Dan Savage — syndicated columnist, media pundit and co-founder of the It Gets Better project — visited the University of Oklahoma on Wednesday evening to discuss the project’s mission, widespread success and continuing challenges facing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
For a standing-room-only audience, Savage detailed how he and his husband, Terry, were inspired to found the It Gets Better project in 2010 following the suicide of Indiana 15-year-old Billy Lucas. A victim of extreme anti-gay bullying, Lucas was the recipient of public, online hate messages even after his tragic death.
Based on personal and widespread outrage at Lucas’ experience, Savage was particularly inspired by the comment of one online reader, expressing how they wished they could have told Lucas that “it gets better.”
“LGBT kids are at four times greater risk of suicide, and what we should understand from bullied LBGT kids who commit suicide is that they can’t imagine a future with enough joy in it to compensate for the pain they’re experiencing currently,” Savage said. “What I want to tell those kids is that what they’ve been taught about being gay as a 15-year-old in Indiana is a lie, and I can refute it with my own life if I can share my story with you — and in the YouTube era, I and other LGBT adults can do that with videos.”
Since a modest inception at which Savage and his gay and straight colleagues were hoping for a mere 100 videos, It Gets Better is now a worldwide enterprise, comprised of more than 80,000 videos, blogs merchandise and messages of hope, solidarity and resources for international LGBT youth.
Savage expressed particular concern for LGBT youth growing up in homophobic or religiously conservative households, describing how It Gets Better includes outreach from ministers and seeks to provide non-homophobic parental figures for youth most at risk.