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GAY AND GRAY: Elders Speak Out: "It gets better!"

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]

category_bug_gayandgray.gif The horror of the bullying some gay youth experience busted out of the closet for many folks in the past month with the story of Tyler Clementi's suicide. When fellow students covertly broadcast the young man's make-out session with another boy over the internet, the Rutgers student concluded it was better to be dead than gay and jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Suicide claims entirely too many gay teenagers, especially young boys. Clementi's death made The New York Times, but these unhappy events happen without much more than local notice much far too often.

In response, Seattle gay advice columnist Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better YouTube project, asking older folks to record messages to young people encouraging them to hold on through the difficult teenage years and to hang on to hope of a safe and free future as open gay people.

Savage challenged his readers:

“... 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. So here's what you can do...Make a video. Tell them it gets better.”

The response has been huge; the site now includes more than 2000 clips.

Most of the videos, naturally, are from folks not so far in age from gay teenagers; many are from college students who are reveling in new freedoms, in meeting more diverse people, in living away from home.

But I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find a few by people we'd consider elders and near-elders to share. Here are some that I think you'll find interesting and moving.

Fashion designer Tim Gunn talks about his teenage attempt to kill himself and promotes a resource for kids who are thinking about suicide:

"Please don't's worth it. Stick around."

Deb Adler says, "You don't have to put up with someone else's crap." I can relate to that. This is a little longer than most of these, but adds a different dimension about some ways young people can push back.

Grace Rogers spoke out as a parent supporting gay children:

"Things happen to us's not always to us...we're all in this together."

The fellow from Lubbock who made the video above speaks about being abused by a priest as a boy and, later, finally finding a church he could be fully himself in.

Looking through these videos with older speakers, I was surprised by how many were made by religious people who had struggled through being raised to believe that God hated them and much later found peace in a church or belief system that reassured them that they were lovable and could be loved. It was a rejecting faith system that made them so desperate as young people - and often, it was an inclusive, affirming religious community that helped them become more whole.

For example, gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson made one such a video.

It was a nice surprise when working my way through hundreds of these to discover two acquaintances had filmed one that I think can best be described as utterly charming. They explain:

"Harry, a composer, and Wayne, an Episcopal priest, live a cholesterol-lowering life-style in mid-Michigan. Even as some of the body stuff does get a little harder to put up with, it still is getting better."

Enjoy - and remember there are still confused gay kids who need to be reminded, "it gets better!"

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: The Squirrel's Nest


Thank you so very much for this compendium of videos. It does get better even for straight suicidal teens.

I think this "It Gets Better" campaign will be considered a milestone in gay acceptance. Clementi's death (like any teen suicide) was shocking and sad. I'm hoping that he didn't die in vain.

Adults are becoming more aware of the effects of all kinds of bullying and how devastating it can be. That can only be good. But, a very large problem is the internet. Can we control cyberbullying?

I wish that every kid in America could see these videos.

If it all sank in it is possible that there would be no more shame and no more bullying and especially, no more suicides.

These people are to be commended for taking the time to make the videos and stress their truthful,encouraging and loving message: "IT GETS BETTER."

Excellent videos for all teens. Should be shown in every single high school.

I salute the makers of the "It Gets Better" campaign.

Thanks for the selections... Harry and Wayne are adorable, I want them as MY grandparents, I felt better just looking at them together. This is such a wonderful idea.

What a great idea!!!!

I always told my kids that there's life after high school but someone else telling them would mean so much more. (Because we all know that our parents don't get smart until we're grownups.)

When I was a teenager my locker was next to a sweet boy who was always with another boy. Neither boy dated girls. After graduation the boy whose locker was next to mine committed suicide.

I knew nothing about homosexuality then (and very little about straight sexuality). Looking back I believe the boy who commtted suicide was probably gay. He was such a nice kid and it was such a waste.

Thank God we are moving forward on accepting differences in our society, but we still have a long way to go. The "It Gets Better" campaign is a giant step in the right direction

There's another important video you missed that features a number of amazing gay and lesbian elders. It is all over the place now. You should see it. On Youtube look for It gets better - wisdom from our gay and lesbian elders. Everyone needs to see this, especially the kids.
Here's the link

Dan and Terry are from my former home town and although I have never met them, i feel like I know them. Been listening to Dan on the radio for years (Savage Love) and reading his column. His book about adopting DJ is also worth reading. You guys are doing a good thing!

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