It Gets Better...and better...and better!
October 13, 2010 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Linked through Gay, with a short blurb on the video:
Openly gay Fort Worth, Texas, City Councilman Joel Burns broke down during a council meeting last night while telling his own story of being bullied and contemplating suicide at age 13, according to a report from WFAA-TV.

“I was cornered after school by some older kids who roughed me up. They said that I was a fag, and that I should die and go to Hell where I belonged,” Burns said, adding that he had never told anyone before that moment that he had considered taking his own life.

Burns became the first openly gay candidate elected to public office in Tarrant County, Texas, when he won a special election for a seat on the Fort Worth City Council in 2007. He was reelected in 2009.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:34 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Joel Burns is awesome. And he's my councilman!
posted by kmz at 2:39 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

It isn't often I'm proud to be a Texan, but today Mr Burns changed that.
posted by jph at 2:42 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Damn these fall allergies. Always getting stuff in my eye, it seems.
posted by hippybear at 2:47 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

One of the side effects of the 'It Gets Better' campaign that I wasn't expecting was being filled with the overwhelming desire to give lots of people hugs. Really big ones.
posted by kalimac at 2:50 PM on October 13, 2010 [17 favorites]

I don't always agree with him but the world is a better place because of Dan Savage.
posted by josher71 at 2:55 PM on October 13, 2010 [10 favorites]

posted by grubi at 2:56 PM on October 13, 2010

Every push forward seems met with a great deal of resistance from those who are threatened by a change in the status quo. And children are so often the shock troops for the status quo -- if there's anything about you the slightest bit off, there are little monsters who will go after you. How much worse when the thing that's unusual about you is one that is so pilloried by a certain segment of society, where the private face of the movement against gay marriage has so much rage and hatred built in. We show that face to our children, we give them permission to bully children they suspect of being gay, and their bullying become worse for it.

These are the growing pangs of justice, and they are terrible. We thought the world would get less racist when Obama was elected. No. It was a push forward, and so the small-minded and the easily threatened pushed back, as hard as they could. We thought things would get better because gay marriage is starting to be legal, because DADT is collapsing, because there are publicly out LGBT people who are adored and supported, rather than being so despised they must hide themselves behind a mask of normalcy? No. The same forces of contempt and spite, the same people who respond to any expansion of a privilege that was once exclusively theirs, with meanness and lies, are pushing back against the gains made my gays and lesbians. And their kids are pushing back, the way kids do, with fists in schoolyards and with taunts and mockery and threats. And children are dying because of it.

I don't know if it would help these kids at all to know that this is happening precisely because things are getting better. But they are. I am sure it helps to have things like this, where people who have been through it come out and say things do get better. It helps to know it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:02 PM on October 13, 2010 [20 favorites]

I can't watch this. I got two minutes in. It just brings back so many horrible memories for me. And I am sure there are thousands of other queer adults looking at those photos and seeing their face with them.

Thanks Joel Burns for fighting the good fight.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:02 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

That was really powerful. I love the It Gets Better project.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:07 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

What a brave and moving post. I loved the fact that all his co-council members stood and applauded at the end.
posted by leslies at 3:17 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this -- incredibly powerful. However, I must object to the fact that it made me go through half a box of kleenex. There is only so much of my crying that the trees of the world can endure!

Seriously, what an amazing message. I am hopeful that this whole campaign may indeed save some young, wonderful lives that would have otherwise been lost in the most tragic way possible.
posted by scody at 3:21 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hadn't seen pictures of those kids. The picture of Asher Brown just broke my heart. I couldn't even look at Seth Walsh.

Did y'all read today's Savage Love? Bang, bang, bang.
posted by Madamina at 3:21 PM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

There is something in my eyes.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:25 PM on October 13, 2010

What an amazing role model. For the kids, but for the rest of us too.
posted by freshwater at 3:29 PM on October 13, 2010

Thanks for posting. I watched this earlier today and it was unspeakably powerful.
posted by dhammond at 3:31 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Now that's a goddamned Texan.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:35 PM on October 13, 2010 [19 favorites]

Madamina: Did y'all read today's Savage Love?

You have got to be kidding me. That woman actually wrote a letter that could be titled "WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE BIGOTED CHRISTIANS?"

Wow. Fucking wow.
posted by tzikeh at 3:52 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

if there's anything about you the slightest bit off, there are little monsters who will go after you.

You aren't kidding. When I was a kid, I earned wrath because my pants were a bit too short, and got harassed for it for years (until I got bigger than the bullies.) I cannot imagine what it would mean to have to go through something like this because of who you are and cannot change.

if my kids bully someone there's going to be hell to pay
posted by davejay at 4:08 PM on October 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

Oh, and the phrase "lifestyle choice" now makes me want to punch a wall.
posted by davejay at 4:15 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seriously, lifestyle choice? What kind of fucked up mind would chose to label themselves as anything that has such a high tendency to get the shit kicked out of them?

Normally I try to control myself a bit here, but that line of thinking is a giant load of shit. Mostly due to the fact that somehow people chose to be gay but nobody that I know of ever made a conscious decision to be straight.
posted by theichibun at 4:30 PM on October 13, 2010

Good for him. This didn't seem to get too much press here in DFW. Probably eclipsed by the Rangers playoff win. We have 3 and 8 year old boys and my wife and I are already making sure they judge others only by the content of their character and nothing else.
posted by punkfloyd at 4:31 PM on October 13, 2010

That woman actually wrote a letter that could be titled "WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE BIGOTED CHRISTIANS?"

Wow. That was pretty unbelievable. It was all "your refusal to let me discriminate against you is discriminatory."

Cognitive dissonance is clearly a lie or she would have dropped dead before she could have hit send.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:13 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fort Worth, Texas - I have heard of that place.
posted by Senator at 5:18 PM on October 13, 2010

You don't even have to be gay to deal with anti-gay bullying. Like most people, in school I experienced enough bullying to know I didn't like it. But in college, I experienced an event that put a whole new layer on the situation. At 19, I considered myself something of a free-thinking liberal but, truth be told, I still probably carried a lot of the prejudices I had grown up with, if only subtly.

Anyway, I had a buddy who lived on another campus who invited me to come visit. He said to knock on his dorm room door, and if he wasn't home to wait outside. He also had a roommate, Jimmy, who was flamboyantly gay (and by 'flamboyant' I mean that this guy made Carson Kressler seem like Clint Eastwood, but he was a really really nice guy with a good sense of humor). I got there and the door was locked and nobody was home, so I waited outside. You should've seen the looks I got, NTM, some guy who passed by and snarled "Hey, Jimmy, you home, you fucking faggot??" Needless to say, I was scared, but that night I decided once and for all, what side I was on.

Now, almost twenty years later, not far from where that incident took place, my wife teaches at a public highschool in a rough area, where recently a horrific gay-bashing took place. She hears some of her kids make homphobic statements and makes sure she admonishes them. She had on student who started out making "adam & steve' type comments and ended the year writing an argumentative essay in favor of gay marraige, and I have no doubt that my wife helped to change her. A small victory, mybe, but whatever works.
posted by jonmc at 5:22 PM on October 13, 2010 [11 favorites]

Man, after my allergies dry up, I want to go knock some bullies' teeth out.
posted by notsnot at 6:43 PM on October 13, 2010

Tim Gunn's "It Gets Better". These are all so good. What a wonderful project....
posted by Corduroy at 7:43 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Texas, our Texas.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:07 PM on October 13, 2010

Did y'all read today's Savage Love? Bang, bang, bang.
posted by Madamina at 11:21 PM on October 13 [4 favorites +]


"I'm sorry your feelings were hurt by my comments. No, wait. I'm not. Gay kids are dying. So let's try to keep things in perspective: Fuck your feelings."

Hell, YES. Dan Savage is great.
posted by Decani at 5:06 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I knew I shouldn't have watched this at work. Damn.

And he did this in Texas. Such amazing bravery...
posted by This Guy at 5:13 AM on October 14, 2010

People sometimes get down on Texas for being a bit slow, but lately it seems they are way out in front of Georgia when it comes to this sort of thing. Houston has a gay mayor and now this; I can't imagine any elected official in this state being openly gay and getting applauded by the rest of the city council. Instead we have counseling students suing for the right to discriminate against gay clients and the KKK showing up in support. To be honest, she and her attorneys are repudiating the KKK 's support, but still...
posted by TedW at 6:44 AM on October 14, 2010

When I watched this, I was at "work" also, as the president of the Key West Gay & Lesbian Community Center. Normally when I am in I leave the door to my office open. However, after a moment of watching this video, I pulled the door to. Within moments I was a puddle. I couldn't breath. The tears flowed as if from faucets.

The Victory Fund page spoke admiringly of councilperson Burns' public address, also adding this curious addendum: "...but check out the response of his peers at the end."

When I watched the first time I thought, "Get up off your feet people," and then slowly they did. "Whew," I thought. I watched it again. On second viewing, the applause is clearly more than a little restrained. The response even seems a bit forced, as if obligatory. But then look at the big man sitting in the front row of the hall when the camera switches. He isn't applauding. He is being—and just barely—polite.

In fact, it is this response which lends further credibility and majesty to Burns' oratory. Councilman Burns has just delivered one hell of an emotional story, maintained his professional credibility even while giving of himself freely and honestly, and a large part of the audience responds half-heartedly and with conscious restraint. It is worth noting.

Also worth noting that had that speech been delivered in Key West, Mr Burns, your audience would have lept to their feet and applauded you down so hard we wouldn't have been able to get to business for the next half-hour for all the cheers and tears. As it is, sir, we salute you.

Keep up the good work.

And if anyone wonders what it was like to be around during the heyday of the civil rights movement in the very-early 1960s, make no mistake that it is very much like being around for the civil rights movement of the 2010s. Don't miss out. The gay rights movement is the human rights movement.
posted by Mike Mongo at 6:49 AM on October 14, 2010 [8 favorites]

An LGBT Youth organization I'm involved in is about to launch an anti-bullying campaign in Orange County, Florida schools. While it's all-inclusive, there is obviously a focus on anti-LGBT bullying. We're very thankful the school system has allowed us to spearhead the campaign.

What's sad is the focus of our recent meetings have been with how to deal with the backlash we know we're going to get from parents about "gay propaganda" in the schools.
posted by Wossname at 7:43 AM on October 14, 2010

I applaud many times over, though I can't watch. "Too close to home/And too near the bone" .....
posted by blucevalo at 8:23 AM on October 14, 2010

liketitanic, thanks for! I just wrote the principal at my alma mater. It felt good. Though it also reminded me of just how miserable high school was for me, a geeky but privileged straight kid... and how very much worse it was for the GLBT kids I was in school with. I wish I could go back in time and help protect them... but at least I can write a letter and maybe help make a tiny difference for kids now.
posted by Erroneous at 8:29 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I will have to watch this when I get home.

In the meantime, if there are any critiques of Dan Savage's campaign, I would like to wholeheartedly point out Make It Better and their youtube channel. They are focused on not just waiting out your torturous high school years, but proactively making it better.
posted by Theta States at 1:25 PM on October 14, 2010

Fight for the right until the night that it's changed.

A great spoken word piece I found via Towleroad.
posted by This Guy at 1:38 PM on October 14, 2010

Joel Burns is awesome. And he's my councilman!

I hope to be able to say the same soon, kmz. For the time being, I'm stuck with Jungus. But I visit Joel's 'hood frequently.

The thing outsiders don't know about Joel is this: He's not just a good gay councilman, he's a good councilman, period. He is the primary force behind a lot of the good that is happening in this city.

The very first time I heard him speak, before I knew anything about him, my first thought was that he would be mayor someday. After this most recent speech, I'm thinking governor, maybe even president. I know that's getting way ahead of things, but he's the kind of politician this country needs more of.

...says the middle-aged hetero Christian dude...
posted by Doohickie at 10:20 PM on October 14, 2010

He's not just a good gay councilman, he's a good councilman, period.

Yes, this. Among other things, he's been one of the prime movers on the streetcar project, which this city desperately needs.

Also worth noting that had that speech been delivered in Key West, Mr Burns, your audience would have lept to their feet and applauded you down so hard we wouldn't have been able to get to business for the next half-hour for all the cheers and tears.

Fort Worth certainly still has a long way to do, as the part of the audience with muted reactions showed. And we already knew that from the ugly and shameful Rainbow Lounge incident. (Which happened in Joel's district.)

But I will say that if I had been there, I'm not sure I would have been able to stand up and cheer because I would have been bawling on the floor. Because that's pretty much what I was doing for 90% of the video.
posted by kmz at 11:02 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank you Joel.
posted by arse_hat at 11:03 PM on October 14, 2010

Mike Mongo, I agree.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:21 AM on October 15, 2010

I just realized I didn't post any context for my rant--it was a rant, and I hadn't been back to look at it. My wife and I made a sign and went to a march, then I posted an AskMetafilter question.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:29 AM on October 15, 2010

Joel Burns:
Dear Friends,

I am moved by the overwhelming support and touching comments that I have received by so many people since sharing my story at City Council on Tuesday. Thank you.

I encourage you to continue to speak out against bullying from wherever you stand today - whether as an adult or youth, whether gay or straight. And, I commit to do the same.

Please share the message with the people in your life and learn more at

I know this conversation will continue and grow. If you are interested in periodically follwing what I learn and experience, please click my "Get Involved" link.

Joel Burns
posted by ericb at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2010

This was incredibly moving. I wish we could all somehow be back there with him, crowding the council chamber, listening with such intensity that everything else seemed to dim, then rising slowly to our feet and clapping and clapping and clapping.

And then going home, to contact our schools and ask what they are doing and what we can do, to bring the bullying to an end for good.

I'd like to help it get better a hell of a lot faster.
posted by bearwife at 5:17 PM on October 15, 2010

Recent additions to the It Gets Better Project that I found moving: Ellen DeGeneres; Tim "Project Runway" Gunn
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:48 PM on October 15, 2010

Totally just gave the guy $20 because I couldn't be there clapping/crying my head off.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:54 AM on October 17, 2010

"A host of young Broadway stars came together to record a song in the hopes of calling further attention to the problem of suicide among LGBT youth. The song, written by composer and lyricists Jay Kuo and Blair Shepard, embraces the theme of 'It Gets Better' and will be available for download via iTunes on October 19th. Proceeds will benefit a terrific cause - The Trevor Project. What's just as good is that is the fact that the song is actually catchy"*
posted by ericb at 11:39 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Would that musical number make a good FPP? I'd love to post it for the world to see, but we have had quite a lot of LGBT-related stuff on the blue lately.
posted by schmod at 6:03 PM on October 18, 2010

National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher: Don't blame me for gay teen suicides.
posted by ericb at 12:41 PM on October 20, 2010

President Obama: It Gets Better
posted by lullaby at 9:51 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Joel Burns for President!
posted by bwg at 5:26 PM on October 25, 2010

bwg: "Joel Burns for President"

With the way he handled himself during that speech and the clarity of his voice throughout the whole thing, he's already on a good start for that. I don't know about his other policies on anything but I'd find it hard to believe that he'd break my #1 rule for not liking politicians, which is "Don't be an asswipe."

Really though, with the way he speaks I could see a lot of people going in his direction. But let's take things a step at a time. I'm not sure the jump from City Councilman straight to President is something I'd wish on anyone.
posted by theichibun at 11:22 AM on October 27, 2010

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