Tag Archives: Jamey Rodemeyer

Number 3 Hero of the Year Award 2011: Lady Gaga

30 Dec

Number 3 Hero of 2011

In light of the shenanigans that so many people get up to when they get the least bit famous, it is a delight to be able to honor a celebrity who uses her voice, money, and spotlight to make the world a better place. Stephani Germanotta, better known to the world as Lady Gaga, has been a tireless force for good in 2011, bringing her in at #3 on this year’s Hero list.

Already known as a staunch ally of the LGBT community for her opposition to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Lady Gaga hit the ground running in 2011 with her amazing album and single Born This Way. She stuck to her principles commercially (a rare trait indeed) and broke an exclusive distribution contract with Target when the retail giant refused to stop its funding of anti-gay politicians. A vocal supporter of anti-bullying programs, she’s been a one-woman It Gets Better campaign. Following the tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, she not only dedicated a concert to him and to all the victims of bullying, but she lobbied the White House for national anti-bullying programs. She’s also raised funds and awareness to fight AIDS.

It looks like she’ll be continuing the momentum in 2012, as her new Born This Way Foundation — dedicated to youth empowerment, bravery, and kindness — launches. Using her power for good pays off, too, as Forbes named her the most powerful celebrity of the year (beating out Oprah) and DoSomething.org put her at the top of their annual list of “Celebs Gone Good.”  Let’s hope more youth hear her message of personal value and more celebrities take her model of using fame for good to heart.

Flashback to 2010: Fittingly, last year’s #3 hero was Dan Savage and the It Gets Better campaign.

Hero of the Week: September 30, The Rodemeyer Family

30 Sep

Heroes of the Week

It takes great personal strength and courage of character to turn a family tragedy into an opportunity for speaking out. This weeks heroes did just that. When Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide on September 19 after enduring years of bullying for his sexual orientation, his family somehow managed to find time for their personal grief and to become outspoken advocates for the thousands of kids suffering bullying around our country.

Given Jamey’s own efforts to be a role model for LGBT youth, including recording an It Gets Better video, this is a wonderful way to honor his legacy. Traci and Tim Rodemeyer, Jamey’s parents, gave an exclusive interview to Ann Curry of NBC’s Today show, describing the circumstances of his life and death and the importance of stopping bullying. Their unflagging support of their son, even in the face of their personal tragedy, took great strength. Sadly, bullies at Jamey’s school didn’t stop after his death, but taunted his sister, Alyssa, at the homecoming dance. To her credit, Alyssa stood up and joined in the family’s message, inteviewing with Anderson Cooper.

I don’t know who would have the heart to disrespect someone even after they’re dead. It’s mindblowing.

This family’s sense of grief and loss is hard to imagine, yet somehow they have managed to honor their son with their words and actions. Taking a page from the Judy Shepard playbook, they demonstrate true courage and heroism.
Honorable mention, must, of course, go to our Laday Gaga, ever vigilant against bullying. She dedicated a concert to Jamey and took the opportunity of this tragedy to meet with President Obama about the tragic number of suicides that this plague of hostility has caused. Brava once again, Mother Monster.

Helping Bullied Kids Find the Power Within Is Everyone’s Responsibility

22 Sep

Bullying's Latest Victim

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.

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