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'It Gets Better' Offers Message of Hope to Bullied Gay Youths

Dan Savage discusses his campaign to support young people — and how the older community helped out.

Q: Since you started the campaign, have you gotten many videos from people 50 and older?

A: Oh, there are lots of videos from folks over 50. I'm getting close to the big five-oh myself. Some of the most moving videos are from LGBT elders, from folks who came out a time when gay people could still be arrested or committed [to a mental institution] for being open about who they were. When you hear them say it gets better, when you hear them say they love their lives, that it's still getting better — that has a real impact, and it puts the things that we're struggling with now, politically and personally, into perspective.

Q: It's historic that the president of the United States would reach out to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Is this a sign of times changing?

A: Yes, absolutely. It took Ronald Reagan seven years to respond to the AIDS crisis. He didn't even say the word "AIDS" until 1987, until thousands and thousands of gay Americans had already died. It took Barack Obama just four weeks to get involved in the It Gets Better Project, just four weeks to reach out to answer the call to reach out to LGBT youth.

Q: When you initially launched the movement, you were targeting LGBT adults to speak to youth, but you have received an overwhelming response from straight allies, as well. Were you surprised?

A: Not surprised — one of the ways that it has gotten better for us, one of the most crucial ways, is that straight people have become more understanding, more accepting. Not just tolerant, but affirming. Things would never have changed for gay people if our straight friends and families, our straight co-workers and neighbors, hadn't rethought their prejudices … after we started coming out and living openly and with integrity.

So I'm not surprised that there were straight people out there who would want to reach out, who would want to help LGBT youth. I'm glad so many did. That means a lot to gay kids, particularly the ones who are bullied. If you're a gay kid and your straight parents, and your straight peers, and your straight teachers are bullying you, you might conclude that all straight people are your enemies; that all straight people are hostile and hateful. That's not the case and it's good that bullied gay kids are seeing proof of that when they come to ItGetsBetter.org.

 

Next: Dan Savage's favorite video.»

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