begin to fly about Kate’s sexuality and someone writes a derogatory term for lesbian on Kate’s school locker. This high school drama details what it’s like to deal with bullying, young love, and discovering your identity. The only season made of Everything Sucks is currently available to enjoy on Netflix.

So how can you help be part of Spirit Day?

Go to GLAAD’s “Spirit Day” page:

1. Take the Pledge Against Bullying and also add your name to GLAAD’s mailing list.

2. Download Resources from GLAAD’s site (for students and for parents and educators) to learn more information. You can also download various graphics, virtual backgrounds, identity graphics, and Spirit Day stats about bullying to share on social media or use in online virtual meetings.

3. Spread the Word by using pre-written information (already written by GLAAD) to share on your social media accounts or by sending pre-written letters to your school, public officials, or to media outlets worldwide to raise awareness.

4. Go Purple by adding GLAAD’s purple Facebook & Twitter frame to your online profile picture, wear purple clothing on October 21st to show support, and encourage others to do the same.

5. Donate any amount you can on GLAAD’s web site. You can make a one-time donation or a regular monthly one to help LGBTQ people year-round. If you donate on #SpiritDay (October 21st) your donation will be matched by other generous people. For example, if you donate $100, then someone else has pledged to give $100 to “match” your amount, meaning your donation would be worth the equivalent of $200 and go twice as far.

GLAAD (formerly known as Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), was created in 1985. It’s devoted to countering discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and the countless affirmative ways in which people choose to self-identify.

“GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.”