Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns - It Gets Better

Joel Burns breaks down while encouraging gay teens to live. This is over ten minutes long but it's very touching and worth watching all the way through.

The recent suicides of so many young people due to bullying has been very much on my mind. One of the bravest people I ever met was a student at my East Bay suburban high school in 1979. He came out the year before and went through his senior year dealing with barbed jokes, icy stares and exclusion.

I didn't know him well enough to find out what else he had to go through. He regularly escaped to San Francisco and that probably helped him immensely. Although our suburb was only 35 minutes away by speeding car, it was hicksville compared to the city. There was literally a clique of guys at my school who called themselves hicks.

Since I had met this guy in drama class, I witnessed the straight guys of theater freeze him out of every group activity. This guy was wicked funny, but they refused to laugh at his improv jokes. I just didn't get it. They should have admired him for his bravery and honesty. He was really handsome too--he could have been in films or television. We should have been fawning all over him. Instead, he was treated like dirt and I was too shy to tell him how cool I thought he was.

The following year after he graduated, I became friends with a new kid my age who after several weeks of rehearsing together for a Neil Simon play, invited me to his house and showed me his GQ magazines. He told me he liked reading them and let me deduce the rest. After thumbing through and seeing they were full of cute guy models, I figured this was some kind of message. I think I just loved him more after that. I felt like he trusted me and that we had a special bond. I know he had to deal with teasing even though he wasn't officially out. His family moved to Texas the following year and I missed him immensely. He was so funny and nice and talented. I admired him and we had lots of laughs. He went on to great things, as I always knew he would. I am so glad I met him. He made high school so much better for me.

Years later, he located me through email and wrote that he was glad he met me in high school because I was kind to him. My question: how could anyone NOT have been kind to him?--a completely lovable boy.

I want gay teens to know: there are people who love you very much. And there will be more, so stay here. We want you around.

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