On Thursday, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) held its seventh annual Spirit Day, which encourages people around the country and around the world to wear purple and speak out against bullying in the LGBT community.
For Reggie Bullock of the Detroit Pistons, that message of acceptance has become something of a passion since the July 2014 murder of his transgender sister, Mia Henderson, who was stabbed to death in Bullock’s hometown of Baltimore.
“It means a lot to me,” the fourth-year forward Bullock said by phone from the Pistons’ practice facility when asked about the event’s significance. “Obviously I lost a sibling, and it’s important to stand up for my sister and know that bullying shouldn’t be allowed, shouldn’t be done to any person.
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“I feel like everyone is equal, and just because somebody is a different type of way or chooses a different route in life, they shouldn’t be bullied and shouldn’t be taken advantage of,” Bullock continued. “And I feel like this day is a great day to remember all the ones who are lost and to recognize those who are still here living.”
Spirit Day was started in 2010 by Canadian high school student Brittany McMillan, who sought to bring awareness to the growing trend of suicide among young LGBT people following the highly publicized death of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi. In the years since, the campaign has grown and has helped educate millions about GLAAD’s efforts to curb bullying in schools.
According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, 74.1 percent of LGBT students have been verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation, and 55.2 percent have been verbally harassed on account of their gender identity. In addition, more than half of the nearly 8,000 respondents reported hearing homophobic remarks from teachers or school staff and 61.6 percent said school staff did nothing to address their reports of bullying on campus.
After largely staying out of the spotlight in the immediate aftermath of his sister’s murder, Bullock opened up earlier this year about the death of the then-26-year-old, who was born Kevin Long. And on Thursday he spoke about his ongoing education with regard to the LGBT community.
“I started learning more about it within the last year — how to talk about it publicly, how to stand up for my sister’s rights,” Bullock said. “So I’ve been getting in touch with a lot of people that want to help me spread the word the right way and learn the right things to say. I’ve been getting a lot of support from the community, from my team, teammates, family members, and it’s still a process for me. But I feel like it’s a great opportunity to stand up for my sister and put bullying away.”
In addition, Bullock said he hopes to do more work in the future with families impacted by LGBT-related violence while making sure that his sister’s name lives on.
“That’s definitely something that I have in store,” Bullock said. “Right now I’m focused on getting ready for the early part of the season, but hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to hear more stories and learn more about it.
“I don’t want people to remember (Henderson) just as Reggie Bullock’s sister,” he added, “But as a name and what she represented and what she went through.”
You can follow Sam Gardner on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.