Sep. 22, 2010 at 4:15 PM ET
Dan Savage knows how to get things going on the Internet. Most notoriously, the sex advice columnist and political activist puckishly made Google a Not Safe For Work place for former Republican Senator Rick Santorum.
This week however, Savage, editorial director of the Seattle weekly The Stranger and author of the syndicated column "Savage Love," announced the sobering It Gets Better project on YouTube. Prompted by the recent suicide of Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old who reportedly suffered homophobic harassment at Indiana's Greensburg High School, "It Gets Better" invites gay, bisexual and transgendered adults to show embattled teens a future beyond high school.
Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment, Savage pointed out in his Sept. 21 podcast. And gay teenagers are four times more likely to commit suicide. "Many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) kids who kill themselves live in rural areas — or exurbs or suburban areas and places with really no gay organizations or services for queer kids or visible gay people at all," Savage said.
According to students quoted by Indiana news affiliate Fox59.com, "fag," "piece of crap," and suggestions that Lucas should kill himself were a few of the choice words peers said to Lucas, whose mother found him dead last week, hanging in the family's barn.
"There's been a lot of stories lately about gay teenagers in isolated parts of the country killing themselves, and I always think I wish I could've talked to this kid for 5 minutes," Savage said. "I wish I could've told Billy Lucas that it gets better. I would've told him that however bad things are right now, however isolated and alone you feel, it gets better."
To that end, Savage said, he launched a YouTube channel — "something I never thought I would say" – the It Gets Better Project, to host videos from LGBT adults from all backgrounds. "Singles, couples, with kids, without kids, established or just starting out, urban, rural, all races, religions and backgrounds," everyone who wishes they too could tell teens like Billy Lucas that it gets better.
At the time of this post, the It Gets Better Project on YouTube hosts 1,408 subscribers and four videos – the first from Savage and his "normally camera-shy husband," Terry Miller.
"We don't dwell on the past, we talk mostly about all the meaningful things that are in our lives now," Savage said of their video. "Our families, our friends who are gay and straight, the places we've gone the things we've experienced, all the stuff we would've missed out on if we'd killed ourselves back then."
"Not to get too cheesy or Gay History on everybody, but Harvey Milk famously said, 'You've gotta give 'em hope.' And today we have the power to give these kids hope, we have the tools to give these kids hope, to tell our stories and let these kids know that it gets better."
For information on submitting a video, visit the It Gets Better Project on YouTube.
For online support for LGBT teens visit:
The Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.
GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, an organization for students, parents, and teachers that tries to affect positive change in schools.