Jim Wheeler was one of seven children. He was a painter. He was a poet. He was gay.
He was all of these things before he died.
But Wheeler accomplished something most can never dream of: immortality.
Temple University’s Lambda Alliance presented Jim In Bold, a documentary titled after a poem written by Jim Wheeler, a young man who took his own life because he was gay.
Jim In Bold was created by PBS and online gay magazine “Young Gay America.” The film’s purpose is to “show how homophobia can kill,” according to the Jim In Bold Web site.
Three reporters from “Young Gay America” interviewed gay youth throughout the nation to show that Wheeler could have enjoyed his life. The film combines their stories along with Wheeler’s.
“I was so moved by the story after I read the Jim In Bold review in The Philadelphia Inquirer,” said Tom Armstrong, co-chair of Lambda. “I got in touch with Susan Wheeler, Jim’s mother.”
Armstrong, who had never seen the film before the Oct. 5 showing at Temple, said the film strives to show how homosexuals are represented and the impact that representation has on them.
“Part of what we do is help students in crisis,” Armstrong said of Lambda. “Showing Jim In Bold proved that you can work through it.”
Following the documentary, Wheeler, her daughter Kendra and executive producer of the film, Malcolm Lazin, entertained questions from the audience.
“Ten years ago people would look inward and say it was their problem, like [Jimmy] did,” Lazin said.
Kendra said it was difficult to talk about her brother because he “kept the pain to himself and kept us in the dark.”
“The first time I watched this film I realized the extent of his pain,” Kendra said after saying she would probably never watch the film again. “And it really pissed me off because his friends never told us.”
But both Wheeler and Kendra are optimistic that “Jim In Bold is channeling pain and grief into something positive.”
Wheeler said, “The film is important because we’ve come a long way. Good things are happening with gay rights and this film has something to do with it.”
Lazin said he is even screening the film in high schools to try and incorporate Jim In Bold teaching materials for secondary education.
“I spent a lot of time advertising, by sending e-mails through the listserv and handing out flyers,” he said. “There were about 35 attendants and the work we spent on showing this film definitely justified that number.”
Armstrong said he was trying to obtain a copy of Jim In Bold to keep at Temple, so students can gain access to it at any time.
Lambda and Students and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (S-FLAG) are trying to work together to reach a common goal: unity.
Lambda is hosting an array of Lambda events this month, including National Coming Out Day, Saturday, Oct. 11.
Nina M. Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org