You are the only you that there will ever be. You are unique and irreplaceable. You are beautiful and rare and exceptional and the world is better because you’re in it. You are gay because God made you gay and he loves you very much. All of us love you, too.
These are sentiments from It Gets Better, a YouTube channel offering support and unconditional love to gay teens in order to combat the bullying and harassment they face. The project was started by Dan Savage, a columnist and gay man whose heart, like mine and maybe like yours, is breaking over the recent spate of suicides by gay teens from age 19 clear down to 13.
On YouTube, anyone can post a message of acceptance and encouragement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens. At this writing, there are about 841,000 videos posted. When I spent a morning looking at them, I found adults, deeply crushed by the suicides, opening their hearts, sharing their own stories, and telling teens that no matter what injustices and cruelties they face in school, they will one day live happy lives if they can just hang on. Life begins after high school, they said.
You are wrong, evil, impure and unnatural. You are participating in one of Satan’s counterfeits for marriage. You are in a prison of sin, guilt and perversion.
These sentiments droned out from Temple Square in Salt Lake City a week ago, at the precise moment that so many good people were reflecting on how the words and actions of straight people could cost gay kids their lives. Insensitive timing and all, it was a good reminder that school is not the only place where LGBT people are bullied and devalued; it can happen at church.
And home. I never believed a mother could reject her own gay child until I saw it firsthand. An adorable young woman, kindhearted and hilariously funny, gifted in her profession and loved by so many, was unceremoniously dumped from her family, cut off from all contact with parents and her beloved siblings. She was shunned, swiftly and permanently, for being lesbian in an LDS family.
That isn’t just high school; it’s her entire life. Even worse, as an LGBT and LDS person, you not only are told you’re ruining your own life and disappointing God, you’re ruining your afterlife and that of your whole family.
That’s some tectonic pressure. What can supportive allies say to people in these circumstances? Life begins —- when?
Even a casual reader of obituaries in Utah will notice an unnaturally high rate of young men dying. Is it due to suicide among religious kids who cannot bear the pressure?
It Gets Better founder Dan Savage says, “The religious right would have us believe that 13-year-old Asher Brown and 13-year-old Seth Walsh made a choice at 13 to be gay — a choice to be brutally bullied. It was easier for Asher to blow his brains out and Seth to hang himself than to choose to be straight.”
“The religious right needs to be held accountable for the climate of hate and fear and bullying they have encouraged. This is what we’re seeing for their efforts: dead children.”
It should be no surprise that there are Utah people on It Gets Better. One formerly LDS young man said this: “I was taught things about homosexuality that were not correct. I decided to think for myself and trust myself. It took me a long time to learn that I can live happily as an openly gay man. I’m a good person. I’ve become more and more true to myself and true about myself and in doing that, it does get better.”
For anyone on the journey, there is a community filled with gay and straight people who love you just as you are. We don’t want you to change a bit.
Barb Guy is a regular contributor to these pages.