Business, Finance & Economics

Dan Savage helps gay and lesbian teens deal with bullying

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(Image by Flickr user Michael Verhoef (cc:by-nc-nd))

This story was originally reported by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio.

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After a recent spate of suicides by gay and lesbian teens, Dan Savage felt like he had to do something. Savage has heard innumerable stories about the problems of faced by gay and lesbian teens as author of the sex column Savage Love and as editorial director of The Stranger alt-weekly. He told PRI's The Takeaway that whenever he hears about a gay or lesbian teen who has committed suicide, he thinks "I wish I could have talked to that kid for five minutes, and been able to tell him that it gets better."

Eventually, he realized "I would never get permission to talk to these kids, I would never get an invitation from a school run by homophobes or from parents." At the same time, he says, "it occurred to me that I didn't need anyone's permission anymore to talk to these kids."

Savage's boyfriend was once brutally bullied as a child. So the two of them went on YouTube and uploaded a video with a simple message: "We were bullied too. We get it. We understand what it's like, and it gets better."

From there, the project took off. Within a few hours, hundreds of videos had been uploaded to the YouTube channel. Celebrities like Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres uploaded videos, as well as hundreds of other people, with advice about how to cope and how to respond to bullying. There are now thousands of videos on the website, http://www.itgetsbetterproject.com/.

"I'm getting emails every day now from kids, from teenagers, telling me that they are indeed taking hope from these stories," he told The Takeaway. "I'm hearing from the parents of bullied kids... who are sitting their kids down in front of the computer, and they're watching these videos with them, and they're telling me that it's helping."

Gay and lesbian teenagers are 4 to 6 times more likely to commit suicide as a result of bullying, Savage told The Takeaway. Savage says that he understands the problems, and he hopes he's making a difference. He says:

They're bullied at school by their peers. They go home to bullying all too often from homophobic parents who think they can terrorize their kids out of being gay, if that's who they are. And then they're dragged to churches on Sunday from still more bullying from the pulpit and bullying from god. And they feel very isolated and alone and like no one is on their side. This project allows them to see other gay and lesbian adults who are on their side.

You can watch one of the videos below:

"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH. 

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