President Barack Obama doesn't know "what it's it's like to be picked on for being gay," he confesses in his landmark contribution to the "It Gets Better" project. "But I do know what it's like to grow up feeling like sometimes you don't belong. It's tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart, I know it can just wear on you."
Dan Savage, editorial director of the Seattle weekly The Stranger and author of the syndicated column "Savage Love," launched the "It Gets Better" project on YouTube in September following the 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.
Since its launch the It Gets Better project has received videos from hundreds of people both gay and straight, including many celebrities such as Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres encouraging LGBT teenagers to stay strong through their teen years.
Earlier this week, the Sidney Hillman Foundation awarded Savage the September Sidney Award for the "It Gets Better" online video archive. The grant foundation inaugurated the Sidney in 2009, a monthly award for an outstanding piece of socially conscious journalism.
Savage asked that his $500 prize be given to The Trevor Project, whose mission is to end suicide among LGBT youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources, including a 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline.
Sidney Award judge Charles Kaiser said, "Savage used a national crisis to begin an inspirational project, which has brought hope to young gay, lesbian and transgendered people everywhere -- not only in America but all around the world."
Savage posted the president's video on the Stranger's Slog blog Thursday night, along with the transcript, but called the video "symbolic" on CNN's "American Morning," and said that the White House "has the power to do more."
Though he supported Obama'spresidential campaign, Savage has since criticized the administration for not honoring the promises Obama made to the LGBT community before his election.
While praising the symbolic importance of the president's message, Savage also called for the Obama administration to stop appealing court rulings against the "don't ask, don't tell" rule that does not allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
"I appreciate this for what it is on its own," said one commenter underneath the Stranger's Obama video post. "If even one questioning teenage kid sees this and has hope, it is worth it. I don't think many bullied or struggling kids are saying, 'Yeah, but he's not repealing as fast as I would like,' or 'He is moving towards acceptance of gay marriage only as fast as most of the country.' They are seeing the President of the United States telling them that they are valued."
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.