Well. We were going to have a wedding graduate today, but now we’re not, thanks to an email that Robin sent me titled “Reason 912 that we love Dan Savage.” (I don’t have a link for Robin, since she hasn’t sent me her wedding graduate post yet, achem. But I met her at the first APW meetup, and she was my buddy during the second APW meetup when everyone was staring at me in a good way, and I was really nervous, and she’s totally awesome.) So. Here we go.
I’ve never gone on the record about why I advocate for marriage equality as hard as I do. Every so often someone will say something to me along the lines of, “It’s so great that you do this for other people,” or “you’re so selfless,” or “It’s not your fight,” and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
David and I grew up in a really deeply conservative, and very poor, part of Southern California. We’ve been known to call it “the part of The Bible Belt that’s in California,” and people always laugh, but it’s not actually a joke. We were theatre kids in High School, and we both happened to be from very tolerant, socially active families. That was really rare.
Sometime around our Junior year, our friends started coming out, one by one. Our dear friend, Jacob, would give you a number when he came out to you, “You’re the XX person I’ve told!” I was three. David was five. After Jacob came out, I know both David and I had long heart-to-hearts with him about hell. As in, he thought he was going to hell for sure, we knew he was not. I can’t quite explain how heartbreaking it is, at 16 years old, to sit knee to knee, cross-legged with your friend and look them in the eye and have to tell them, “You are an amazing, loving, creative, hilarious person. I don’t care what your parents told you, I don’t care what anyone is telling you. You are not going to hell. Not only are you not going to hell, but GOD LOVES YOU, and I am not joking around.”A few months after that, another friend tried to kill himself. He OD’ed on meds the day before homecoming, and I remember holding hands with Jacob’s little sister (now out and proud herself) in our formals, in a parking lot in the middle of the night, while she cried and cried and cried. Shortly after our friend was released from the hospital, he came out. I’d like to say it got better after that, but it didn’t. He wasn’t treated very well – I remember shaking with anger after someone told our friend, to his face, that while he was a nice guy, he’d never let a gay person around his future kids because God hated gays. And after that, the suicide attempts got scarier. The slashed wrists. The bottles of aspirin. We had conversations with his parents about how he needed to be watched that night, and no, he wasn’t going to hell for f*cks sake, and could they make sure he didn’t have access to medication?
Everyone survived. More or less. But I don’t think any of us were ever quite the same. And I don’t think any of us has ever thought of fighting for gay rights, or tolerance, or marriage equality as something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for your 16 year old self. It’s something you do so that other 16 year olds never have to go through that ever again. It’s something you do so that no 16 year old ever has to be told, “God loves you. You’re not going to hell.”*
So. All that is why I fist-pumped and cried when Dan Savage wrote this, in this week’s column:
Last week, I wrote about Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old kid in Indiana who took his own life after enduring years of bullying for being gay. Billy didn’t identify as gay and may not have been gay. But the consequences of anti-gay bullying—whether the kid being harassed is gay or closeted or just different—are often the same: isolation, pain, despair, and suicide.
After last week’s column went to press, I learned about another teenager—this one openly gay—who recently took his own life. Cody J. Barker was a 17-year-old high-school student in Shiocton, Wisconsin. Cody was a cyclist and a gardener and a Lady Gaga fan who had planned to start a gay-straight student alliance at his high school this fall. “He really cared about making schools a safe place for students,” a friend of Cody’s told the Wisconsin Gazette. “That wasn’t always his own experience with school.”
Billy Lucas in Indiana, Cody Barker in Wisconsin, Justin Aaberg in Minnesota—these three boys and countless other LGBT kids have committed suicide because they couldn’t picture a future for themselves.
That’s why my boyfriend and I launched the It Gets Better Project, a slightly grand name for a YouTube channel. We made a short video about our lives—the harassment we endured in school, the full and rewarding lives we enjoy now—and invited other LGBT adults to make and upload videos about their lives. The response has been completely overwhelming: thousands of members, hundreds of thousands of views, and more than 100 videos from people all over the world sharing their stories, all in an effort to let bullied and isolated and unhappy LGBT kids know that it gets better.
And here is the video.
And it does get better. I never, ever do this. I never put out new pictures of my wedding, because for a blogger I’m actually crazy private. But here are all of us who lived through that high school hell together, laughing at our wedding. It’s one of the wedding pictures I hold in my heart. Because thank god, we all made it there.
So watch the video. Maybe make a video. Send the link to your friends. Or better yet, send the link to High Schoolers in your life, or to your High School Theatre Department. Because the message hasn’t reached a lot of places yet, that f*ck yeah, it gets better.
Picture: One Love Photo
*And because I’m dark-humored to the core, I used to say to my friends, “Look. Let’s say for the sake of argument that you ARE going to hell. If that’s true, shouldn’t you knock it off with the suicide attempts and decide to have the best and longest life ever? I mean, LOGIC!”