Friday, October 1, 2010

Fragile Dwellings

This past weekend, Stewart, Max, and I went out to New Jersey to celebrate Sukkot at my sister-in-law’s and brother’s Sukkah. My sister in-law asked everyone to name who they would have invited to the Sukkah had they been able to -- irrespective of whether that person is alive or deceased, and irrespective of whether that person is known personally or famous. Some guests declared that they would have invited people dear to them that couldn’t make the event or had deceased, and others stated that they would have invited particular famous individuals that inspired them or piqued their curiosity. For example, Stewart named Christie, Max’s surromom. When it then came to my turn, I named the sex advice columnist and author Dan Savage because he inspired me recently by using his talent, stature and resources to support LGBT youth.
Last week Savage created a You Tube video channel called the “It Gets Better Project” after hearing about the suicide of Billy Lucas, a Greensburg, Indiana, high school student who was bullied and harassed by classmates for presumably being gay. Savage explained in his sex advice column (third letter down) that after he posted about the suicide on his blog a reader commented that he wished he could have spoken with Billy Lucas for five minutes before he killed himself to explain to him that things do get better for gay kids after the hell that high school can be for them. Savage responded that he had that same reaction, and then realized that with social media like YouTube, that is so popular with teenagers of all stripes today, gay adults actually can reach out to bullied LGBT kids before it’s too late. Savage explained: “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. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.”

Out of this realization, Savage created the “It Gets Better Project” and asked his LGBT readers to post short videos of themselves on his You Tube channel describing to gay kids that they too had discouraging high school experiences that included bullying and harassment, but that “it gets better” and they have now grown into strong and proud gay adults happily living their lives. In other words, the message is: life really does get better after high school, so hang in there! As Savage eloquently explained in an interview with the New York Times, through his project “[g]ay adults can show our present lives and help them [gay youth] picture a future.” Savage told the Times that within the first 24 hours of launching the channel, he received 3,000 e-mails! The ones that affected him the most, he said, were those from straight kids who wrote that they were e-mailing the link to the project to their gay classmates and friends who are being harassed.  Sadly, that includes 9 out of every 10 gay teens.

Savage’s project could not have come about at a more urgent time. Unbelievably, in the short time since Savage launched his video channel, three more gay teenagers have committed suicide due to bullying and harassment at school. Hopefully this project will (and maybe has already) given some despondent gay teens the glimmer of hope and encouragement they need to step back off that ledge and embrace life and all its potential.

Stewart, Max and I have recorded our own video and have submitted it to the project. My middle school and high school years were not the best years of my life. I was definitely picked on during those years and, at times, called “fag” and other terrible names. But I knew that life could only get better. Even so, I don’t think I realized how much better my life could get! That’s what I want the kids who visit our video to know. If it gets approved by Savage and posted on his You Tube channel I will let you all know. In the meantime, the video is below. (Go easy on us -- we're youtube newbies!)  Thanks for watching, and please spread the word about the Project.


  1. A timely and important blog post, Jake! I was an ally to my lesbian friends who were members of a LGBT group at Rutgers University. I attended meetings with them and I have personally suffered harassment and discrimination for my gender, yet I know what an isolating experience it can be. Hearing about these suicides has deeply affected me. Congrats to you and Stu for reaching out and offering some positive feedback to LGBT youth!

    Here is a link to an article about books and other resources that support LGBT people which was written by someone who works at Jefferson Market Library, a branch of the New York Public Library:

  2. Sorry, the link got cut off.

  3. Thank you so much for your support of LGBT students, the link, and for following the blog!


  4. Jacob - this is adorable, nice to see you after all these years!