Based on the social media buzz about wearing pink today, Hamilton is right on the front line of the battle against homophobic bullying.
Wear Pink Day – a day to fight back against homophobic bullying – falls on the final Wednesday of February every year. A few Nova Scotia teenagers inspired the campaign in 2007 in response to a student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school.
'When you whitewash bullying, you make it difficult to really deal with the root causes. Unless we are interrupting homophobia and transphobia in schools, we're not actually addressing that form of bullying.'—Jae Adams, The Well
Hamilton’s response to homophobic bullying has resulted in the creation of an LGBTQ positive space in every public high school in Hamilton, according to Dierdre Pike, senior social planner for the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton.
Pike said it is important to have an event like Wear Pink Day in order to specifically point to the root causes of bullying.
"I think this is another great example of what can happen when we’re intentional about naming the source behind the bullying," said Pike. "I’m more concerned when bullying gets identified as an issue without talking about homophobia or transphobia being what’s behind the bullying."
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is also working to prevent homophobic bullying by releasing a new smartphone app for bullied students. The app, called TipOff, is designed to help students anonymously report when they are bullied. The app is available now for iPhone and Android.
Dierdre Pike said the app is a great idea because it ensures anonymity for students who might not want people around them to know about their status.
"Many times, people are not out to the people around them," said Pike. "So in order to go and announce this to someone, that they’ve now been harassed because of it, is quite problematic."
Jae Adams, program coordinator for Hamilton’s LGBTQ community wellness centre (known more commonly as The Well), said he is concerned that generic anti-bullying campaigns may not address the underlying root causes of bullying.
"When you whitewash bullying, you make it difficult to really deal with the root causes," said Adams. "Unless we are interrupting homophobia and transphobia in schools, we're not actually addressing that form of bullying."
Wear Pink Day is not the only day for recognizing homophobic bullying. The International Day Against Homophobia takes place on May 17th and the Day of Pink, which is on April 10th, is an international day that also recognizes efforts against bullying and homophobia.