Last Friday, August 28th, all across Australia, students and adults celebrated #WearItPurple Day. As suggested by the hashtag, people are encouraged to wear purple in support of LGBT youth and in opposition to the bullying and harassment that they often face. Australians of all ages posted photos of themselves wearing purple on Friday on various social media sites, from Facebook to Twitter and beyond.
The event, now in its fifth year, was supported not only by students, but also by a number of professional organizations, including the New South Wales Police Force and the Queensland Ambulance Service. Wear It Purple is unique because it is a student-led nonprofit; their platform stresses the importance of youth speaking out for and supporting their peers.
Many schools across the country planned to show the documentary Gayby Baby on Friday in support of Wear It Purple. The film follows four children of same-gender couples through their development. According to the director, Maya Newell, the focus of the film is much more on the children and the “trials and tribulations of growing up” than on the parents.
Nevertheless, last week, New South Wales Education Minister Adrian Piccoli banned screenings of the film in public schools during school hours. In response to criticism, Piccoli defended his decision, saying that a screening of the film would take away from valuable classroom time in math and English. Many schools, including Burwood Girls High School in Sydney, were frustrated with the ban. Maya Newell herself spoke at Burwood, her alma mater, in response to Piccoli’s directive.
Although up to twenty schools country-wide still intended to show the film after school hours, the minister’s ban cannot be brushed aside. His claim that he banned Gayby Baby because of the loss of class time is weak; the decision came after days of controversy, especially among the conservative media. While I am not intimately familiar with the Australian educational system, I doubt that no films unrelated to math or English are ever shown. I know that even in my own academically rigorous high school education, we were occasionally shown films that were only tangentially relevant to course content, if at all. To ban this particular film, especially on a day intended to fight homophobia and transphobia, speaks volumes.
Even as same-gender couples gain acceptance across cultures, many still hold the belief that such couples cannot be suitable parents. A film like this, which explicitly works against those stereotypes, is a powerful thing, especially in a school setting. The health of LGBT students can be deeply impacted by the acceptance of their peers, an attitude that is often bolstered by positive representation. To promote tolerance is to promote a happier, healthier, safer student body. Piccoli’s decision seems unequivocally wrong to me, but I applaud the schools which chose to screen Gayby Baby after hours and in particular the youth behind #WearItPurple.