Did you see young people wearing purple today? Maybe a wristband, or a bandana, or whatever item separates the cool from the not. That’s because today is Wear It Purple day, to raise money and awareness for LGBT teens.

America is holding its wear purple day next week, called Spirit Day, with almost a million ‘attending’ on its Facebook page.

The movement began with gay youth suicides, and continues to grow with court appearances this week by 10 New York men charged with the beating and torture of two 17-year-olds and a 30-year-old, apparently for being gay.

It’s one of those messy net-née-grass root kind of movements that make YouTube clips, wear purple, and ask their political leaders to tackle the issue. The problem is, according to American pollsters, young people have given up on politics like they’ve given up on Barack Obama.

Apathetic young voters — make that non-voters — will cost the Democrats this election, according to the Washington beltway snark that passes for wisdom in these parts. They don’t have jobs and can’t afford any more student loans, so why aren’t they using that free time campaigning for Democrats?

Earlier today President Obama reached out to the ‘yoof’ with a forum on MTV with his usual cool, calm, collectible action figure confidence. Rather than the ‘light’ questions MTV had allegedly casted for, the increasingly unpopular president was instead blasted in surround sound.

After swatting away questions of bipartisanship and jobs with 2008-era talking points, the discussion kept returning to social inequalities for LGBTs, the poor, and young undocumented migrants brought to America as toddlers — topics his administration had made grand promises on but little headway in a stalled DC.

For much of the hour-long conversation, #AskLGBT was the top twitter hashtag behind demand for more post-graduation jobs. Over and over the president was asked why hadn’t he just ended the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell gay ban with an executive order, why was his Justice Department appealing against court decisions overturning the military’s gay ban and the federal ban on same-sex marriage, laws he officially opposes.

The Twitter stream participants saw a clear link between federal laws against gay people and anti-gay bullying suffered by teens, but the president stayed neutral: “Obviously, our heart breaks when we read about [the suicide that] happened at Rutgers, when we read about some of these other people who are doing nothing to deserve the kind of harassment and bullying — just completely gets out of hand.”

“[But] the law is a powerful thing, but the law doesn’t always change what’s in people’s hearts. So all of us have an obligation to think about how we’re treating other people. What we may think is funny or cute may end up being powerfully hurtful.”

If all that sounds too much like motherhood statements, then consider that a publication no less esteemed than the Washington Post saw fit to publish an opposing point of view … for balance. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins wrote an editorial for the paper on National Coming Out Day earlier this week:

“Some homosexuals may recognise intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal — yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are ‘born gay’ and can never change. This — and not society’s disapproval — may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.”

The paper’s website and ombudsman were flooded with complaints that it was giving a voice to a hate group on a day celebrated for those victimised by that hate. The paper replied on Twitter: “Hi @glaad, we’re working to cover both sides. Earlier, we hosted Dan Savage of It Gets Better in a live chat. http://wapo.st/aA8SXX

Savage, a sex-advice columnist who began a YouTube campaign to tell LGBT youth that life does get better as they get older, saw it differently:

“Dear Washington Post … if you had told me that my doing a live chat with your readers about the It Gets Better Project was going to be used as an excuse to publish the hateful, bigoted lies of Tony Perkins, I wouldn’t have done your fucking live chat.”

But if nothing else, celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton told Ellen DeGeneres the debate has inspired him to end his “bullying and outing”. Well that’s something.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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