NOTE: As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, Coca-Cola values and celebrates diversity. That’s why, today, we are supporting The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in their efforts to promote Spirit Day – a day where millions of people “go purple” to show their support for LGBT youth. Spirit Day began in 2010 as a way to show support for LGBT youth and encourages people to take a stand against bullying. Today, we’re turning Coca-Cola’s Journey purple as a show of support for LGBT youth. We also have some personal reflections from two employees who have overcome bullying in their lives. Here's Nauman Butt story:

Growing up in Pakistan as a gay man, I was bound to be a victim of bullying. But I surely wasn’t prepared for what came my way.

It all started when I was around 15. I always knew I was a little different from my brother and other men of my family. But as I started getting older, I realized that the way my male classmates talked about girls and female celebrities – I just couldn’t relate to them. It was hard enough not understanding why I felt the way I did or what made me feel differently. The most difficult thing to experience was isolation and not being able to share my feelings with anyone.

One day, in my haste to escape the stress I felt from hiding my identity, I decided to confide in a trusted, close friend of mine. I shared the truth about who I was hoping it would remain a secret. Before I knew it, my secret was revealed. Within no time, words like “sissy” and other derogatory terms were thrown my way. Having insults engraved on my desk had become a norm. Things didn’t just stop at verbal abuse. Some days, I was met with physical abuse as well.

In Pakistan, we were repeatedly told by our elders that “homosexuality was the biggest sin." Because of this, I never felt free to reveal the truth about what I was enduring. I couldn’t tell my teachers or my very own parents. Mercifully, with passage of time, the teasing began to ease. Towards my senior year, the teasing was just limited to occasional name calling.

But when graduation time came, the teasing picked up momentum. I feared there would be name calling at the ceremony. I feared my parents would feel ashamed in front of everyone. So, I ultimately decided not to attend my graduation. But, I guess life decided to give me a break. I was accepted to a college here in the U.S. In 2002, with new hope for life, I left my old life in Pakistan behind.

Unfortunately there was one last hurdle I had to face. A previous schoolmate from Pakistan also ended up being accepted to the same college here in the US.  I was not surprised that within a few months of my academic year, the Pakistani group at my school found out about me. Soon enough some teasing and staring began. One day, I was stopped by one of the Pakistani students who warned that I would “burn in hell if I didn’t get back on the right track”. I knew here in the USA I had a legal choice to take action against him and others. But I didn’t want to take help and reveal my fears to them. What I did next still makes me feel proud of myself.

It was my school’s LGBT Spring Ball and all the students living on campus were invited. The ball was at the student conference center where most students hung out. Even though not everyone attended the ball, I knew there would be a lot of talk about who attended. With the help of my friend, we made a shirt that said the words “gay and proud." I wore that shirt to the ball and marched straight into the ballroom with my head held high. I still recall the eyes that stared at me with anger and shock. But I didn’t care because I had made my point: I was no longer afraid.

That night, I danced away all my old sorrows and felt this amazing sense of pride. From that day on, I have never felt ashamed of my true identity.

Visit GLAAD’s Spirit Day website to learn more.