Message to Gay Teens: It Gets Better September 24, 2010

Message to Gay Teens: It Gets Better

To any GLBT teenager who thinks life sucks right now because your friends make fun of your sexuality, because your parents have made homelife a living hell, because you think you’re alone… Dan Savage and a whole legion of people who have been exactly where you are right now have a message for you:

It gets better.

Even as an atheist, I never had to deal with the feeling of ostracism because of my identity in high school. I can’t claim to fully understand what GLBT students are going through. But I do have plenty of experience dealing with Christians (and others) who try to make your life miserable and who continue to deny you equal rights. (Hi, Illinois Family Institute!)

But I did have to move away from my friends at a really important time in my life, right as I was about to enter high school, and I thought my life was over. My thoughts ranged from loneliness at best to depression at worst.

It got better within a couple months.

I learned not to dwell on the bad ever since then. No matter how bad it has been, it has always gotten better. And until you go through that cycle a few times in your life, it’s hard as hell to believe that.

It’s not surprising that a gay teenager, Billy Lucas, committed suicide after being “taunted by his classmates.” Dan writes:

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.

I love this project, and I hope others contribute to it. How important can it be? The New York Times asked Dan:

Have you heard from any teenagers yet since posting the first video this week?

I’ve heard from bunches. I’ve gotten 3,000 e-mails in the first 24 hours. The ones that are really moving are the ones from straight kids who are telling me that they are e-mailing the link to their picked-on gay classmates and friends who need to see it.

If any gay teens are suicidal for whatever reason, there is a free hotline you can call. Don’t go through these things alone. Talk (or listen) to someone who’s been there before.

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  • Will

    I got very lucky. I grew up in a rural town in South Carolina (so small we only had one stop light). I was out in high school and was never picked on or bullied in any way. My family accepted me and that was that. My story defied all statistics. My heart goes out to these kids.

  • Hitch

    Really good stuff. Dan Savage is doing great work for the gay community.

  • I watched this video the other day and absolutely love it. Stuff like this is why organizations like the Gay-Straight Alliance Network are so important. Knowing that you have the support of your peers (regardless of orientation) is incredibly important.

    I’m so thankful for this project.

  • Beijingrrl

    This is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. When I saw it Wednesday morning, I wanted to dance around the room shouting, “Yes, yes, yes!”

    And while I think GLBT kids probably have it worse than most, I think “It gets better” is a message we can share with all of the kids in our lives.

    I wasn’t bullied in school, mostly because I had too much self-confidence. But I remember being so depressed by secondary school culture and counting the days until college. I was fortunate to realize that things would get better once I made it through high school, but most kids think that’s the way it will always be. And if I’d believed that, I might not be here today. I knew it logically, but it still would have made a big difference to me if someone had taken the time to say, “It gets better” and tell me their story.

  • Claudia

    I think its a great idea, and am really glad Dan did it. I do however think it would be nice if someone equally high profile could start a more general “it gets better” page for people of all sexualities. It’s awesome that Dan has arranged for GLBT adults to be able to speak to GLBT youth who often have no direct access to them. However lots of kids get bullied. As a straight former victim of bullying I would dearly love to tell all kids, especially awkward nerdy girls, that it gets better, that High School is over in a flash, and you can make a great life for yourself.

  • ash

    Just FYI, Billy Lucas never appeared to have claimed for himself that he was gay. He was taunted and bullied to death because other people applied the label, he is now being lauded because other people are applying the label, but at 15, it’s entirely possible he hadn’t even decided where his sexual interest lay.

    Bullying is wrong, no matter why the reason. Bullying because of a perceived difference is wrong, whether that perception is correct or not. Labelling people posthumously, when there is no evidence either way, is not right either, no matter how good the intentions.

  • Joan

    Okay, this project is a great idea and all, but something about the way it’s discussed is infuriating.

    This talk about “gay” and “LGBT” as if they meant the same thing. LGBT isn’t a fancy synonym for gay. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. Don’t say you’re advocating for the rights of LGBT people if you only acknowledge the existence of cisgender L and G (and maybe B) people.

    I’m a lesbian. I’m also transgender. Take a guess which one keeps me up at night, and which one is more likely to get me killed (either at my own hand or at someone else’s). And I’m really sick of hearing straight cis people talk about queer people as if “sexuality” or “sexual orientation” is the only thing that distinguishes us, and as if homophobia is the only prejudice that targets us.

  • muggle

    My comment would be an echo of Claudia’s. Great project, great video (and I’m no fan of Dan Savage at all) but what about other kids getting picked on and ostracized? Do we not care about them too?

    I was all set to go over there and put on my own when I realized it was only for gay youths. I’m glad they’re doing it for the kids they will help but I don’t think it should be so exclusive or limited in content.

    I was an extremely suicidal teen. I have a FB friend who I still haven’t worked up the nerve to let know he probably saved my life in high school because so many times I picked up the phone and called him instead of attempting suicide. I talked to him about everything but and it still worked because it always made me feel better so this is definitely a good thing but should be opened up to teen suicide for any reason. I always said that if I ever ran into him again, I’d tell him but there he was on FB living a happy life with a wife and two kids and, though he was happy to hear from me and friend me, there was no need to lay such a heavy trip on him as that.

    I got picked on for being a nerd, for being too skinny, for being poor, for being buck-toothed. And probably, though they didn’t find the words for it, just because kids in regular families found my fundie nutjob mother “out there” on top of having to deal with her and she was scary to deal with.

    Things got better the instant I graduated high school, got the hell out of my mother’s house and stopped going to church. I instantly stopped being suicidal as soon as I got away from those three things. This doesn’t apply just to kids who are dealing with sexuality issues but to anyone who is ostracized for any reason. It does get better.

  • catherine

    I love this project so much, and I’m really happy that I am seeing it reposted at so many of the blogs I read.

    I’m gay and I survived a suicide attempt when I was 21 (I’m 30 now). I wish at that time that I had someone to let me know that things do get so much better.

  • Grimalkin

    I truly love this campaign.

    I’m not gay, but I was definitely “different” and I went through hell in school. I thought about killing myself a lot and even “practised” by hurting myself.

    But it does get better. I wish someone had just sat me down at told me that then, but all well-meaning adults could do was prescribe me depression medication and pack me off to therapy, every so often giving a slap on the wrist to a kid who had, once again, beaten me black and blue.

    Everything changed on graduation day. It was like I was completely free! It took some time to get used to, and I still played the victim during my first week or so in University, but the atmosphere was just so different. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who were as nerdy as me, people with same pressures and the same interests. I could actually make friends!

    It does get better. It really really does.

  • Claudia


    Being a frequent reader of slog, I’ve participated in seemingly endless conversations about the bloody acronym. Almost every single letter has members that think that they either don’t belong with the rest, or that some other letter should be booted, or that they are simply not understood.

    Many of these complaints are legitimate. There is a level of suffering many transgendered suffer, especially growing up undiagnosed and totally insulated from information, that is a whole different ballgame from most queer youth, leaving aside that GID is wholly seperate matter from sexual orientation. On the other hand, in many places, once gender has been reasigned, heterosexual transmen and transwomen can legally marry who they love, something off limit to Gay and Lesbian men and women, cis or not. Moreover, due to sheer biological luck, a transman can fit into his true identity a lot more seamlessly than a transwoman, so even within the T, there are differences.

    The upshot of all of this is that it’s not neccesary to forget the differences between the different communities to fight the common fight. And it is a common fight, because there are common enemies. The population that makes the life of a gay boy and a trans girl miserable is essentially identical. The bigots want to limit the rights of all non cis-gendered heterosexuals. They honestly could care less about which letter of the acronym you are, you are the “Other” and they will hunt you. So while we recognize differences and different needs and don’t deny that different members are not always understanding with one another, I think it would be suicidal to divide into bickering camps while the real enemy rejoices.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    @ Joan

    And to add to what Claudia said (which i very much agree with), being part of the LGBT community gives you strength in numbers. How many Trans people are there in a small town? There are almost certainly more LGB people. Being part of that movement, even if the experiences of LGB and trans people differ gives you access to the strength that a large community provides.

    And the message of this campaign, although its targeted at gay kids applies just as much to Trans kids. It gets better.

  • i applaud their efforts, i just wish there were some more variety in the videos. dan and terry set a dreadfully serious grave tone….
    For all the kids (and adults) out there who get stepped on, take solace that even I, Herman, the glittering real estate personality, was a total outcast. And you know what…. I still am! Your ‘otherness’ will catapult you to the stars…but only if you embrace it! It is a gift. Tap into it!

    here is my (more light hearted?) submission for itgetsgetter. enjoy!

  • Francesca Somma

    I’ve designed an “It Gets Better” t-shirt that I’m trying to spread the word about. My goal is to bring more attention to Dan Savage’s fantastic It Gets Better Project and also to donate a really generous portion of my sales to the Trevor Project.

  • well i have to live with out my mom annd dad knowing an whene i came out i was kicked out of my house im just 17 now im luck i live with my bf i love so much but i miss my moyhers arms and my brothers 🙁

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