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"It gets Better"

on Oct 6, 2010 | General | 0 comments

That’s the message that author and advice columnist Dan Savage and many others are trying to get across to gay youth in the wake of a recent spate of suicides of gay teenagers across the country in recent weeks.

From Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, 18, who died after jumping off the George Washington Bridge, to Seth Walsh, 13, who hung himself from a tree in California, to Asher Brown, 13, who shot himself at his parent’s home in Texas, to Raymond Chase, 19, who hung himself in his dorm room at Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island—the list of gay teens lost to suicide in September alone brought national attention to an ongoing problem.

While the media spotlight is shining brightly at present, the problem is not a new one. Consider these alarming facts from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit established to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group:

  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey 2007).
  • LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22% vs. 7%) and 90% of LGBT students (vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year. (GLSEN From Teasing to Torment 2006)
  • Nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school; three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and about one-third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe (GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2009).

It was another young man, Billy Lucas, 15, who hung himself after enduring continued bullying from his classmates, that inspired Savage’s new campaign. In his column, Savage explained his reaction to the news of Lucas’ death:

“I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy thatit gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

And from that idea, a campaign was born. Savage started the YouTube channel “It Gets Better Project” as a forum for gay and lesbian adults to share their stories to give gay teens inspiration and send the simple message—it gets better. As Savage states, “Today we have the power to give these kids hope. We have the tools to reach out to them and tell our stories and let them know that it does get better . . . [M]any LGBT youth can’t picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can’t imagine a future for themselves. So let’s show them what our lives are like, let’s show them what the future may hold in store for them.”

Savage launched the site with a video where he and his husband shared their own stories of being bullied and harassed in high school, as well as the joy of their lives now. Hundreds of others have now joined them, including some celebrities like Tim Gunn and Chris Colfer, adding their own videos with stories of hope and inspiration.

In encouraging others to share their stories, Savage urged, “We can’t help Billy, but there are lots of other Billys out there—other despairing LGBT kids who are being bullied and harassed, kids who don’t think they have a future—and we can help them.” Let’s hope the other Billys out there do indeed hear these messages of hope. Better yet, let’s hope everyone hears another important message—that we need to end the harassment and torment of gay teens, and that we can do better, now.



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