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Give Them Hope: Dan Savage Launches the It Gets Better Project

By L.K. Regan

The last few weeks have seen a tragic series of suicides by young gay men who were victims of bullying. Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who took his own life after a cruel internet outing by his roommate, has drawn extensive national attention. Far too many of us recognize the experiences that drove these young men to despair. We've been there. And that is why Dan Savage initiated "It Gets Better," a YouTube channel dedicated to offering hope. Why not post a video to it yourself?

In his Savage Love column last week, Dan Savage announced a new project. He is collecting videos from adult gay people who want to tell their stories in support of a clear message: It gets better. Gay kids, especially in rural areas or suburban areas, are isolated. They may not know any gay adults, they may not have access to gay outreach organizations. And, as Savage writes, "gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied." In short, "LGBT kids have committed suicide because they couldn't picture a future for themselves." But, as Savage writes, "Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids." Why not use the internet to create a different picture?

"That's why my boyfriend and I launched the It Gets Better Project.," Savage wrote in his column, "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." Here is Dan and his boyfriend Terry's video:




Other gay celebrities have made videos for the channel as well. Here is Andy Cohen, from Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live:"



And Ellen Degeneres independently made a video:



The channel has been viewed nearly 700,000 times in the two weeks since it was created. Maybe you'd like to be part of the project yourself. Here's Dan Savage on why and how to do it: "LGBT kids who don't know any LGBT adults need to see—with their own eyes—that gay adults lead happy and rewarding lives. So if you decide to make a video—and I hope that you do—don't just share your pain. Share your joy. Give 'em hope. Save a life." Instructions on how to upload a video can be found at www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject.

And for anyone reading this in need of immediate help and someone to talk to, the Trevor Project (www.trevorproject.org) works on suicide prevention with gay teens and offers a 24-hour hotline (866-488-7386).