A new locally-written e-book could be a lifeline for LGBT teens being tormented by bullies at school.
Having lived through it himself, 24-year-old author Matthew Hartmann says he hopes Not Alone can reach out to young people at-risk and benefit those who support our valuable gay youth.
Below, Hartmann tells Same Same why he wrote Not Alone, and shares a brief extract from the book.
Not Alone was written for the millions of LGBT teens around the world who go to school every day and are subjected verbal and physical bullying. The truth is, it’s the book that I wish I could have read when I was a teenager. I know from my own experience, that feeling as though I had nobody to speak to, especially when I wasn’t out, I felt ashamed and guilty that somehow I was responsible for the abuse that I was subjected to everyday. If I can help just one teenager through sharing my story, then I’m happy.
It is a deeply personal story, and one that took nearly three years to complete. The chapters of the book tell how I found my voice and became comfortable within my own skin, while dealing with pressures of being a teenager and being subjected to what seemed like endless taunts and bullying.
We’ve seen, especially in the last few months, the massive attention LGBT bullying has received in the media and from organisations around the world. The posts on YouTube, especially the story of 14-year-old Jamie Rodemeyer who committed suicide two weeks after sharing his video online, because he felt as though the daily taunts he experienced every day would never end. I guess this was really what got me over the line in getting the book finished – one life lost is a tragedy, two lives lost is a crisis.
Bullying and teasing of LGBT teenagers in Australia and around the world is an epidemic and the death rate is climbing. There are thousands of posts on YouTube from teenagers sharing their sexuality with the world, but for every one story, there are thousands more, and that’s really been the driving force behind Not Alone. Sharing my story to help those who may be finding their own voice, or not ready to share theirs, know that they’re not alone.
I also know that no two stories are the same, and it was really important that I highlighted that in the book. While Not Alone is about how I dealt with my sexuality and shared my sexuality with those around me, it also talks about how that despite what seemed like endless years of bullying, verbal and physical abuse, that it really does get better. Despite having some rather intense chapters, Not Alone is actually an extremely positive story and having two of my closest friends Mark and Charlie share their own stories really does add something to Not Alone. Between their stories and my own, the book does explore the range of situations and emotions teenagers can experience and how the three of us dealt with those experiences, made the conscious decision to now allow ourselves to be defined by the words of other people and find our feet.
The response has been incredible. Not Alone was launched on December 10, and the feedback I’ve received from those who have read it has been overwhelming. I’ve received emails from teenagers across Australia and around the world, just to say ‘thank you’ because they’ve read the book, and in some way, it’s helped them.
It’s a project I’ve been working on for the last few years, but it was only within the last 12 months that I actually decided to finish it, and I was lucky enough to have a close friend Erik, who is a very talented writer and editor work on the project with me. Erik is such an incredibly talented, gifted professional, and was really sensitive to the book and every word within it through the editing process.
I was really excited when the first copy sold, and honestly I would be happy to sell just one. Knowing that the book may have reached out and touched someone made three years of writing and reliving my own experiences worth it.
I’m also really proud to be working with the Gay and Lesbian Counseling Service of NSW and Twenty10, with part profits of the book being donated to both organisations. I have always admired their work and their commitment to our community through the ongoing counseling, referrals and development of support groups for LGBT teens and adults, and through Not Alone, I hope that the contributions they receive from the book support them in continuing their work, which is so incredibly important. To find out more about GLCS NSW and Twenty10, please visit glcsnws.org.au or twenty10.org.au.
NOT ALONE – Chapter 10.
If you could have mapped out my twenty-three years, and told me that I would be standing here today, I probably wouldn’t believe you.
There are moments when I look back, and evaluate my decisions, ripping apart the chapters of my life in my head, and wondering what I would do differently. If there were hard moments in my life I could trade for happier ones, I doubt I’d want to. Would I have said something to the kids who tormented me at school, branded me a ‘faggot’ and threatened me with a kick up the ass after I got off the bus in the afternoons? Would I have entered into a relationship, knowing that I would walk away from it with my heart in my hands? Probably not.
You see, as weird as it might sound. I’m grateful for those moments. And as hard as they seemed at the time, I wouldn’t change anything. The chapters of my life, although sometimes difficult to read make me, who I am today. Sometimes you have to suffer, to really understand the strength of your own soul.
The words in this book are the chapters of my life. The chapters I wish I could have read before I embarked on my journey through my teenage years. Every word is written for those who have ever felt the heaviness of life on their shoulders. It’s not an instruction manual, it’s just the story of one boy. A simple boy from the western suburbs of Sydney who was teased and bullied; contemplated suicide; struggled with his identity, abusive relationships and a broken heart; and dealt with his sexuality and the world around him, with the strength and resilience to survive. A boy who didn’t change and is not ashamed. Bare fisted and not alone, he fought for who he was and what he believed in.
Twenty-three years worth of chapters have been written, with many blank pages to fill.– Matthew Hartmann