Dan Savage Tells ALA It Does Get Better
Watching Dan Savage at the Opening General Session, ala11.
Dan Savage, author of the syndicated column “Savage Love” and the editorial director of Seattle’s weekly newspaper The Stranger, described the rapid evolution of the “It Gets Better” Project that he and his husband Terry Miller began as a way to speak directly to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.
Some of the kids find themselves going through rough times, even to the point of being bullied so much that they come to believe suicide as the only way out.
Savage told of coming out to his parents over 30 years ago, and that this was not only a message about his sexuality, but he was also sending the message that he would “never get married, never have a child, and never be a marine.”
“Now, over 30 years later, I can get married, can have children, and can even be a marine—not that I want to be a marine!” He went on to tell of how far we have come as a society and that in many ways there has never been a better time than now to be a young person who is LGBT. “At the same time, however, if you’re a kid who is being bullied as a result of your sexual orientation, there has never been a worse time,” Savage explained.
The “It Gets Better” campaign started with one video posted to YouTube talking about the joys of leading an LGBT lifestyle, along with the suggestion that others make and post their own videos exploring the same theme. By the time one week had passed, Savage and Miller’s YouTube account had maxed out at 650. The project posted a message telling people to keep making videos and that they would figure out how to post them all at some point. Savage and Miller were surprised the next day when an email from a Google engineer appeared in their mailbox telling them that they had changed the “It Gets Better” YouTube account which allowed thousands more videos—thereby solving the problem.
There are now over 23,000 “It Gets Better” videos and still growing, according to Savage. The project has helped destroy the “old deal,” which Savage described as an unspoken agreement whereby parents and even clergy have more or less said to LGBT teens that “you’re ours to torture until you’re 18.”
Savage said that they can speak directly to the kids by going over the heads of the parents or anyone else who would not give them permission to speak. “We can speak to them whether their parents or anyone else likes it or not.”
Before Savage’s presentation, ALA past president Betty Turock joined Jill Nishi from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in announcing $300,000 in new funding that will be provided by the foundation to support ALA Spectrum Scholarships. The money will be provided in two ways—by direct contributions and by national grants. Melinda Gates also appeared virtually in a short videotaped message.
Originally published in Cognotes, Saturday, June 25, 2011 by Brad Martin, LAC Group, New York, NY. Read full issue here.