Encouraging Courage Through the Arts: In Memory of Billy Lucas

"Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother's property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body.... I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better. Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids."

--Dan Savage, founder of the It Gets Better Project on You Tube

I have been thinking about Billy Lucas' story for a while now and wanted to respond in some way that felt meaningful to me. The word that keeps coming into my mind is courage. What an incredible amount of courage it takes to be yourself every day, no matter who you are.
Then, take the bravery required and multiply it by a thousand: throw in being a teenager and being gay or being an artist or having a mohawk or being religious or being overweight or underweight or a red head or a Hindu or black or an athlete or disabled or smart or poor or short or..or...or...or...
 The thing is, the world is always looking for someone to judge. And the biggest tragedy is that, like Billy Lucas, if you get judged  at an impressionable age or time in your life where you feel like you can't fight back, a person without courage could lose hope. I like Dan Savage's idea for It Gets Better. There is freedom and joy after judgement, if you can make it through. And for that you need courage and support.
So as someone who spends her days making art and teaching children, I'd like to see a little more courage taught in the curriculum. Why not use the arts to help students find their voice and navigate bravely through their lives? Thank God for my highschool guidance counsellor and art teachers (thank you Mr Manson and Mr Drever!!) who cornered me in the art room and told me about this magical place called art school where I never had to do math and could make art for four years straight and even a earn a degree! It wasn't until they showed me a way out that I found my own courage and a place where I fit in. So Billy Lucas' story isn't about being gay or not, it is about being your own hero. Art can help with that.

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