The next big issue in the argument over LGBT rights may well be found in our nation’s schools. The topic of discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender kids has become a huge source of controversy in recent years. A tragic series of suicides by LGBT or LGBT-perceived teenagers in 2010 prompted the implementation of anti-bullying measures in school districts around the country. This, in turn, prompted a repudiation of such measures as an example of the government overstepping its bounds, and even as an attempt to push a “gay agenda” in schools. This year, two states — Tennessee and Missouri — have proposed legislation that would make it illegal to talk about sexual orientation in public schools.
In September of 2010, Dan Savage —syndicated sex-advice columnist and gay rights activist — co-founded the “It Gets Better Project” with his husband, Terry, as a way for LGBT adults to reach out to LGBT kids through YouTube. In April, he spoke with us about the project and about the stigma attached to gay and lesbian adults trying to talk to students who may be in need of their help.
The deal the culture made gay people for 40 years after Stonewall was this: “You’re ours to torture till you’re 18. Once you’re 18, you can move away, you can come out. There’s one thing you can’t do as a gay adult. You can’t talk to the kids that we’re still torturing in the same schools, homes, malls, suburbs, churches where you were tortured. And if you reach out to those kids, if you try to talk to them, we will accuse you of recruiting, of attempting to seduce children into the gay lifestyle.” And that accusation, politically, was so deadly, from Anita Bryant on down, that most gay and lesbian people shied away from the whole subject of gay kids.
It’s going to be a flash point in the struggle, because increasingly, LGBT adults are not willing to tolerate what was done to them being done to gay children still.
The “It Gets Better” project, which my husband and I founded in September of 2010, was designed to do what Harvey Milk told us to. Harvey Milk said, “You gotta give ‘em hope.” And that’s what the project does. It’s adult LGBT people sharing their lives, their stories with LGBT kids who may be bullied, isolated, vulnerable.
The project is really an aggressive act, what we’re saying to homophobic parents, preachers, and teachers, is we’re gonna talk to your kids whether you want us to or not. Whether you like it or not, we’re gonna talk to your kids about what it means to be gay and how they can get help. They can come out, they can get to a better place. And that what they’ve been told about what it means to be gay is a lie. And we can disprove that lie by sharing our own stories and sharing our lives with them.