People who are a bit different in middle and high school are ostracized. Were you a victim, an unwilling group-think bully, or even a caring observer that didn't know how to protect a beloved classmate? If so, you might understand why teens commit suicide.
Much of what makes people different when young becomes an acknowledged asset as an adult. An extra dose of intelligence, height or curls doesn't mean much after a while, and you have plenty of role models in town to prove that.
Except...what if society tells you you are an outcast because of something you cannot change, and many will never accept? Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) teens often don't know that things get better. The world is full of bigots, but there are many friends and family members who love you, even when they don't understand. And there's even better news; slowly - but surely, law and life are changing for the better.
It Gets Better - part of the Trevor Project, and the brainchild of columnist Dan Savage - is a series of YouTube videos produced by LGBTQ individuals and their allies that are reaching out to despondent, suicidal teens and pre-teens with the message that life changes with age, education and a better environment. A number of international celebrities have made contributions to the site, including U.S. President Barack Obama and religious sorts. Some of these videos are a bit too sentimental, and many people have criticized It Gets Better because it doesn't advocate programs geared to eradicating all types of bullying behavior in schools, and might not be the most effective way to educate our teens about sexual diversity.
Critics be damned. If one teenager seeks help, three adults speak up in their communities, and a few brave teachers and administrators start programs to help gay and questioning teens - It Gets Better is beyond a success. Please go watch some of the videos posted at the YouTube It Gets Better channel.
This public service announcement is posted in honor of the two Marks, Rob, Susan, Scott, Stephanie, Frank and many other people who I would have missed if they hadn't overcome the tyranny of LGBT bullying in school. Special thanks to my blogging partner, Ned, for making life better in his role as a high school principal in California. Life wouldn't be the same without you.