Last month, Dan Savage, a sex advice columnist from The Stranger in Seattle, and his husband released It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. This book of essays is inspired by their It Gets Better project, which features Youtube videos by celebrities (including Adam Lambert, Barack Obama, Tim Gunn and the cast members of several Broadway musicals) and average people telling lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens that life gets better after high school. This project, which includes hundreds of thousands of videos with millions of views, was inspired by the rash of LGBT teen suicides last year. Savage and his partner wanted to give LGBT kids (who are up to four times as likely to attempt suicide, according to a 2007 Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey) hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
As a straight woman, I cannot tell LGBT teens that life gets better. I can’t say that because I have no idea what it’s like to be an LGBT teen. I wasn’t bullied growing up, but nine out of 10 LGBT teens are, according to a survey conducted by GLSEN in 2009. For me, high school was four years of boring classes, mediocre lunch food and bending the dress code. For thousands of teens across the country, high school is four years of constant torment – not only at school, but sometimes at home. Having never been in the shoes of an LGBT teen, it seems condescending for me to tell teens that life will get better – how can I possibly know? But what I can say is this: there is a whole big world out there, filled with those of us who not only accept your sexual orientation, but are actively fighting to spread acceptance.
It breaks my heart that so many children feel the closed-mindedness and bigotry they experience in high school is how the whole world functions, and they feel so desperate to stop it that they take their own lives. But what really boggles my mind is the fact that the tormentors have learned their hatred from somewhere. Kids are sponges and most, especially through high school, tend to parrot their parents’ beliefs. I am dumbfounded that there are parents teaching their children such intense hatred that these children will then relentlessly pick on their peers and can ultimately drive them to suicide.
There is so much hate in this world already. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children, if not love for our neighbors, then at the bare minimum acceptance?
High school is hard enough as it is: it’s the time when the majority of us start to develop the most basic sense of who we are. Imagine what it would be like to discover who you are, only to be rejected and tortured by your peers. We can stop this. We can teach our children that hate will not change anything. We can teach our children that basic human kindness can, in this case especially, save a life. No person ever deserves to be bullied, but especially not those who are just beginning to live their lives.