By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com February 14 2014 2:26 PM ET
A Texas tattoo parlor is offering a surprising ink option in support of a good cause.
Imperial Tattoo, a business in the Houston metropolitan area, is giving a discount on tattoos inspired by My Little Pony, a cartoon series, toy line, and entertainment franchise that is known for images of whimsical and colorful horses. The $20 tats will raise funds for an 11-year-old boy who attempted suicide after his peers bullied him for being a fan of the Hasbro line, which is typically marketed toward young girls.
Tony Wayne, the owner of Imperial Tattoo, told the Houston Chronicle that there is already a hot demand.
"We've done 25-30 of them since last week and more are booked this week," Wayne said. "They're regular guys, tattooed mean-lookin' guys."
Proceeds from the tattoos will go toward the recovery fund for Michael Morones, a North Carolina youth who tried to hang himself after being bullied for his love of the My Little Pony cartoon as well as his perceived sexual orientation or gender presentation, his parents say. Morones, who may have suffered permanent brain damage, is currently in critical condition at Raleigh's WakeMed Hospital.
In total, the fund has already raised over $70,000. Money from the sales will also benefit Stomp Out Bullying, a national antibullying organization for children and teenagers.
The success of the tattoos may also be attributed in part to a group called the "Bronies," a growing male fan base of My Little Pony. Wayne believes the growing popularity of the franchise and the tattoos among men and boys sends a powerful message about the freedom of gender expression.
"I didn't even realize this was going on, but things should not be gender-specific," Wayne said. “I'm getting [a My Little Pony tattoo] myself now. You don't have to be a girl to like My Little Pony."
LGBT youth — and those perceived to be gay or gender-nonconforming, regardless of how they actually identify — report substantially higher rates of harassment and bullying than their non-LGBT peers, which can contribute to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, and exclusion, and those can in turn contribute to depression and thoughts of suicide.
Anyone struggling with harassment, depression, self-harm, or thoughts of suicide should reach out to support networks like the Trevor Project, which offers a free, confidential 24-hour hotline for LGBT youth. The Trevor Lifeline is available at 1-866-488-7386. Others may want to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255 for free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.