PatnStephen - IT GETS BETTER
We -- I and Pat had a really fun experience yesterday, along with a number of our family members, here in New York. We gathered together to make a video to send to the IT GETS BETTER campaign created by Dan Savage. A brilliant writer and public gay figure ( and the youth of America needs positive gay role models, apparently, more than ever at this time ), Mr Savage created the campaign as a response to the horrifying rash of teen suicides recently. Children in their teens and adults in their late teens and early twenties have been taking their own lives because the people of America are telling them that they are unworthy of living. The bullies in their schools are doing this to their faces, while the bullies in Washington (and in churches around the country) are doing it more publically. Everywhere, every day, young gays are being told that there is no place for them in society. They read about the battle for marriage equality, about difficulties with adoption, about all kinds of prejudice against the gays of this country. City council meetings include horrifying speakers who say that gays worthless while the religious zealots claim that gays are the cause of everything bad in our country. Fellow classmates abuse and bully them, causing in these young and beautiful people a sense of isolation and dispair. With no clear hope for their futures, with no happiness in sight, these children ranging in age from 13 to 19 (specific examples described in a cover story in PEOPLE Magazine) have been hanging themselves and throwing themselves off bridges.
Is this 2010 or what?
No, really. I mean, WHAT is going on here??!! Are the politicians and religious fanatics so scared of us that they have to focus their attentions on leading their followers to a hatred that causes young people to kill themselves?
Two of the perpetrators of recent fatal bullying are being charged with crimes like invasion of privacy - crimes that could get them fined and sentenced to jail for up to five years. I'm no politician and I am, certainly, not smart in the way that some politicians are -- DEFINATELY not smart in the way that Dan Savage is. And, usually, I think that people who aren't smart shouldn't make statements regarding socio-political opinions. But I'm going to take my not-smart ass out on a limb here and say that I think these cyber bullies should be charged with as many different charges as possible. I don't know.. reckless endangerment, maybe? I'm not up on the law. I just think that they are as much to blame for the boy who took his own life as the men who beat up the fellow in the bathroom at the Stonewall. Their actions were not absent malice; none of them - not the cyber bullies or the bathroom bullies. They should be held accountable for their actions. They should be made an example of so that the next time somebody wants to commit an act of hatred, they might think twice.
Furthermore, I wish there were a way to hold the political and religious leaders responsible for these beatings, deaths and suicides. They are inciting the bigots to riot and must be held accountable.
Like I said - I'm no politician and certainly no brain; so I think I should switch gears and not run the risk of exposing my limited intelligence any further. I also think I should talk about something more positive: help.
Mr Savage created the IT GETS BETTER video campaign so that young people with internet access could go online and see the videos of people in the real world (both famous and humble), telling the stories that might serve as a beacon of light, of hope, to lead them out of the darkness, hopefully to stay until there are easier, happier times. Many people have made their videos and posted them online and I thought Pat and I should do it too. After all, we were them three decades ago.
Raised in the South in a family of religious extremity, Pat was taught by the church that he would go to hell for being gay. Raised moving around the country, indeed, the world, I was taught by society (and aggressively mean spirited schoolmates, throughout my school career) that I was a pariah for being gay. I can actually still see the faces of the boys and girls who called me sissy, queer, homo, fag and faggot; I can still remember some of their names. My husband and I couldn't have had more different upbringings; but we were still alone and filled with self-loathing. I made three attempts on my life: one at 13, one at 18 and one at 19. My father helped me through the first one, both of my parents helped me through the last one. They have never known, to this day, about the second one. I kept it extremely private. I don't really discuss these suicide attempts in detail because they aren't what's important. What is important is that I survived them. My parents helped me get through the dark times and, about a year later, I met the man who would spend the rest of my life making me so happy that I wouldn't try it again. That's not to say there weren't other dark times - but when you have the support of a spouse with whom you share great love, you can get through it.
So we decided to tell our story on film for the gay youths, not knowing who would see it -- but at least it is out there.
In the week before we filmed this video, my friend Brady (a great director of the stage) told me "don't be depressing... the campaign is called It Gets Better; talk about the better". So we decided to be ourselves: upbeat, happy and optimistic. We decided to speak frankly about how tough it was growing up but not do a lot of detail because, let's face it, the experience of growing up gay is pretty universal, pretty communal: you get called names and you get bullied, possibly beaten up, possibly some other forms of abuse. It's the same but different for kids who are of another race, of another income bracket, of another physical build, of another intellectual interest ... bullies don't hone in on just one thing: bullies bully and they only need a chance and a half an excuse. There was little to say about being bullied that the youth of the world don't already know. So we focused on letting them know that we had been through it, we got out of it and we have a happy life.
Part of the happiness of our life together is our family. Pat and I have family in many states - kinfolk, blood relations. None of them are here in New York, so we did what people do: we made our own family out of the friends we have here. They are a major part of our happiness. So we asked some of them to join in. Many said yes, some couldn't make it.. some who could make it BARELY fit into the camera (I wish we had squeezed in tighter so Aaron and Michael's whole faces showed!) but we all gathered together for 15 minutes yesterday to shoot this little four minute video. It reminded me, once more, of how much I and Pat have in this life. You won't catch me complaining about anything soon.
I hope it finds its' way onto the computer screens of young men and women who are being bullied FOR ANY REASON and helps them see what a remarkable world it is.
But not if you're not in it.
By being on this planet, we make the world more remarkable, every day.