Last Tuesday, Dan Savage (the creator of the “It Gets Better Project” and the “Savage Love” column) spoke at UNT for their annual Equity and Diversity Conference. The “It Gets Better Project” consists of over 50,000 videos of people sharing their own stories of bullying or not being accepted and how over the years it indeed got better. Because of this project, teens who are going through a hard time (teens who are not accepted even by their own immediate family members and teens who are completely isolated from any source of support or affirmation) can plug into the internet and watch video after video of another affirming their inherent worth and dignity, of sharing their own story of challenge and offering glimpses of hope. On Monday Dan Savage told conference members at UNT that the “It Gets Better Project” is not an answer, but just “a lifeline we are throwing to LGBT kids so they don't kill themselves.” This project is literally saving lives.
Throughout the conference I was proud and honored to represent Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I received a great many words of gratitude from people from UNT, Denton, Dallas and from Dan Savage himself for the commitment our congregation has made to “make it better” for LGBTQ kids who need more than a message of hope, but who also need a real live person who can hold their hand through whatever it is they are going through and who can help them navigate their teen years while voices of the media, politicians, teachers, peers, counselors, clergy, parents and other family members are trying to break them down through deplorable messages of hate and shame.
During the address on Monday, he shared how sexual violence against teen girls increases when teen boys are bullied for not be “masculine” enough or for being perceived as gay. He shared how even the perception of being LGBTQ can create such a terrible life for a teen that they take their own life. I know that here in Denton there are teens who hide their sexual orientation in order to maintain their safety. There are children and teens in Denton whose gender ambiguity or gender identity makes them a target for harassment and bullying. There even LGBTQ allies here in Denton who are harassed as early as middle school for simply affirming LGBTQ orientation and identity.
Part of our work is in providing resources and support to our LGBTQA (and LGBTQ-perceived) kids while they are holding onto that lifeline so that they can go beyond just surviving to thriving. Throughout the year, you will have opportunities to support this effort. Right now you have some ways to get involved:
RSVP right now for our OUTreach Denton Valentine Dinner which is next Tuesday, Feb. 14. E-mail OUTreachDenton@gmail.com for more information. This is not just a fundraiser, but an important show of support for our LGBTQA community.
Drop off snacks on a Friday night at 7:00pm for our OUTreach Denton teen gathering (or leave them in the kitchen with a note indicating that they are for OUTreach Denton).
Talk with Rev. Pam about more committed, lasting volunteer opportunities to support youth or to launch adult programming/resources.
Thank you for your commitment to social justice and outreach and for all the ways you stand on the side of love.
(Photo Credit to UNT URCM)