This post is by Ben Shallenberger, HRC’s media production manager.
All over the nation today, people are wearing purple in remembrance of the young people who took their own lives as a result of anti-LGBT bullying. As I walked to work today, I wasn’t surprised that no one asked me why am I wearing purple. It’s not unusual for me to wear bright colors, and the shade of purple I have on isn’t out of the ordinary or distracting. There weren’t enough people on the street wearing purple to really call attention to it. But what was on my shirt is significant. I’m wearing a shirt with spray-paint graffiti-style cassette tapes on it. That’s because music was my anti-bully.
When I was in middle school and high school, I was never “out.” In fact, one of my biggest regrets was joining with the other students in making fun of the one guy who was brave enough to be out. I was scared that if I didn’t join them, they would realize that I was gay too, and I would become the victim of their harassment. I was however, teased because of my weight, my strong religious beliefs, my lack of desire to join a sports team, among other things. The one thing that always comforted me and got me through all of that was music. I constantly told myself “well that guy is the star quarterback, but can he sing like me?” or “That girl is really thin and everyone wants to be her, but can she write lyrics that move like I can”. Music literally saved my life. Every time I wanted to give up and just quit life, I remembered the gift I was given, and it gave me the strength to continue.
As I’ve grown older and comfortable as an out gay man, music has continued to comfort me. I encourage every person out there, young or old, who feels like they’re not accepted just the way they are, please find something that brings you comfort and joy. Whether you find it in religion, or in a book club, or in a restaurant that serves you good food, find something that will combat the bullies in your life. I wear purple to remind myself that I can be better than what they thought I was. Music is my anti-bully. What’s yours?