Thursday, September 23, 2010

The "It Gets Better" Project

Were you bullied in high school?  Or did you do the bullying?  I suspect that most have a least a little experience with both sides of the bullying issue; that is the nature of childhood.  But, at times, the bullying is so nasty, so vicious, so traumatic, that it goes beyond the ordinary, and becomes tragic.  Sometimes bullying is so severe that the victims cannot cope, cannot see an end to their pain, and they make drastic choices.  Sometimes they choose suicide.
Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother's property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body. 
Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment at school, and gay teens are four times likelier to attempt suicide. Many LGBT kids who do kill themselves live in rural areas, exurbs, and suburban areas, places with no gay organizations or services for queer kids.
So writes Dan Savage in his excellent Savage Love column.  He is gay himself, and knows the effect of bullying.  He also knows that life gets better once one leaves the hell of high school.  He wishes he could have helped this lonely teen.
I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better. 
But gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models. 
Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.
Dan has decided to help kids like Billy and let them know that it gets better.  He has made a video of himself and his husband talking directly to the young gays and lesbians, to give them a bit of hope.  He has created a new YouTube channel and is inviting gays and lesbians to submit their own videos, so perhaps a kid who is feeling alone and lost in a bigoted world can realize that it gets better.

Thank you, Dan.  You have done a lot of kids a great service.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I've seen it on other blogs too, and I'll post it as well. These are the types of things that can save lives. Hearing stories like Billy Lucas' make me both terribly sad and terribly angry.

  2. Sarah - Yes, spread the word. The more kids who hear about this, the better.