The Power of Choosing Resilience

Published: February 17, 2013

"He would walk into a room and say a couple quick words and everybody would just forget their problems and smile. He had a gift."

Bud Hill was describing 15-year-old Jadin Bell, a popular kid with green-dyed hair and a supportive family in La Grand, Oregon.

Jadin died February 3, after being on life support since January 19. That was the day he hung himself from an elementary school play structure after being bullied by schoolmates because he was gay.

"He was different," said Hill, a family friend, "and they tend to pick on the different ones."

Two days after Jadin hung himself, President Obama proclaimed in his second inaugural address that gay Americans should finally be treated as fully human and equal citizens. As he spoke, Jadin Bell lay dying in an Oregon hospital, one of the inestimable number of young men whose "difference" marks them for ridicule and ostracism and, too often, early death by their own or another’s hand.

If "it gets better" with age, according to the campaign started in 2010 after a rash of gay youth suicides, it isn’t only because high school bullies are left behind to wallow in the filth of their own hatred. It’s because, despite the tremendous odds stacked against us, most gay men are able to find the resilience we need to survive and thrive.

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The day Jadin Bell died, a new study published in Pediatrics reported that although bullying drops as young people move beyond high school, young gay men are almost four times more likely than their straight peers to be bullied.

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