It Gets Better

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.

F*ck. Yeah.

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!”

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  • But we need to be the ones who make it better. Otherwise, more things will happen like what just happened at Rutgers yesterday:

    • i, too, thought this was timely because of the rutgers incident and, because it needs to be said. over and over and over again. the bullying that kids deal with because of their sexual orientation, or their appearance, or their race, or whatever else kids can pick on them for, it just has got to stop.

      will it ever really stop? probably not. which is why i think it’s absolutely wonderful that someone came up with the “it gets better” project. amazing and wonderful. what more can adults do than to give kids hope for a bright future filled with love and peace?

      as someone who grew up with a lot of “you’re fat and ugly and no one will ever marry you!” being slung my way, i would pay money to be able to say “f*ck yeah someone will marry me, and that someone will love me for all my squishy bits, inside and out!”

      • Jessica

        squishy bits! <3

    • I saw that this morning come across my Twitter feed. It makes me want to cry.

    • Sarah

      If anyone wants to help make it better, I’m starting a blog (literally started it this morning before I even saw this post) and I need your help. I’m a former teacher, a curriculum writer, a doctoral student in education, and an APW community member who has made it her life’s work to attend to issues relating to LGBTQ youth in schools. The blog isn’t much yet, but my dream is that it becomes a place where parents, teachers, and administrators can find resources, inspiration, and ideas for how to make schools places where LGBTQ kids can thrive, not just survive. There will be lesson plans, stories from teachers, administrators and parents, a resource guide and idea bank and, of course, things I haven’t even thought of yet.

      If you’re an educator or a parent with stories from your own classroom and/or family, someone who knows a little bit about running a good website (or just someone with good ideas) and you want to help me out, drop me an email at sarah(dot)s(dot)kavanagh(at)gmail(dot)com — I need all the help I can get!

  • This made me cry more than any of the other wonderful things I’ve read on APW. And as Caitlin above mentioned, the only thing I could think of was the Rutgers student who jumped off the George Washington bridge recently after being outed on the internet.

    I believe so deeply in marriage equality, thank you for this post!

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    Thanks Meg, I have the same feeling about my support for LGBT rights, but I haven’t been able to articulate it this well. I do it for 15-year-old me holding hands on a bus with a kid whose dad told hime not to come home. I do it for 24-year-old me weeping helplessly 800 miles away when my cousin overdosed on painkillers. I do it so I never have to be the 14th person keeping a secret again.

    Hate affects all of us. No one’s ever threatened to out me, beat me up, driven me from my home, or made me feel like I had no way out – but I have cried, and panicked, and dealt with things way above my maturity level over those threats, beatings, judgements and shamings.

    And it got better. And our scars are sexy.

  • LeahIsMyName

    Oh my. That video is great, and his project is great.

    Anything I try to write here can’t possibly express my intense anger at the fact that kids have to experience bullying and intimidation. As someone else pointed out, it’s not only gay kids, either.

    The Rutgers story makes this all more poignant, and makes me really worry that it’s not just high school anymore that we have to “get through.” I mean, this guy was at college, supposedly a place where people can be more open and learn about themselves. I just had a conversation with my fiance about this seemingly systemic lack of empathy at all levels of our society. Can these bullies feel absolutely no empathy at all???!

    It makes me want to scream, these stories of bullies and their victims. Well done, Dan Savage. I loved the book, and I hope these videos save some lives.

    • It makes me FURIOUS that now high school is taken to college, to work places, etc. And come on, administrators! Do BETTER. Don’t just say that kids will be kids. Don’t take away homecoming king. That’s why we need laws–because when individuals hold power, they can use it according to their own small minds. CAN. (There have been many good strides made.)

  • YES.

    Very good call to arms, Meg, and Dan Savage/Terry.

  • Jessie

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this. As a straight person who actively fights for gay rights, I’ve often gotten criticized… the same things: “it’s not your fight”

    It’s all of our fight. We all know someone or are someone who’s been tortured by the coming out (or not coming out process) and it’s about time that we let everyone know they’re loved, regardless of who they love.

  • LPC

    I saw that video the other day. It was one of the warmest, sweetest, best things ever. And the title. “It Gets Better.” We all have to rally round and make sure that’s true.

    • Oh my gosh, yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. We have to make sure that it really DOES get better.

    • Lydia

      I don’t want to sound like I’m discouraging you from making the world a better place, because it’s important, so please do, but I sort of disagree that it’s necessary to make sure things gets better.
      It happens on its own when people grow up and have some control over their lives, and have had time to get comfortable with themselves. Nobody is 16 forever, and lots of situations that seem hopeless at 16 aren’t so hopeless at 20 or 25.

      • Lindsay

        Delurking just to say this:

        But that’s exactly the point. This is for those 16 year olds who currently have no hope, and don’t know that when they get out of high school, have more control over their lives, and etc, it actually will get better. It’s for those 16 year olds who think that the way it is now is the way it will be for the rest of their lives.

        • Lydia

          Rereading the “make sure that’s true” statement, I think I may have interpreted it uncharitably. I saw it as saying “we have to make sure things are better when these people grow up,” and it could mean “we have to make sure these people grow up,” which I totally don’t have a problem with.

          • meg

            Well, look. Being 16 can suck (though frankly, it didn’t for me), but there is a huge difference between “being a teenager can suck” and “I get assaulted in the school hallway, and people crap on my car, and I’m told I don’t deserve to be alive but that when I die I’m going to burn in hell.”

            Is it going to get better for these kids? Yeah, if we can get them the f*ck out of where they are at, which means keeping them alive, which is the point of the project. That said, it’s also our d*mn responsibility to make sure it gets better for these kids, now. When we fall back on “Being a teenager sucks,” we totally miss the point. These kids aren’t sad because they are teenagers, they are sad because they are emotionally and physically abused, and their personal safety is regularly threatened because of the way they were born. That’s TOTALLY different.

        • ka

          I heart Dan Savage, and I love the message (those exact words pretty much got myself and some friends through high school), but I also agree that some of these kids (as in the ones committing suicide across the country) need it to get better, uh, right now. While seeing the videos’ real life examples of it getting better later might be enough to help a lot of kids, for others it might make the 4-8 years of high school and/or college ahead seem insurmountable. I just came across an article–you can google “Our queer children are killing themselves: You can help” as it’s not letting me post the url–that said this better than I do, and mentioned some organizations the kids can go to or call for help, like the Trevor Project. I think a list of local ones might make a nice addition to anyone sharing the It Gets Better project with parents/teachers/schools/anyone.

          That said, I think this is an incredibly important and moving project (I know I cried watching the videos. A lot.), and thank you Meg for sharing it, and the deeply personal reasons for your advocacy.

          • ka

            Just noticed if ya scroll way down on It Gets Better’s youtube page (instead of getting all wrapped up in the videos like I did), it mentions the Trevor Project and other great resources. Awesome, going to share it everywhere now…

  • Meghan

    This is awesome.

  • Meg, thanks for posting this, and for sharing your story. It is such a good reminder that every person fighting for marriage equality has their own story, whether they identify as L, B, G, T, Q, Q, A, A, I, etc. Everyone has their own reason for fighting, and that the important thing is that we do fight, for our teenage selves and for everyone else’s teenage selves.

    On a side note, Karen from the Boston meetup emailed out this video last week, and our group response was 1) this is amazing and Dan rocks, followed closely by 2) Woah, Terry IS as hot as Dan said he was in the book! Ha ha ha :)

  • Oh. My. This was heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time… I will most definitely forward this on. Thank you for sharing Meg.

  • Thanks for posting this, Meg, and for sharing your own story. It’s so important to remember that everyone who is fighting for marriage equality (and equality in general), whether they identify as L, B, G, T, Q, Q, A, A, I, etc, has their own reason for fighting, and the important thing is that we DO fight.

    Karen from the Boston meetup emailed this out to the Boston group last week, and our collective response went like this:
    1) Wow, Dan is so awesome!

    followed closely by

    2) Wow, Terry IS as hot as Dan said he was in the book!!


  • ddayporter

    YES! A team practical friend (Julie, our hostess for the bookclub meet-up actually!) forwarded this to me last week, I thought it was amazing. I don’t know a single kid in high school right now, but I’ve been trying to share it everywhere I can.

    I too have heard the “it’s not your fight” response – what?? Of course it’s my fight. It’s everyone’s fight.

    And wasn’t it sad to learn Dan’s mom passed away recently? Hers was one of my favorite voices in The Commitment.

    • ka

      So sad about Dan’s mom, and watching them both talk about her…sniff. She was my favorite part of the book–loved her being The Mad Clipper!

  • I’ve been following this project since it started. (Thank you Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics) Thank you Meg for bringing it to the attention of even more people. If even one teen feels less alone and scared and hopeless, it’s worth having been done.

    • Bahh a volte non vi capisco qestue a mio parere sono immagini in game precalcolate, e della Wii.Anche perch un fottuto 360 fa decisamente di meglio.finalmente qualcosa di veramente decente a livello tecnico. Mario Galaxy e molto curato come titolo, ma altrettanto poco ricco di particolari e nemici su schermo. ma questo e voluto ovviamente come tutti i mario in 3D.Niente di cui sbalordirsi, e quello che avrebbero dovuto fare dall’inizio.Anche se devo ancora papire come ditte come la Capcom che ha sfornato RE4 su Gamecube, non riesca a proporre un titolo devente a distanza di 3 anni sulla Wii, contando che il Kit di sviluppo sostanzialmente e lo stesso.

  • Jessica

    It’s so hard for me to even think that this could possibly happen today.

    When a friend came out to us in college, it was like an “ok, cool! we love you!” and then we continued on with our regularly scheduled conversation because for our circle of friends it was no big deal. It’s sad to realize that reaction probably isn’t the norm.

  • Alyssa

    It bears repearting.

    F*ck. Yeah.

  • Colleen

    Love this post…and it is so appropriate with the death of the Rutgers student yesterday. As an administrator on a college campus, my heart is aching for him and his family. My co-worker is a Rutgers alum and is also gay and this incident has shaken him. I sent him a link to this post with this note attached.

    So I follow this wedding blogger. And I love her because she’s super sane and indie/traditional. And when I feel like I’m being sucked into the WIC (Wedding Industrial Complex), like I was this past weekend, she posts stuff like this and I love her even more. And I want to share her with you, because I have every intention of making sure everyone, including you and the rest of my gay friends, gets a chance to get sucked into the WIC and then saved like this.

    Keep on fighting and being sane, Meg…I’ll be right along side you doing my best to help out.

  • What I love love love about the ‘It Gets Better’ project is that it sends a message of hope to kids who don’t quite fit the mold everywhere, not just the gay ones. I am bisexual, Pagan and awesomely weird. If I had known growing up that I would and could find people who believe and practice what I do, enjoy the same books I do, can quote the movie ‘Clue’ line for line the way I do and will not only accept me for who I am but enjoy every fiber of my being because I am who I am, I think I could have spared myself a lot of pain growing up. Hopefully, this project will reach out and do the same.

  • I heard about this a couple days ago and it made my heart sing. Just watching the video was so uplifting. There is also a great interview with Dan Savage on why he made the youtube channel on the NY Times health blog:

  • Class of 1980

    Ten years ago, I moved to a very small town in the real Bible Belt. I know the meaning of the words “Culture Shock”.

    My family was Southern Baptist, but we lived in the suburbs of a big city. I seem to remember it whispered that a guy in my high school was gay, but no one cared, and that was 1976.

    I later moved to Dallas, Texas in my twenties and stayed until I was 43. Worked with plenty of gays, mostly men, and again most people didn’t care.

    So, I moved to an area of small towns and this is one of those places where everyone is polite to your face. Then you go on the local message boards where people can post without anyone knowing who they are, and the gloves come off.

    This population has voted 75% republican for years. The lack of political balance causes them to think democrats and/or anyone who is liberal in general is actually crazy. If you are independent/libertarianish like me, they don’t know what to do because you don’t fit into their world view at all.

    If I were to show you how many threads/posts they create to bash gays, it would make you cry. They are obsessed with gays for some reason. Not that they’ve ever interacted with very many people who are openly gay. These people usually can count the number of gay people they know on one hand with fingers left over – and that’s part of the problem. It’s so unusual for anyone to come out as gay here, that they are prone to believing wild things about them.

    They don’t think of gays as people who go to work and pay bills like the rest of us. Oh no, they are involved in something called the “gay lifestyle” whatever that is. When they want to insult each other, calling them gay is a favorite slur. Lots of people think they are going to hell. And then there are the nicer people who just believe gays are going against God’s will and will pray for them.

    The paradox is that there is a fad among the high school girls to say they are lesbians, but it’s just a fad. Recently, some students tried to create a gay/lesbian club at the high school to advocate for understanding. There was a lot of outcry about it and I don’t know what the outcome was.

    It’s hard for me to watch the video without wanting to shout “Yeah, your life will get better as soon as you leave the backwater town you were raised in!” Yet, I know that a big part of the problem is the lack of people coming out in these small towns.

    After 10 years of living here, next year I’m moving closer to a super liberal town here in the mountains. Among many reasons for the move, I just couldn’t take living someplace where there is no “life of the mind” and everything that implies.

    My hat’s off to the LGBT community dealing with ignorance. I hope you are blessed with never ending patience. Mine has worn thin.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I understand how jarring it can be. I recently moved to western Virginia from Alabama and was shocked to find myself in a really unfriendly environment. Not only is my new home quite vocally homophobic, people find amusement in mocking any kind of gender non-conformance, bodies that don’t meet a certain standard of beauty and anyone who doesn’t join in the “fun”.

      It’s distressing and scary, many of my coworkers who participate in this kind of language are the parents of teenagers. Half of me wants to fight to open minds and create safe spaces, and the other half just wants to get the hell out of here. Certainly not the way to instigate change. I hope Savage’s project helps kids in my area.

      • Class of 1980

        Isn’t it amazing when you move from a larger place in the Bible Belt to a smaller place in the Bible Belt, and STILL experience culture shock.

        Part of it is really socioeconomic shock. These people are not only unsympathetic to gays, they are often unfeeling towards animals too. Relative isolation and poverty does not seem to foster good things.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          They’re also not big fans of immigrants, non-english speakers, women having rights, most religions or sex ed. The sad thing is it all combines to propogate the cycle of poverty and hate.

          catch me on twitter (@abby_wan_kenobi) or my blog ( anytime 1980 – you’re good people :)

          • Class of 1980

            Oh yeah, they hate all that stuff too.

          • Do you mind if I follow you on twitter as well? I won’t (too stalkerish) without an ok but you just seem intriguingly smart from APW

    • meg

      Oh, you’re not hearing me: I grew up in the real bible belt too. Nothing fake about it, it’s just in a slightly different location.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        I concur.

      • Class of 1980

        I was only referring to location.

        • Erin

          This problem is not solely endemic to the Bible Belt. Kids are bullied and targeted in New York, New Jersey, LA, Chicago, Boston… everywhere. I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to set up blanket stereotypes of our own and then bash them back. It’s the same “Us vs. Them” strategy, used for the same divisive purpose, and will only re-entrench the defenders in hateful mindsets. Besides, some of us come from and live “there”. We’re not all the same.

          That’s another reason this project is so necessary, and the medium will be so effective. YouTube can send this message to the places we can’t go, and the positive messages are coming from everywhere — hopefully, someday, from every desperate teenager’s neighborhood, and even more fervently, I hope it will come from every teenager’s living room and kitchen table, soon.

          • Class of 1980

            Erin, I moved here with zero preconceived ideas or stereotypes. I used the term “Culture Shock” precisely because I was shocked. I haven’t met a newcomer yet who didn’t experience this shock.

            Sigh. You are telling me that the place I live and know intimately does not REALLY have clear tendencies. Calling the prevailing mindset a “stereotype” does not make it less real or make it go away.

            I assumed it went without saying that not every individual in a community falls into the prevailing mindset. I also assumed it went without saying that these problems occur in other areas to some extent. But that does not mean a particular mindset is not more prevalent in certain places.

            If that were true, there would be no reason for anyone to do studies on demographics and come up with measurable results.

          • meg

            I wasn’t setting up stereotypes, I was telling you where I grew up. There were good things about it and bad things about it. It happened to be culturally part of the Bible Belt, and happened to be virulently homophobic. That’s not stereotype or a generalization it’s fact. I can’t talk about what it was like to grow up in other places, I can only talk about what I actually experienced. If you experienced something different, I’d encourage you to share that.

          • Class of 1980

            Since I can’t add a comment to my post below, I’ll do it here. Erin, I wonder why my post was so offensive to you when Meg wrote:

            “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.”

            Erin, is it more okay for Meg to characterize her town because it’s in California? Whereas I’m talking about a Southern town, so therefore I get slammed with stereotyping?

          • Class of 1980

            Oops. My followup did show up below.

          • Erin

            Hmmm. When I mentioned stereotypes I was more referring to the lumping together of all the things we don’t like and assigning them to a particular group of people who we may or may not like. And yes, it’s a very loaded word. Offended? I’m not, really. But it looks like I offended others, so I’m sorry. 1980, I can’t, and shouldn’t try, to speak to your particular experience. Or Meg’s. In fact, I didn’t really intend my comment to be applied to what Meg wrote at all. So no, it wasn’t just that you live in a southern town, 1980. I guess my comment went in the wrong order in the thread.

            What I was trying to add to the discussion comes from the fact that my family, my new in-laws, and people who live in the area where I grew up, believe a lot of the things that were listed above. Believe them wrongly, yes. But, hey, I don’t, and it’s a lot harder for them to hear me when I say the same things as the people on “the other side”, especially when they feel alienated from the conversation. Especially when they’re convinced “the other side” doesn’t invite them to the conversation in the first place. They’re more likely to turn their backs and engage in name-calling, since that’s what it sounds like to them.

            Dan’s project is something that might get through to them. It’s real people, with real voices explaining the effects of real people’s actions. “It Gets Better” puts faces — many more than they would expect — on the consequences of their actions. Does that make sense?

    • Class of 1980


      I can’t reply to below because there is no “Reply” button down there. So I’ll reply here.

      I understand what you mean by the approach of “Us vs. Them” and I try not to do that.

      But here’s the frustrating thing that I’ve witnessed — on the local message boards, when someone makes an ugly statement about gays that is based in lies, no matter how diplomatic the attempt to counter it with logic or even scientific facts, usually the response is name calling and the ugliest of graphic insults. Or innuendo that the person responding must be gay themselves or else they wouldn’t be defending gays.

      The tone of my original post reflects a person (me) who is just very weary. I thought about putting up a link so you could read the stuff for yourself, but don’t want to let everyone know the exact town I live in for privacy reasons.

      As far as changing minds, all you can do is politely state the facts. The rest of it is on the people who are full of hate. No one can change their minds except themselves.

      For some perspective, this is a place where the editor wrote an editorial on the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. The mission of the Collider is to slam particles together in attempt to replicate the conditions of the Big Bang, and thus shed light on how our universe began.

      Well, the editor wrote that such a project was completely silly because the Bible tells us everything we need to know. But before he reached that conclusion, he treated the readers to a long thought process about all the “silly” things the scientists were looking for. He portrayed the scientists as incredibly stupid people asking dumb questions.

      That sort of thing is standard here and gets little opposition. It isn’t just ignorance; it’s arrogant ignorance.

      And I know that there are all sorts of cultural and educational reasons this exists. But that doesn’t make it any easier. I have come to the conclusion that change will have to come from within. Besides, they resent newcomers, so anything newcomers think is automatically suspect. Perhaps some of their own will evolve and have some influence.

  • Yes!!! I saw this yesterday and was doing some fist pumps for it! I didn’t realize it was Savage behind it though. So awesome.

  • KD

    On a slightly related but separate note,

    Chicago APWers –
    Dan Savage will be speaking at the chicago humanities festival in a bit.

  • Sarah

    I watched a handful of the other videos posted to the you tube channel for the project, and I think having so many different types of people saying “IT GETS BETTER” is a very powerful message.

    However, I’m also completely saddened by the obvious pain that so many of them went through, and want to go beyond reassuring teens that it gets better to making it better for them NOW. I’m off to ponder how I can get involved in local schools to promote acceptance of others …

  • This is so great. Dan Savage is one of my favorite people, and this is such a brilliant idea. I wish this was around when I was in high school, to share with my friends who were bullied and closeted. I think high school sucks for 98% of the population – gay and straight alike – and after it’s over… everything is SO much better. It’s not perfect, there are still ups and downs, but nothing has ever sucked as much as high school for me. Whenever I hear about a teen who commits suicide for any reason, it just breaks my heart… I just want to hug these kids and tell them to just hang on, stick it out. I’m so glad Dan Savage is out there sharing his story, and trying to get this message out to all these kids. And thank you, Meg, for being such an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community. It’s one of the reasons I love this blog so much.

  • Probably not the real intention of the video, but the authenticity of their love resonated to me and my (hetero) relationship. It made me really excited to have a family one day! I hope I can be that kind of parent to my kid(s) and that my kids friends are lucky enough to have parents like that so they too are sheltered from senseless, bigoted suffering.

  • I’m a long time reader, but never had the gumption to actually comment until today. Thanks for sharing Dan’s project. I just wish it would have been around for my sister, who would have turned 30 this month had she not taken her life her senior year of high school.

    I teach high school now, and while I’d like to say things have gotten better for LGBTQ kids then they were when we were in school, the truth is many regards they haven’t. (As I’m witnessing firsthand while trying to organizing a campus-wide “You are Loved” chalk campaign- High school is tough for everyone, but these kids especially need some love.

    Thanks for helping fight the good fight. And echoing the comments above, F*ck yeah.

  • Kamilah

    This is so moving. As a member of a racial minority group, I have spent years correcting/educating people on race matters. Years ago I came to realize that it’s not just the job of the opressed but also, and sometimes more importantly, the job of enlightened members of a majority group to take bigots to task for their backward thinking and actions. So as a straight person (and as someone who loves the gay people in her life), seeing this video has challenged me to continue make these issues my business. Thanks for posting, Meg.

  • It makes me so sad that people have to deal with that crap. Dating in high school is hard enough without this kind of bullying.

    Kudos to Dan, and you Meg.

  • Erica

    As I write this, I’m pretty much crying buckets. Thank-you for one of your best posts yet, Meg (and you’ve certainly written some great ones!). The title alone–so simple, and so right–for Dan Savage’s project is one of the most moving things I’ve come across in ages. I grew up in a fairly conservative milieu, but I live in Canada, and now, as a straight woman in a very liberal social environment, I almost never come accross homophobia, and it’s easy for me to forget sometimes how much work still needs to be done. In fact, “it gets better” is a message I would love to send not only to gay teens, but to so many teens who made to feel alone and terrorized, for whatever bullshit reason. It is so important to be reminded that we all need to contribute to making sure that it really does get better, for more people, and sooner.

  • Christy A.

    This post make me sad, it made me remember, but mostly it made me grateful. Thanks for writing it, and for beign brave enough to be a little more personal. :)

  • Lindsey M

    Thank you for this, what a perfect way to start my morning. I hope that one day we can get to a place where this is everyone’s fight, and that it would be shocking to NOT fight for marriage equality.

  • I grew up in a small farming community in Southern Arizona. My favorite teacher was gay, and closeted until she left my high school, and several of my friends were also. Nobody understood. I can remember my mom — a very liberal, accepting loving woman who was in the Peace Corps and adopted one of my brothers at a time when that just wasn’t being done — commenting, “they’re so young, how can they know?” I remember looking at her kind of funny, and saying, “But I’m the same age and I know I like boys. How is it any different?”

    I loved watching this video. It made me cry, in such a good way. We have come so far in the past 3 decades, but we have so far to go still.

    This is a fight against bigotry and hatred. It should be everyone’s fight.

  • Suzanna

    YES. Gonna go share this with others.

  • Wow, Meg (and Dan), I was not expecting to cry this morning, but here we are. I think you summed up perfectly why many straight people support gay rights – one, because there are people we love who deserve to be treated just like everyone else, and two, because it means a better, happier future for everyone. Love.

  • Liz

    It really does get better, so much better. I grew up in a pretty open, liberal, college town but was homeschooled so my friends were conservative christian and since my dad was pastor they assumed I was the same. Difference was my father was a not so conservative kind of pastor making hell the least of my worries. My “friends” were pretty brutal when I came out in middle school and I soon after ditched them. A few months ago I got an e-mail via facebook from one of my really good middle school friends who had been particularly brutal. He apologized and meant it. It has to have been one of the most amazing moments. He now is a great propionate of gay rights. I’m not sure if he is gay himself but either way it has been wonderful to see the transition and to know that while he has held onto his christian beliefs he has realized that it is not an either or situation.

    Thanks Meg for speaking out and being an advocate on a daily basis.

    • meg

      Thanks for bringing that up. I think the person who said he wouldn’t let a gay person near his kids has since changed his mind (on a lot of things). It’s tough to work out in your head – on the one hand, everyone is a little dumb at 16, and when you’ve been taught to hate, it’s hard to know anything else. But on the other hand, part of my heart has a hard time totally softening, because, well, we were old enough to know better, and there was a lot of pain and suicide attempts caused.

      But my best self thinks, they changed (at least a little) and that’s ultimately what matters.

      • Pamela

        I was one of those people who were taught to hate, unfortunately. Our pastor even wrote a particularly vitriolic gay-bashing book that said gay people could be “healed” by prayer and by marrying opposite-sex partners and how AIDS was god’s curse, etc etc. And of course, being homeschooled, I had to read it and write a book report on it. Also, because I was sheltered, I didn’t know any openly gay people. All I knew was what people told me – the ridiculous stereotypes and, of course, the “evil gay agenda” that was blamed for everything from taking prayer out of school to short hemlines on little girls (yeah, makes no sense to me either).

        Once I was able to get out in the world and meet some gay people, all that hatred fell like a house of cards. Now, I feel really badly about believing the garbage I was taught. I can’t change the past, but I do what I can to fix the future.

        • meg

          Just to clarify, the part that I still struggle with is not that people I grew up with were taught to hate gay people. They were actually taught a lot of really difficult things that they had to struggle with, and I have lots of empathy for that. I also have ENORMOUS respect for people who started where you did, and changed their minds. Do you know how hard that is? That’s super hard. So many people fall back on the excuse, “Well, it’s not hate, it’s what I was taught.” Which is not right, but so easy to do.

          What’s hard for me to come to terms with is the hateful things that they said to someone who was out and gay and suicidal (none of these things were secret). That’s where it’s hard. Because we’re all a little dumb at 16, but parts of me find THAT totally inexcusable. I found it inexcusable then, and I have a hard time wrapping my heart around it now. So. Yes. No grand conclusion here… no conclusion at all…

        • Sarah

          That is great to hear, Pamela, and thank for the courage to post it.
          I do think that a lot of anti-gay hatred comes from people who simply have never known a gay person, never internalized the fact that each person is as real and complex as the next, and being gay is just one attribute we could be born with.
          When my parents first told me what “gay” meant, I said, “ew.” But I was 8. And then they said, “No, it’s not a bad thing. Dan & Joseph are gay.” And because I knew Dan & Joseph to be interesting, fun, loving friends of my parents, I decided it wasn’t gross. This is why people need to get out of small towns and high schools, and learn about things outside their comfort zones. And why we need to keep talking about gay rights, and not put up with homophobia.
          I’m NOT saying there’s any excuse for cruelty. And I watched some beautiful people be brutalized by high school (not as bad as Meg, I think). But it does get better.
          And it’s heartening to hear that maybe the bullies get better, too.

          • Liz

            You are exactly right Sarah, one of the best ways to overcome homophobia is to make a personal connection. To put a face or personality to the label. It is one of the reason why including GLBTQ families and individuals in public school curriculum is so important. By including “non-traditional” families it is presenting an opportunity for kids to see it as a normal and okay thing. It is no longer just a word that is thrown around haphazardly when referring to something stupid or ridiculous. It is validating homosexuality, people are afraid that if homosexuality is validated and normalized that more people with become gay. When in reality, more people will be comfortable to come out and most importantly, more gay teenagers will grow up to become gay adults because they won’t feel so alienated.

          • Pamela

            I think the *only* thing my parents did right in all of the hate that I was taught, is that they also taught me not to be mean to anyone or to bully them, and those were lessons I took to heart as well. It was that old “hate the sin, not the sinner” thing. So I wasn’t mean to anyone (at least that I recall). But yeah, when I was in the middle of all that hatred, it was impossible for me to see the other side, and to see gay people as just people. Of course, I was also a kid. Once the lightbulb clicked, though, I couldn’t go back to that place of hatred and intolerance.

            It’s a weird thing when people teach the kind of hatred I was exposed to – because they teach such violence against people (stuff like talking about Sodom and Gomorrah, stoning, etc) yet they will completely distance themselves from anyone or anything that takes those teachings and runs with them. Like with this horrible Rutgers situation – I read a bunch of comments on another blog from some self-described Christians, saying that the teachings of their church are not in any way responsible for the situation that poor boy found himself in. They can’t see that spewing the hatred that they do contributes to a culture of hatred, and ultimately, to suicide and violence against gay people.

            And yeah, gay folks were *completely* demonized in the insulated world of my childhood. Once I started college and met gay people (or people who may have been gay, but weren’t out yet, or whatever), I realized that they went to class, took exams, had crushes, etc just like I did. That was a turning point for me. I think my parents are coming around, too. My cousin recently came out, and since then, my folks haven’t said a word about the “evils” of homosexuality. When my cousin brought her girlfriend around to meet the family, my mom gave said girlfriend a hug – something I never thought I’d see.

            Anyway, I’m getting rambly. But this post has inspired me to add “work harder for gay rights (and not just by voting)” to my life list :)

          • Finalmente proprio FPS come qustei ci aspettavamo su wii!!! Se pur l’harware non sia eccelso un motore grafico creato utilizzando le ultimissime tecnologie “salva prestazioni” cio che dettaglia solo il pezzo di livello visualizzato e solo le superfici degli oggetti che realmente si vedono lasciando quelle nascoste semplici e senza dettaglio si riesce ad avere una grafica simile alle console rivali nextgen! Cosi sarebb perfetta, speriamo che il gioco rimani fluido per tutto il tempo senza fastidiosi cali di framerate come avviene in red steel Apparte la grafica mi aspetto un gioco divertente e coinvolgente con ottimi effetti sonori, momenti di suspance e ottimo Sfruttamento dei sensori del wiimote, in fondo dovrebbe esser stato creato anche per gli fps

  • Ana

    I really needed this today. I cannot stop thinking about Tyler Clementi. Although I don’t know then personally, the students who allegedly drove him to despair by broadcasting the video are from my hometown. What boggles my mind is that I’ve always thought of it as a diverse, tolerant, progessive community.. Who knows what thyer were thinking, or why they were so thoughtless, or why classmates felt compelled to spur the invasion instead of sticking up for and reaching out to Tyler, but it just makes me realize that everywhere needs to be better. It makes me so angry that people can feel so alone. Simply unacceptable.

    • Rachel

      I am a Rutgers alumni and this story is absolutely sickening. I am so sad thinking about this poor young soul and the life he missed because of the cruelty. This breaks my heart. I really do not have the words.

      Thank you so much for an amazing post though and that video was beautiful.

      • I’m a Jersey girl &, in general, I thought it was a tolerant place. Now I can see it was foolish of me. You’re right: EVERYWHERE needs to be better!

    • Emily S

      Tyler Clementi was from my hometown, and though I didn’t know him, I went to high school with his older brothers.
      The situation’s breaking my heart. And MAD about the spate of gay teen suicides prompted by bullying. Something has to change. The “It Gets Better” campaign is AWESOME, and its existence is certainly uplifting/heartening etc. for LGBTQ allies like myself, but that’s beside the point–what I hope most is that it reaches kids who are in pain. I wish Tyler had found some way to see past the immediate pain to a better future.
      Thanks for writing about this, Meg.

  • KristieB

    Like the poster, I had a close friend in high school who came out. He got attacked by strangers walking one night. He tried to commit suicide. He got teased and abused. After high school, he found a gay-straight alliance and drag. He’s OK. Actually, he’s better than OK.

    I volunteer with Camp fYrefly in Canada. The kids that come to our camp have been raped, beat up, sexually/ physically and emotionally abused, harassed, shot by b-b guns, attempted suicide, etc just for being queer (gay/ trans-gendered, etc). That said, those kids are the funniest, most caring, beautiful, brilliant, talented, amazing, inclusive kids that I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with. At camp, we had something called “happy boxes” that sat in our common area. Throughout camp, people would leave notes of encouragement in each others boxes to read when we got home and things weren’t as easy. I kept my happy box. It has been 2 months since camp and I sit down on a regular basis to read my notes. To remember that I’m awesome and these kids will be OK. Some of the kids are my fb friends and they’ve said things like “I had a bad day at school yesterday and then fought with my dad. I sat in my room after and read my happy box. Things will get better.” Ya. They will.

    The camp organizers sent our a request for people involved in the camp to film their own “It Gets Better” video. The kids need to hear it. They need to know that outside of their crap town/ school/ home that there are people who care. People who will advocate for them. People who will cry for them. People who will cheer them on.

    It is our fight. When any person is struggling or being abused – it is all of our fight. No one should grow up like that. Ever.

  • Anna Thaler

    Amazing, just as other commenters have said. I’ve “exactly”-ed all the way down this list.

    I grew up in a conservative town in Oregon, but was lucky enough to go to a liberal private high school. Still my friends struggled with feeling secure about coming out and dealt with homophobia from other students. We worked together to form a gay-straight alliance that (I hope) made things better.

    I’m now writing my thesis (to be done in December) about bullying. I’ve decided to focus in on the teachers-to-be at my university, and whether their experiences with bullying will affect how they deal with it in their own classrooms. I know that my experiences and my friends were on my mind all the time during the three years I taught high school. Here’s hoping other pre-service teachers can help make it better for their students. I’ll let you know the results of my research in December!


  • Olivia

    thank you for sharing–i will be proud to share this project with others!

  • Michelle

    I also grew up in a conservative small town where my little brother and his friends still use “that’s so gay” as a joke when they think something’s dumb. I can’t think of anyone coming out in my high school, ever. It only happened after they moved away.

    My boyfriend of three years in high school and college never came out to me or anyone else (as far as I know) until he was a sophomore in college. He still got teased for being too feminine because he was in music and theatre.

    My current husband was teased mercilessly in his white suburban middle and high schools because he’s Korean.

    I can’t imagine what both of them went through and how hard it was some days to imagine their life without bullies.

  • Meg, I. love. you. And Dan… that is all…

  • Ashley

    When I read Dan Savage’s column last week, I thought I got all my crying out. Then I watched his video over the weekend and cried some more. And now I’m crying again!

    It always seems strange to me that there wasn’t more bullying at my Texas high school. I knew lots of out-and-proud and not-quite-out-but-it-was-only-a-matter-of-time people (including myself in the latter category), and I feel so blessed that it was, for the most part, a non-issue. Of course, that does make it much harder to come up with things to say in the “overcoming adversity” section of my It Gets Better video.

    Thanks for posting this here and spreading the word for such a great and simple project! <3

  • Terrae

    I love Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project”! Thank you for writing this and making more people aware of the cruelties that these teenagers are facing and what we can do to help make things easier for them.

  • april

    And this is why I *heart* APW. Right on, Meg… And Dan.

    Whew – very stirring posts this week. I’ve cried at my desk at work like 3x this week!

  • kc

    Thank you, Meg, for being such a positive, inspiring voice. Yours is the first post I read in the morning, so that I can ponder it over my coffee when the office is still quiet.

  • Thank you for sharing, Meg! I know this was personal territory for you, but it’s so so important for this message to spread and flourish!!

  • Leona

    My hometown is a small, rural town in the Bible belt and I really only knew a couple people to be openly gay in high school. Surprisingly, they weren’t bullied or pranked to death, though. Of course the crueler kids joked about them but for the most part, they were left alone.
    Really, my anger stems from my own family. A close friend of ours that I grew up with came out after going to college. His mom came to my mom’s office, just trying to absorb everything and said that she accepted it and secretly knew it all along. My mom used that old line, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” But then his mom asked if she thought it would send her son to hell and my mom told her she believed it would. I couldn’t believe it when she told me about their conversation. I don’t believe that anyone knows how God will judge a person, much less what he would deem hell-worthy, and it makes me indescribably angry–just downright belligerent– when people speak for him in that way. I secretly went back and told my friend that he was one of the best people I knew and was loved by God. I told him he didn’t have to pretend for anyone, much less the one who made him.
    I just don’t see how people can think that God would be proud for alienating others from him. Uggh, I just wish people would keep God’s name out of one fear/hate crime–or better yet, all of them.

    • Mattingly

      This is SOOOO true. I consider myself a very conservative Christian, and by that I mean I love the ancient Church and it’s teachings and it’s interpretations of the Bible. And one thing they both make ABUNDANTLY clear is that an individuals salvation is unknowable. We cannot know the fate of anyone, ever. Not even for ourselves since we have free will and can always choose later to turn away. Thus we are all on an equal footing, all sinners before a just and loving God. So we should love every one, and pray for everyone’s salvation WITHOUT JUDGING!! Hate and judgement are always sins, and do no good at all.

      This comment hits home even more since I have a close friend who came out to me to ask for advice since she was afraid of her father/family. The saddest part is that knowing her family as I do I’m sure they would not be angry or hate her, but she’s been so scared by other reactions she’s seen from Christians that’s she’s poured all that into her own family relationships even when it’s not necessary. It’s tragic.

  • I heard about this through Twitter a few days ago, and watching Terry and Dan’s video was so sweet and beautiful and uplifting. And reading this post is seriously making me all misty-eyed at work. I was lucky enough to be raised in a wealthy, liberal, New England town where you didn’t bat an eye at the gay kids, and where the jocks joined up for the annual school musical (we had a couple football players who were great dancers in Guys and Dolls).

    But I did have that cross-legged you’re-not-going-to-hell conversation with a friend in college; she was raised in that Bible Belt type of town, and she was coming to grips with her feelings for another girl. I remember when she first came to me, absolutely PETRIFIED because of her feelings, and her family, and what the hell happened next, and I was lucky enough to be that person for her. She started dating the girl in question the next year, and right now they’ve been together for seven years, and have been married for four (hell yeah, Massachusetts). And they are happy and beautiful and I feel proud to have helped them find each other.

    Fight for your sixteen-year-old self. Fight for a better future and for less hatred in the world. Fight for an equal and just society, where it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Fight for a world where the question of “Hell” isn’t about your sexuality, but about your heart, and how much love you can share with the world. Fight for families of all styles and shapes and sizes the world over, for Dan and Terry, for hope and smiles and love, love, love.

    At least, that’s why I fight.

  • Robin

    No-link Robin here :) (I’m really going to send you my grad post. Seriously.)

    More importantly, thank you so much for sharing this with everyone. APW’s version of everyone is infinitely larger than my own– and this should reach as many as folks as possible.

    Thanks, too, Meg for sharing something so personal, which I’m sure is not without risk or difficulty. I (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) am grateful your candor, your advocacy, and your call to arms. F*ck yeah, indeed!!

  • Thank you for sharing this story and this video.

  • F*ck yeah, Meg! And for all the people who say that marriage equality isn’t or shouldn’t be the fight of heterosexual people, I say this – I am part of a racial minority that was heavily discriminated against in the US for a great day of this nation’s history. And I recognize that it’s not enough for just the minority (of any kind, not just racial minorities) to speak up, because the power majority won’t hear it as anything other than agitating by “those people.” It take people working from *within* as well to effect the kind of change that reverses discriminatory laws and allows minorities equal access to their rights. In short, marriage equality is my fight. Taking down discriminatory immigration practices is my fight. Anti-bullying is my fight. Because long ago people in the majority fought for me and my family to have the rights we enjoy today.

    I love this quote attributed to Martin Niemoller regarding why we all have a responsibility to one another to speak up against injustice:

    They came first for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.

    • “deal” not “day”

    • ElfPuddle

      I have had this on a poster up in my classroom for about ever. F*ck yeah.

  • Thanks for the wonderful post, Meg! I too grew up in a Bible-belt-ish small town (in WA) and saw quite a few kids get harrassed because they were or were “supposedly” gay. One of them is now out and living there with his husband and told me the other day that he still gets beat up in the night by cowboys who think they can beat the gay out of him. It’s a sad, sad world out there but it can and it WILL get better! And I agree with the previous posters–it is the responsibility of us all to make sure it does, to stick up for the weaker and fight for what’s right. What happened at Rutgers is sad, tragic and absolutely heart breaking, and I hope that this story will wake up a few people and remind them to be accountable for their words and actions.

  • Class of 1980

    As much as I hate to admit it, I watch “The Real Housewives of DC” and they recently gathered to hear about the fight for gay marriage from a guy in politics (not sure of his title).

    They all sat there with their openly gay friend and one lady said she had never thought much about it because it didn’t affect her. And another couple said that in their religion marriage was between a man and a woman, and asked why couldn’t they just have civil partnerships instead.

    The expressions running across their gay friend’s face was priceless.

    The political person told the couple, who was black, that the “separate but equal” thing didn’t work for civil rights and this was no different. That argument did make more of a dent and caused them to reconsider, but they said they needed time to figure it out.

  • Thank you so much for this. I think three of my high school boyfriends came out, and at least 4 of my friends as well. Some of them before graduation, some of them later. But that’s not even why I support gay rights. I just can’t understand how anyone can hate someone else for something so personal. I don’t understand racism, sexism, or bigotry at all. I’m just not wired that way and I think it’s an illness that anyone would be wired that way and have to unlearn the behavior of bigotry. I’m glad that many people do unlearn it to eventually become accepting, but I just think it’s awful in the first place and don’t know how anyone couldn’t see that. And to go so far as to interpret scripture to support hateful behavior, that just makes me sick.
    I’m so so glad that Dan and Terry have decided to start this!

  • Clare

    One of my friends went to a highschool in our town that’s fairly well reknowned for being a safe place for gay and/ or ‘different’ teens (it’s in an alternative neighbourhood, and ran a strong drama and dance program). I think offhand it was the first school set up some kind of support network for gay teens, around the time I was in highschool. I was talking to a very, very camp friend who went there about how great it must have been for him to be at that school, with a support program and everything, and I was just so shocked and heartbroken when he replied “I guess it was okay… they set up that program after someone held a knife to my throat in the hallway one day…”

    I have not forgotten that, ever.

  • Wow. Amazing! I love this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • ElfPuddle

    I can’t read the comments right now, as I’m too teary. This will need to be done in baby steps.

    I’m a teacher. (Well, unemployed at the moment, but you are who you are no matter the circumstances.)
    I taught for nearly a decade at a school with an enormously high suicide rate, rape/abuse rate, alcohol/drugs rate, gang rate, and dropout rate. It’s in the middle of the upper plains. It’s a tiny rural school whose largest graduating class was under 50.
    It’s a school where I lost several students to suicide. All of them were bullied. All of them, straight and not, were called gay.
    My students who survived that hell are close to my heart, and inspire me. My zero-tolerance for hate speech may be the thing that led to my being the unemployed teacher instead of the less-able teachers in my department last year.

    So, yeah. I’ll post the link. And I’ll come back and read what you’ve all said. I can’t now, because I’m thinking of my lost ones, but thank you for bringing them back, even if I miss them. Because I need to be reminded why I miss them…and why they aren’t here anymore.

  • Lydia S

    Dan Savage is my hero! Thanks for sharing this, Meg. As someone who grew up in a VERY small-minded town in the Central Valley of California, I too found that being a theater kid made life just unbelievably better. I was (and still am) friends with three gay men who I went to high school with. Two did not come out until well after high school, and the one who came out before was just too fabulous to stay in! All three got harassed and bullied, but my friend D was such a glittering, gorgeous, flamboyant queen that he got more than his fair share. Us theater kids stick together, though, and rather than face the angry mob on a daily basis (all those pitchforks and torches are SO tiresome) we spent lunches and free periods in the drama building, loitering in the greenroom and sitting on the edge of the stage while our tech-savvy pals played CDs from the control booth. I think, in the end, that that’s how those guys made it through. They had that close-knit group of friends and a whole theater to hang out in. It was like church or a private club. Walking through the back entrance and throwing our stuff onto the battered old sofas and makeup tables, we were removed from all the horrible high-school bullying that we had to put up with out in the halls. In there, it was safe and we all loved each other so much that all that BS just ceased to matter. We cracked stupid inside jokes and D borrowed my lip gloss and showed me how to wing my eyeliner like Audrey Hepburn, our mutual idol. I don’t know what life would have been like without that relief and escape but thankfully I never had to find out.
    My heart breaks for the kids who don’t find that sanctuary that D and our other LGBTQ friends found in Drama Club, but I can say with certainty that Dan’s project is part of the solution.

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  • AussieAndy

    I’m a little bit in love with these guys. Like I just want to give them a hug and tell them how fantastic I think what they’re doing is. Because high school was tough for me – and I’m white, straight, middle-class… basically about as mainstream as it is possible to be. And nothing really terrible (compared to what some kids go through) happened to me. But there were lots of days where I thought it wouldn’t get better. And that whatever was on the other side wasn’t worth going through this for. So if I was at that point as regularly as I was, it makes me want to cry for all those kids who get mentally and physically abused just for being themselves.

    Because it does get better, a whole lot better – awesome project, awesome idea. I’m sending this to my soon-to-be-highschool teacher boyfriend, maybe we can get it some traction in Australian schools. HUGS!!!!!! xoxox

  • Amen.

  • Thanks for posting this Meg. I wasn’t aware of this and will share with as many others as possible. It’s such an important message.

  • Alexandra

    I’m so glad that you are an advocate. I’m so sorry that your friends had such a tough time in HS.

    Thank you for sharing this. Marriage equality, and LGBTQI rights, are so very important to me.

  • Heather L

    As a Rutgers alum, I’m absolutely shocked at the type of bullying that was going on there.

    Maybe it’s because I was a Douglass student, meaning gender studies were part of my required courses. Maybe it’s because my fiance lived in Demarest dorm his first two years before moving off campus, where being gay or otherwise queer (furry, transgender, etc) is relatively normal. As in, plain old vanilla heterosexuality is edging toward the minority. But I never saw anything like this happening while I was studying there. Though, one of my fiance’s transgender friends had to leave her parents’ after college and go to a shelter due to abuse at home…disgusting. Her dad basically held her prisoner.

    Also high school kinda does suck for everyone. I endured a good deal of harassment (attempts at inappropriate touching by other girls) even though I’m not gay.

  • I don’t think I really realized how strongly I felt about this issue until I became a teacher. I was always for equal rights through high school and college. I never really had LGBTQ friends until college, and I grew up in Arkansas amongst the “they’re all going to hell” noise. But I guess when I transitioned into being a teacher and actually saw some of the hell on earth that these kids go through I got angry. Like, mama bear angry, as my fiance calls it. I couldn’t BELIEVE that my administrators told me that if a girl is going to make it obvious that she’s bisexual then she doesn’t have any right to complain when someone dumps a milk carton full of urine on her. WHAT?! It just always seemed like common sense to me– if you get urine poured on you in the cafeteria, that’s bullying. Period. Exclamation point! I mean, I was bullied in high school just for being an art kid, but nothing like that. Anyway I was a little surprised when I found myself the designated classroom where the “different” kids go because it was just something that came gradually and naturally to me. And I have been telling my students for years that yes, when you get out of this place your life can be full and wonderful, and yes I think that’s what some of them need to hear more than anything.

    Part of my frustration with teaching public school is getting through to administrators that this is a problem. Not just “high school stuff” that everyone had to put up with (my principal was a football player so maybe that’s stereotyping but I kind of doubt that he was bullied). And I think the comments that this doesn’t just happen to LGBTQ students is so important– once you get the label, even if you’re straight, you get all the bullying whatever the truth about your sexuality is. I would love for there to be more resources for teachers about what we can do in this system other than badger our administrations, talk to the kids involved, and make sure it doesn’t happen in our classrooms. Sometimes I just feel absolutely helpless.

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