It Gets Better

Gay high schoolers have a pretty rough go of it. Bullying, harassment, and feelings of isolation are all too common for a lot of gay teens, and many of them live in situations where they don’t have access to queer-friendly organizations. Last week, a gay high school student in Indiana named Billy Lucas took his own life, reportedly because of the torment he experienced at the hands of his peers.

In response, Dan Savage and his husband Terry have launched the It Gets Better Project. Says Savage:

I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But 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.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

The It Gets Better Project is a YouTube channel where older GLBTQ folks can speak to younger ones and let them know that life gets better after high school. Here’s the first video from Dan and Terry:

The project has only been in existence for one day, and already there are dozens of other video testimonials. If you’ve got a message to share with LGBTQ youth, get thee to YouTube and upload your story! It’s projects like this one that are giving hope to those who might otherwise feel hopeless.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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17 Comments Have Been Posted

It gets better

This is a great message for anyone who's dealt with bullying. These guys are wonderful.

coming from a different perspective

I "rose out" of school after the 9th grade back in 1995 & I think, not just for the queer community but for the young adults who are outside the norm in so many ways, knowing you have the option, not just to survive and put up with school (which can be such a terrifying and toxic environment) but to transcend it and join "the real world" can be literally life saving.

I read The Teenage Liberation Handbook back in 1994, cried my eyes out, had "risen out" of school by 1995 and was in college later that year at age 15. There are as many different paths out of school "early" and into a healthy and productive life as there are young humans willing to take those steps and adults there to support them. This is not just an option for the academically gifted. The Teenage Liberation Handbook and the many other resources out there to support young people in claiming their humanity back from the educational industrial complex need to be shared. Not just for our queer youth but for all of us who need to find options that allow us to not just survive but thrive and grow.

Grace Llewellyn is

Grace Llewellyn is wonderful. I wish I had found that book sooner but alas, only came across it after I had graduated high school. I'm more or less hetero and cis myself but god, high school was such a horrible, miserable, disempowering 4 years anyway.

I *heart* Dan Savage! This

I *heart* Dan Savage!

This is an excellent project and I will share the site with everyone I know.

That's not sound advice...

Hey, it CAN get better, but what is Dan Savage willing to do about helping educate kids and parents so that children don't make life for queer youth so unbearable that they have to remind themselves that life gets better.

From a scientific standpoint, people who experience extreme stress become addicted to glucocorticoids, which are hormones that the body releases to deal with stress. However, over-use of these hormones can be neurotoxic and cause things like depression, memory loss, etc. People who commit suicide have extremely high glucocorticoid levels, so it makes sense that queer teens sometimes end their lives due to the stress in their lives. Even the many of us who make it out of our teenage years alive, who realize that it does get better, are more apt to be addicted to adrenaline and suffer from mild to severe post-traumatic stress disorder...

In short, even when the bullying stops, the effects can be life-long. So Dan and Terry, thanks for telling us how terrible it was for you in high school, and thanks for telling us it gets better. I'll remember that the next time one of my clients comes in to talk to me about how their childhood torment still haunts them...

How about instead of "It Gets Better" you can go from town to town giving lectures to kids, teachers & parents to educate them of the damaging effects of bullying. Call it "It Gets Better Now" perhaps.

(trigger warning) I'm also

(trigger warning)
I'm also bothered by this campaign, as it gets better for <i>a lot of kids</i> but it certainly doesn't get better for <i>all</i> kids. It doesn't get better for kids that get kicked out of their homes and have nowhere to go, or kids who get assaulted or murdered, or kids who end up in reparative therapy, or kids who end up in the closet so they don't lose their jobs, and on and unfortunately on.
It HAS gotten better. And it only gets better from here if someone fights for it.

So what you're suggesting is

So what you're suggesting is that since Dan's message won't help <i> all </i> kids, it's offensive at worst and a waste of time at best?

Dan's message is, essentially, "please don't kill yourself." I think that, in and of itself, is a very valuable message for any teen to hear.

You and the others who have

You and the others who have replied to me have completely missed my point. I am not saying it's bad to start a campaign to help LGBTQ youth who are suicidal. There's this thing called critiquing: it does not equate to "I hope this thing dies in a fire because it's a bad idea". "We have to start somewhere", someone said? Really? If you know there's someone, especially many someones at intersections of oppressions, that a campaign is not reaching, why would you not try to think of ways to improve?
I am not saying "it never gets better for some people so don't say it gets better for anyone!" I am saying it is completely erasing the hardships of those for whom it does not "get better". It usually "gets better" if you're middle class, if you can go to college, if you're white, if you're able-bodied, if you're neurotypical, if you're if you live in a neighborhood where violence is not a major concern, and so on. I am not saying, "don't tell youth not to kill themselves", I am saying, don't leave people out of your message. A better message for youth might be "I'm fighting to make it get better. And if you want to fight too, I'll stand by you, and we can figure out how to make it better together. And if you want to give up fighting, I'll understand why, and I'll try to fight for both of us. But please, stay alive, because as long as someone's out there fighting, it will get better".
Not quite as catchy, I fucking apologize.

The message I get from this

The message I get from this isn't "don't fight," it's "don't give up." I understand how you could see it as minimizing the suffering and danger that come with facing homophobia or transphobia in school as a teen, since it isn't focused on particular solutions to those problems. However, I think that because it's intended very specifically to prevent suicide among these teens, it makes sense and is appropriate that it offers a message of hope and a real-life example of happy, fulfilling GLBT adulthood, including things that lots of GLBT youth coming from oppressive situations have always been told they will never be able to have because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, like family and committed romantic love.

To some of the young people at whom this project is targeted, the idea that their GLBT identity does not categorically doom them to a life of hatred and unhappiness is new. No one, not parents, not teachers or counselors, certainly not peers, has ever helped them to realize that the ostracization and cruel treatment they've suffered is a result of others' distorted thinking, not of their own defectiveness. If they're dealing with condemnation from their faith community, indifference or hostility from their family, and cruel treatment from all the kids at school, they may believe that as long as they're alive, they're inescapably in for more of the same.

I have a hard time imagining that a young gay guy considering suicide because of a hostile, homophobic environment could watch this video and not feel a sense of hope that would help him hang on just a little longer. I agree with you that it would be great if this project could address bullying issues specifically and maybe talk about some short-term strategies for dealing with bullying in addition to letting kids know how possible it is for things to get better in the long run. Hopefully future videos that are added to the channel will deal with all these things.

But I still think what's

But I still think what's already here is pretty great.*


wow, it IS helping these kids, because i went through the same torment, i'm straight, but, i do have 'gay' friends. my god father is homosexual and i love him to death. i think that if being a child and gay and you wanna stay inside your house or w/e all day cause ridicule you and you off yourself, i mean really, that says a lot more than being homeless and living in the streets. i know people kill themselves every day and night esp around the holidays, but, if one life can be prevented, then that's a step forward. there are problems all over and we can't nail all 3 billion of them. but helping one person is a major accomplishment.

i personally grew up in a small town where i was used as the town punching bag. everyday of school and when kids passed my house. they beat me up cause they could. and i was afraid to tell my mom about it cause they would hear about it and beat me up even harder. all through grade school and high school. it is HARD to grow up like that. now, i'm 34 and on anti depressants and anxiety the list goes on. i feel for these kids that grow up miserable.

so you ask what about the homeless, the kids with beatings, etc? hell man we gotta start somewhere. and frankly those 'help' people were starting to show support YEARS before these people who wana go to schools to say being homosexual is ok!! i think it's an awesome idea. CLOSED MINDS SHOULD COME WITH CLOSED MOUTHS!!

Baby steps

Baby steps here people. Our country is *finally* making a tiny bit of progress for the LGBT community, with same sex marriage being legalized in a few states and being battled out in California. I think what Dan and Terry are doing is fantastic. Of course I want kids to stop bullying other kids. And of course I want parents to stop teaching their children to be bigots, and of course I want people to stop being bigots in general.

But they won't. Ever.

And that might sound defeatist, but something I've learned is that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, there will always be crappy people with crappy beliefs out there, no matter what. And they refuse to listen, and they refuse to change. Our country has come pretty damn far with racism and sexism, but if you just listened at what Fox News and such were saying during the election completely highlighted how much further we have to go. And we'll probably never fully get there. So telling people to stop bullying and to stop being bigots will only get us so far, and will only help a tiny itty bitty bit.

So what Dan and Terry are doing is trying to be mentors to those who are being bullied and harassed and beat up by those bigoted people. They're trying to help them realize that life does get better, and it does. I can attest to that. And these kids need someone to look up to and to relate to and to fully realize that it does get better. Because if we just focus on trying to stop bullying, we'll inevitably fail, and those kids who are the victims of bullies will still feel the same, like it'll never end, ever. And someone needs to tell them, hey, it gets better.

Missing the Point

I have little doubt that Dan and Terry have considered all kinds of ways to reach LBGTQ kids, probably up to, and including town hall lectures. They have started this project to reach kids who couldn't be reached in that format. Some parents would simply not allow their children to go. Some kids might be in danger of being physically harmed by family and peers, if seen at such an event. In short, the people who need the information the MOST are LEAST likely to get appropriate information in a lecture format.

I agree that bullying, in all of it's forms is a problem. Respectfully, this IS sound advice.

I'm going to assume you're

I'm going to assume you're not much of a Dan Savage follower because he's explained the backstory to this project at length. Maybe you are and you were just away for a few weeks-

The reasoning behind the project was that because there are schools that won't allow people like Dan Savage to talk to the students, he had to find a way to go to them. The closed mindedness of some communities is staggering. I think it was a 12 year old boy, who chose to end his life rather than live it because of small mindedness, that really pushed Savage to start this. He needed to find another way and he chose the Internet.

There are still so many uneducated people out there and if he can't go to them, he can at least have somewhere for people to go to reach him. I think it's an amazing project, for gay or straight, for people to see that no matter what the issue life still holds hope for something better.

Note that I say 'better'? That's the other point of this. It's not the 'It gets perfect' project. Just that 'It Gets Better'.


Based on their dan and terry's video, I am not sure their somber grave tone is the best vibe for the channel, but alas, I applaud them for their effort. Wasn’t it Bill Cosby who famously said:

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.”

I concur Bill! Personally, humor, laughter, satire & glamour are my weapons of choice. And in the spirit of humor, laughter, satire & glamour, here is an fitting quote from Oscar Wilde:

“It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.”

For all the kids (and adults) out there who get stepped on, take solace that even I, Herman, an indomitable sparkling personality, was a total outcast. And you know what…. I still am! Your ‘otherness’ will catapult you to the stars…but only if you embrace it! It is a gift. Tap into it, bitches!

here is my hilarious submission. enjoy!


Awesome post. What a great video. I think it works on many levels and for many teens in high school, not just those experiencing bullying. Sure, if you're considering suicide you many need more than a video message from Dan Savage.....but maybe not. Maybe you just need to feel like there's someone out there who understands.

I didn't know any gay adults when I was in high school, and I lived in a liberal east coast city. I can't imagine the isolation gay youths experience in more socially conservative areas.

hetero back door

This is a crucial message, and I hope the It Gets Better Project finds a way to deliver it far and wide, but have another suggestion / question: Would non-gay resource providers be granted access to reassure gay teens where gay adults would be denied?

I am a straight supporter of GLBT advocacy, and think this is one of the most important issues in need of our attention - who's with me?

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