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This week yet another young member of the LGBTQ community took his own life after dealing with years of bullying. Last Sunday, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide after returning from a family camping trip. Jamey was an outgoing, apparently confident young man. After coming out last year, he recorded an It Gets Better video encouraging other LGBTQ youth to look for their support systems and to learn to love themselves. His family were supportive and he drew inspiration from the positive messages of pop superstar and social justice champion Lady Gaga.

It is heartbreaking to see any young person surrender to despair. When someone with as much strength and joy as Jamey succumbs, it sends a very powerful message. Words are weapons, and weapons can kill. Despite the increased awareness about bullying and teen suicide, the problem persists. Violence against the LGBT community is on the rise, so it is unrealistic to believe that verbal and emotional abuse are not a continuing problem.

Fortunately, we have champions who are doing their best to give our youth the tools they need to cope and to thrive. Regular TSM readers may remember the efforts of Zan Christensen and Mark Brill to print an anti-bullying comic book. Fortunately, their project exceeded its funding goal and The Power Within is now available. It’s an amazing work, managing to tell a compelling story about an interesting character while still achieving its advocacy and outreach goals. All of this without coming across as strident or preachy.

The Power Within tells the story of Shannon, a boy starting the eighth grade. It is clear that he had problems during his last year of school, and this year doesn’t start off any better. He is different from his peers in many ways – smaller, artistic, gay (although not out) – and is bullied daily. The authority figures take a sadly typical “you should try harder to fit in” approach to the problem. Shannon copes by imagining himself as a superhero with the power to defeat the bullies, but this survival daydream also increases his isolation.

I won’t spoil the powerful impact of the story by going into more detail, but as a 45-year-old man with bits of a damaged gay 14-year-old still lurking inside him, every panel rang very true. The art is beautiful and perfectly suited to moving the story forward. The plot and dialogue are appropriately simple without being simplistic. In a few short pages, Shannon is a more compelling character than many who have volumes dedicated to them. (Fair warning, this was a keep-the-tissue-box-handy read for me…)

Christensen and Brill have created the perfect message of hope for anyone struggling with not fitting in and suffering for it. Anyone who cares about LGBTQ kids should get their hands on a copy, read it, and share it. As an added bonus, a variety of comic writers and artists (including Gail Simone and Dan Parent, creator of Kevin Keller) have provided some supplemental pages. The book ends with a valuable list of discussion questions and additional resources. Congratulations, Zan and Mike, this comic is an absolute winner.

For more information about The Power Within, including how to order copies for teachers and youth services organizations, please visit Northwest Press.

Originally posted to TheSolipsisticMe on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 05:47 AM PDT.

Also republished by Milk Men And Women and Angry Gays.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (21+ / 0-)

    "A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back - but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."--Marian Wright Edelman

    by TheSolipsisticMe on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 05:47:30 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the great diary. n/t (4+ / 0-)

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 06:19:11 AM PDT

  •  What about the bullies? (7+ / 0-)

    As a parent of elementary-aged kids I am horrified to see what is going on in some schools and on-line. I am despairing, after seeing Jamey's story, that in some cases no amount of support and love toward the bullied child can overcome the nastiness and hatred that is thrown their way from some kids.  
    More than once I've seen in these recent reports that the bullies say "why don't you just kill yourself!"  That's just shocking.  Bullying has been around forever; but that particular sentiment seems new and just insanely vicious.  How could a kid come up with a statement like that?  It's unfathomable to me.  In order to combat this, in schools and as a society, we must start at a VERY young age with a concerted effort to teach kids respect, integrity and consciousness.  I know there are "anti-bullying" programs in many schools, but they seem to be superficial and victim-blaming:  "if a person is different, don't tease them".  Seems like we're way beyond that now, and we've got to instill some kids with even a basic level of human decency.

    •  You bring up very real concerns, for which I am (4+ / 0-)

      grateful! If you suspect any form of bullying, I strongly encourage you to enlist the help of the administration of the school your child attends. If that does not work, appeal to the school board.  I would also say that your vote counts!  I certainly will not be voting for any Republican candidate that signs a pledge against the LGBT community, nor a candidate that stays silent upon hearing a crowd of people cheering for Death, as we saw during the last Republican debate.

      "A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back - but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."--Marian Wright Edelman

      by TheSolipsisticMe on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:41:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One problem is that teachers and administrators (4+ / 0-)

      are human and often share the same prejudices as the rest of the community and the kids they're supposed to teach. And all too often the bullies are attractive, popular kids whoa re athletes and student leaders and the staff just LIKES them better than the bullying victims.  Oftent heya ttend the same churches.

      She wasn't gay, but Tempest Smith is a classic example. The girl's "sin was being Goth and Wiccan in a fundy area. Students would surround her at lunch and before school and sing Christian hymns at her--and the court said the faculty didn't know it was happening. BULLSHIT. I've been a teacher. Even in fundy areas, kids don't surround another child and sing hymns. They knew. They didn't fucking care. They agreed with the bullies.

      This is the same problem  with gay kids.  You can have all the programs you want but if the administrators and teachers share local prejudices against gays (or Wiccans or Christians or Muslim girls who wear head coverings or
      Jewish boys who wear yarmulkes or Goths or Native Americans who won't cut their hair because they're performing a manhood ritual--yes, all of these are examples of kids who have faced either  outright bullying or bullying by ridiculous rules that assume everyone is white, straight and Christian or should be), the programs aren't wortht he paper they're pritned on. They require enforcement, and that is what is lacking--that and the will to enforce.

      I want the cliamte in schools changed. Bullyign kills kids--gay, straight, fat, skinny, Goth, whatever--and it needs to end. Gay kids get the brunt of but they aren't the only ones. I want policies that definitely protect gay kids--but also all kids. No child should suffer simply for being his or her self.

      The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

      by irishwitch on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 11:37:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely right! And hopefully we, as a (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        belinda ridgewood

        community, can affect such great cultural change.

        "A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back - but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."--Marian Wright Edelman

        by TheSolipsisticMe on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:21:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  No child should suffer (3+ / 0-)

        I really think though that the kids who bullied Tempest and Jamey so viciously didn't develop these tendencies in high school or even middle school when the bullying was happening.  A bully's refusal to feel basic empathy towards another human being is learned in early childhood, and manifests itself as bullying when combined with their own insecurities and need for attention in the pre-teen/teen years.  Early childhood is where we need to apply some heavy duty lessons regarding basic human respect.  It's getting lost in the noise of our reality-show culture where conflict "sells."  All kids question their place in the world during the pre-teen and teen years; but if they are armed with a healthy respect for others' right to simply BE, then at the very least they wouldn't say things like "just go kill yourself."

  •  Thanks for sharing this! (3+ / 0-)

    I can always count on you for a diary worth reading,

    Capitalism may be our enemy, but it is also our teacher. --V.I. Lenin equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 08:03:48 AM PDT

    •  You are always so incredibly (0+ / 0-)

      sweet and supportive! You must have fantastic karma!

      "A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back - but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."--Marian Wright Edelman

      by TheSolipsisticMe on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:21:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped, Rec'd, and HL'd (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TheSolipsisticMe, RBHSOregon

    Just one thing to add, should the naysayers make an appearance:

    EASY TARGETS

    Results from a 2002 survey of 760 12- to 17-year-olds
    asking who gets bullied "all of the time:"

         Disabled kids  6%
         Black kids    4%
         White kids    3%
         Asian kids    3%
         Latino kids    2%
         Fat kids    11%
         Kids who dress differently    12%

    AND, leading the parade:

         Kids who are gay or thought to be gay    24%

    . Source: National Mental Health Association

    "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." - Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées, #894.

    by maf1029 on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 05:19:16 PM PDT

    •  You are brilliant. Thank you for adding the (0+ / 0-)

      additional information from NMHA.  

      "A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back - but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."--Marian Wright Edelman

      by TheSolipsisticMe on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:15:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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