Purple Friday, an ode to gender and sexual diversity

Every year on the second Friday of December, pupils and students throughout the Netherlands show their solidarity for gender and sexual diversity. They do this, inspired by the American Spirit Day, by going to school in purple clothing. In addition, there are numerous fun activities in which the color purple always plays a central role. This is how the name Purple Friday came into being. On this national day, participants want to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) or other types of gender and sexual diversity. Moreover, Purple Friday is a day on which diversity is portrayed in a positive way. It is a day when diversity is celebrated and gets a positive energy boost. After the start of Purple Friday in 2010, the number of participating schools has grown considerably. In 2019, more than a thousand schools participated.

Origin of Purple Friday

Purple Friday was first organized in 2010 at the initiative of Nazmul Rahman-Zaman at his own school in Friesland. That same year, Spirit Day was organized for the first time in America. Spirit Day emerged in response to bullying and the relatively high suicide rate among LGBT youth. Spirit Day takes place on the third Thursday in October, Purple Friday on the second Friday in December.

The purpose of Purple Friday

Like Spirit Day, Purple Friday also aims to make schools a safe place for all students. Safe schools where everyone can be themselves. The school should be a place where students can come out without having to be held accountable or fearing bullying or disapproval. The day of action is a symbol against bullying.

Ode to gender and sexual diversity

You could say that Purple Friday in schools is a national symbol for gender and sexual diversity. It is an ode to diversity and a kind of invitation to every pupil to be themselves and respect others. The COC Netherlands wanted to make it a national day and they clearly succeeded.

Why the color purple?

Purple is not a randomly chosen color. American artist Gilbert Baker designed a rainbow flag in 1978. The first version of this flag had 8 stripes, all in different colors including the color purple. Every color has a symbolic meaning. Purple has the meaning Spirit, which can be translated as enthusiasm or energy. It’s about allowing everyone to be themselves. Incidentally, the rainbow flag was adapted to seven colors a short time later and in 1979 only six colors remained. The color purple is still part of the current (2020) rainbow flag.

Organization and dissemination

Purple Friday has grown considerably since the first edition in 2010. More schools participate every year. In 2019, there were more than a thousand secondary schools that organized the purple campaign. Purple Friday is a campaign by COC Netherlands.

COC Netherlands

Purple Friday is made possible by COC Netherlands, an LGBTI emancipation association founded in 1946. This makes this emancipation association the oldest existing emancipation association of its kind in the world. When Nazmul Rahman-Zaman also wanted to organize a Spirit Day in the Netherlands in 2010, he sought cooperation with COC Netherlands. Together they decided that the Dutch version of Spirit Day should be called Purple Friday and that this should become a national campaign. COC Netherlands has included Purple Friday in the GSA Network, which is part of COC Netherlands.

GSA Network

GSA stands for Gender and Sexuality Alliance. A GSA is a group of students and teachers at a school who want to express their solidarity for gender diversity and sexual orientations. All GSAs together form the GSA Network and receive support from COC Netherlands.

GSA Network and Purple Friday

The GSA Network organizes various projects and actions, including the national GSA action day Purple Friday. They give tips to schools for organizing Purple Friday. They also highlight the day of action and supply promotional packages that include posters and bracelets that can be used to advertise Purple Friday. Moreover, they provide inspiration for organizing fun actions at schools for the action day itself. For example, a competition for the most beautiful purple outfit, a flash mob, a purple smoke bomb or purple toilet paper. The GSAs also give lessons and discuss the subject with students at schools. They make the subject open for discussion and create a safe environment in which ideas can be exchanged.

Who is participating?

Purple Friday is a national campaign that was originally organized in secondary schools. The number of participating schools has increased over the years, to a thousand participating secondary schools in 2019. In 2020, in addition to secondary schools, 500 other types of educational institutions also participated in Purple Friday for the first time.

In addition to secondary schools, also primary schools, colleges and universities

Until 2020, it was mainly secondary schools that organized Purple Friday at their educational locations. COC Netherlands announced that in 2020, 500 primary schools, colleges and universities also participated in the Purple campaign for the first time. MBOs have been participating for some time. Due to the coronavirus, both offline and online promotions were devised in 2020.

Politics and Purple Friday

Because Purple Friday is organized every year at a national level, it is important to see whether politicians show interest in the phenomenon.

On December 14, 2018, Ingrid van Engelshoven, then Minister of Education, visited the IJssel College in Capelle aan den IJssel as part of Purple Friday. The minister participated in Purple Friday at this school by, among other things, wearing a purple wristband and discussing the subject with the students during breakfast. The Jeugdjournaal made a report of the minister’s visit.

On November 22, 2016, King Willem Alexander visited the COC Netherlands. There, Nazmul Rahman-Zaman, creator of Purple Friday, among others, talked to the king.

Purple Friday in different countries

Purple Friday is organized in different countries. There are some differences per country.




The Netherlands

Purple Friday

2nd Friday in December



May 17

United States + Canada

Spirit Day

3rd Thursday in October

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