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Wisconsin Author: Bullying is Epidemic

PHOTO: A new book from a Wisconsin author says bullying has become epidemic, and while educators and young people search for dealing with the issue in an effective way, no one needs to live by someone else's definition of who they are. Photo credit: For A Better School Climate.
PHOTO: A new book from a Wisconsin author says bullying has become epidemic, and while educators and young people search for dealing with the issue in an effective way, no one needs to live by someone else's definition of who they are. Photo credit: For A Better School Climate.
December 8, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - A new novel called "Double Exposure" about an intersex teen athlete, explores bullying, and Wisconsin author Bridget Birdsall says the story is based on real experiences. The main character was born with ambiguous genitalia and raised as a boy.

At age 15, to escape bullying, the young adult changes gender identification, moves across the country to Milwaukee, and finds success with a girls' basketball team. A teammate jealous of her skills finds out about her past and exposes her former male identity, which leads to more bullying. Birdsall says the bullying portrayed in the novel isn't that uncommon. She calls it "epidemic" and says people may not realize how common the problem is.

"If they don't have children they may not," she says. "But those of us who have had children in the school systems or do now; and it's not just grade school, it's middle school, high school, all the way up into college, there's issues, especially for anyone who's different in any way."

Birdsall says educators and students themselves are grappling with strategies to deal with the problem in an effective way.

In the story, the 15 year old finally begins to feel comfortable with herself for the first time after finding success with the girls' basketball team. Birdsall says the novel, which is based on a true story, has many layers.

"It's a basketball story, it's a story about bullying and it's a story about self-empowerment," says Birdsall. "In the end, it's a story about friendship and self-acceptance, and my hope is that the book will actually become a healing talisman."

Birdsall says "Double Exposure" contains a number of life lessons.

"Raising compassion for ourselves, whether we're the person who maybe didn't speak up when somebody was being bullied, or we're the person who was actually bullied," she says. "I wanted to give people hope and an idea that there is a way out, they don't have to live by somebody else's definition of who they are." Double Exposure is published by Sky Pony Press.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI