Something Worth Supporting: The ‘It Gets Better’ Project

Regardless of where you stand on anything related to gender issues, I don’t think anyone can help but be appalled by the news coming out of Texas last week – that a 13 year old 8th grader killed himself after YEARS of bullying including accusations of being gay and being pushed down the stairs in the days before he took his own life.

It is stories like that, and also the recent suicide in Indiana by Billy Lucas, a 15 year old who was bullied and tormented about perceived sexuality and even told to kill himself by others, that led Seattle advice columnist Dan Savage to create the ‘It Gets Better’ project on YouTube.

And while this project is directed most specifically at LGBT kids, the core message is clear:

kids who are being bullied and harassed, kids who don’t think they have a future—and we can help them.

They need to know that it gets better.

Here is his description:

Another gay teenager in another small town has killed himself—hope you’re pleased with yourselves, Tony Perkins and all the other “Christians” out there who oppose anti-bullying programs (and give actual Christians a bad name).

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.

“My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas,” a reader wrote after I posted about Billy Lucas to my blog. “I wish I could have told you that things get better.”

I had the same reaction: 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.

So here’s what you can do, GBVWS: Make a video. Tell them it gets better.

I’ve launched a channel on YouTube—www ­—to host these videos. My normally camera-shy husband and I already posted one. We both went to Christian schools and we were both bullied—he had it a lot worse than I did—and we are living proof that it gets better. We don’t dwell too much on the past. Instead, we talk mostly about all the meaningful things in our lives now—our families, our friends (gay and straight), the places we’ve gone and things we’ve experienced—that we would’ve missed out on if we’d killed ourselves then.

“You gotta give ’em hope,” Harvey Milk said.

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. Online support groups are great, GLSEN does amazing work, the Trevor Project is invaluable. But many 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.

The video my husband and I made is up now—all by itself. I’d like to add submissions from other gay and lesbian adults—singles and couples, with kids or without, established in careers or just starting out, urban and rural, of all races and religious backgrounds. (Go to to find instructions for submitting your video.) If you’re gay or lesbian or bi or trans and you’ve ever read about a kid like Billy Lucas and thought, “Fuck, I wish I could’ve told him that it gets better,” this is your chance. 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.

They need to know that it gets better. Submit a video. Give them hope.

As I said, I consider this much more than an issue for LGBT kids – bullying is a huge problem at schools everywhere, much worse for our kids than when we were in school. And not only is the face-to-face bullying worse – and less supervised in budget-strapped school districts – but the addition of email, cell phones, the internet and social networking sites makes escape harder than ever. There was even a report last night on CNN about a Michigan Assistant AG who has taken up a personal vendetta against the president of the University Michigan Student Assembly!

I certainly don’t have the answer for how to stop bullying, but certainly it can only help letting kids know that allowing these small-minded individuals to control their reality is not the answer, and that by finding like-minded individuals things really can get better. For that I applaud Savage and all the others who have contributed to the project.

[Update] Tragically, even since I wrote this I have read that 13 year old Seth Walsh of California has died after being on life support for nine days. It is a reminder that while there is loads of angst and ups-and-downs with teenage life, as parents we need to do our best to stay connected and remain a positive impact in out kids lives.

Source: Buzzfeed

Categories: News


5 replies

  1. This is an amazing project, and I am so glad you wrote about it Mike! The video of Dan Savage talking about high school vs life after high school almost made me cry at work last week when I first saw it…I loved Dan Savage before this because his column and books are absolutely hysterical, but my respect and admiration for him shot up 10fold when he started this project. :)

  2. Michael- Perhaps the most important post… Sadly I just got this in my inbox…

    For immediate release
    Wednesday, September 29, 2010
    Statement of Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein

    All of us at Garden State Equality are in a state of shock over one of the most unconscionable, hate-related deaths of a student in the history of the State of New Jersey. Today we learned that a Rutgers freshman committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate and other students apparently broadcast the freshman – without his knowledge – making out with another man. According to reports, the other students disseminated the video widely by Twitter. The freshman was seemingly so distraught, he leapt to his death.

    There are no words sufficient to express our range of feelings today. We are outraged at the perpetrators. We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind. And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others’ lives as a sport. As this case makes its way through the legal system, we can only hope the alleged perpetrators receive the maximum possible sentence.

    That the victim’s roommate was also a freshman, just months out of high school, demonstrates once again that our high schools are not doing enough to educate their students that harassment, intimidation and bullying of other students is unacceptable in every instance. It is grotesque to think that people such as these alleged perpetrators went onto college without, apparently, ever having been taught basic life lessons of decency – and that they made their way through the educational system before allegedly committing this unconscionable act.

    Garden State Equality is currently working on a new anti-school bullying bill that if enacted, would be the nation’s strongest such law. It would follow the three anti-bullying laws the state has enacted since 2002, all of which include bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

    We have also reached out to the Rutgers University administration and LGBT campus groups. We will keep you apprised of developments.

    We are sickened.

    With more than 77,000 members, Garden State Equality is New Jersey’s largest civil rights organization. Since Garden State Equality’s founding in 2004, New Jersey has enacted 211 laws at the state, county and local levels – a national record. Garden State Equality is the only statewide advocacy organization in American history to be the subject of an Academy Award-winning® film.

  3. RT @geardiary: Something Worth Supporting: The 'It Gets Better' Project #Offbeat

  4. RT @GearDiarySite: Something Worth Supporting: The ‘It Gets Better’ Project