During Tuesday night's meeting of the Fort Worth City Council, openly gay councilman Joel Burns shared a very heartfelt message with teens who are struggling because of school bullying based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The resounding theme of Burns' message is that it does indeed get better.
As someone who spends a significant part of the day monitoring media coverage of LGBT-related issues, I can attest that Burns' message is one of the most passionate and moving I've seen in quite some time. Fortunately, it's available for all the world to see as Burns' message was videotaped during the announcements section of Tuesday night's council meeting. Reporter Anna Tinsley furthered its reach, including the YouTube link in a report that appeared in Wednesday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
During his remarks Tuesday night, Burns mentioned the names of the teenage boys who have committed suicide in recent weeks, all the result of school bullying based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Images of the boys' faces were projected on a screen for others in the room to see. Burns also offered reflections on his own upbringing as a 13-year-old who struggled with being gay.
Burns' message is one of the latest to be included in columnist Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" YouTube campaign. Launched in the wake of the recent bullying-related suicides, dozens of celebrities and numerous everyday people have created videos, all with the intent of providing a ray of light in what otherwise may be a time of darkness for students struggling with bullying. Since its launch, the "It Gets Better" YouTube channel has garnered over 1.5 million views and more than 18,000 subscribers.
At the tail end of his video, Burns provides his phone number and e-mail address, inviting those in need of help to contact him directly. The phone number provided is (817) 392-8809. As that voicemail box is often full, a sign of the enormous response to Joel's video, his partner, J.D. Angle encourages people to also reach out via e-mail: email@example.com.
Of course, those in need of support are especially encouraged to contact The Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBT and questioning youth. The Trevor Project can be reached at (866) 4-U-TREVOR or www.thetrevorproject.org.
As of this writing, GLAAD has spoken with J.D. Angle, Joel Burns' partner. We are inviting Joel to be a GLAAD spokesperson and have offered to provide media training in advance of several upcoming national media interviews.