Today, October 16, is Spirit Day, founded in 2010 for people to show their support for LGBTQ youth. I happened upon something quite relevant – an update on Alex Libby, the young man portrayed with such empathy in the original movie.
In 2013, Anderson Cooper and CNN put together a followup on several of the stories from the movie, including Alex. His family made the decision to relocate from Iowa to Oklahoma after Alex’s younger sister was targeted by bullies and the school continued to take no action.
In short, Alex appears to be thriving as a student with a lot of friends, an aspiring rapper and an advocate for other young people. He even completed an internship with The Bully Project. I have added a 26 minute video from the Cartoon Network with a lot more details on how Alexis doing and the work of the project itself.
Before you watch the video, I want to point out that Alex often speaks to the “other kids” who witness the bullying, encouraging them to surround their friends with love and support. It took the intervention of the adults filming the original movie to speak out for Alex. And even with that footage, the district failed to protect him. But it did start his family on a journey that ultimately put the kids in a better school and changed their lives.
It took an ally.
Alex does not identify as LGBTQ, but that’s not important for this post. He’s a kid who deserved better. And his advocacy has an impact on the lives of LGBTQ youth.
I remember feeling relieved when it wasn’t me. Junior high was terrible and I felt so very alone. I knew my friends felt helpless. When I started 9th grade and eventually moved to our high school building, I learned that using my smarts to help kids earned me protection from the worst of the bullies. And I am sure I turned a blind eye out of my own desire to survive unscathed. I went to a school where the French teacher dangled a student out a window and slammed another student into lockers repeatedly until he passed out. He was still teaching when I graduated so I had no sense of anyone protecting us. And I studied really hard in French.
Spirit Day is not about the allies. It is about the youth to whom they are allied – the LGBTQ youth in our schools and our communities. I encourage you to take a concrete step to help young people. In Pittsburgh, there are several organizations working with youth
- Dreams of Hope
- Gay and Lesbian Community Center
- Persad Center
- Project Silk
In the movie, Alex wore a Steelers windbreaker. I don’t know if he’s still a fan, but if so – I hope we can bring him to Pittsburgh one day.