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Dan Savage at Illinois State University

September 14, 2011
Dan Savage

Dan Savage appearing at Illinois State University's Braden Auditorium on 14 September 2011

Normally, he said, he prefers a Q&A format and then just spend the evening talking about sex stuff. But tonight he talked about the “It Gets Better” project, which was a moving experience.

The basic idea is this: Savage and his husband had read just too many damn newspaper articles about LGBT teens committing suicide.  He wished he could talk to them – let them know that there is a life beyond high school, and that it could get better.  That it could be great!

But how could they possibly get invited into a high school to talk about how a gay person can grow up to have a happy life?  Other than by a principal who was planning to quit later that day.

“We need to talk to the Billy Lucases out there before we read about them in the newspaper.”

Then it hit him: in the age of Facebook and YouTube and Twitter, they were waiting for permission or invitations that were no longer required.  They could communicate directly with teens.  So he and his husband – previously a very private person – made a video.

They created a new YouTube channel with the intention of gathering 100 videos.  In just a few days viewers had contributed 650 videos, the maximum number for a new YouTube channel.  So an engineer at Google backdated the channel to before YouTube even existed, so they could gather 3000 videos.  Today, more than 35,000 people have contributed videos to tell LGBT teens: don’t give up.  It gets better.

“It’s not all a sweet, or saccharine,  outreach: there’s a “Fuck You” embedded in it.  We’re going to talk to your LGBT kid whether you want us to or not.  We’re going right past the parents, the school principals, and the preachers directly to the kids.  And in ten years after you get over your kid being gay, you’ll thank us for it.”

The program, after only one year, has been successful that people started trying to donate money – which they didn’t need.  So they’ve been able to funnel tens of thousands of dollars into suicide hotlines, anti-bullying programs, and the ACLU.

He talked passionately about the religious right’s anti-gay crusades – in particular Tony Perkins of the FRC.

“Every LGBT youth suicide is a victory to them.”

I’ve read stuff from the Family Research Council and the American Family Association and he’s right; they really are glad when a gay teen commits suicide.  Even sicker? The culture of Perkins and Fisher are a voting block courted by Conservatives.

Half of all bullying is against LGBT teens, but only 5 out of 67 anti-bullying programs address them.  The other 62 programs ignore literally half the problem.

Then he did have Q&A:

He talked about his history with Rick Santorum: “Some people actually accuse me of bullying Rick Santorum.  There’s a big difference between being a gay teenager with nobody who has their back, nobody to defend them, where they’re bullied at school, at home, and bullied by God at church, and a wealthy US Senator who only speaks to crowds who agree with everything he says.  When you give a bully a bloody nose, they just can’t believe it!  And he still can’t.”

He and his husband are Episcopalian, which he said is; “A Catholic who goes to Hell”.

Religious organizations, political leaders, many straight people, even the President, have contributed videos to the campaign.

“But you know who hasn’t contributed even a single video?  Not even one elected Republican leader.  To do a video you don’t have to sign off on the entire LGBT agenda; you just need to be able to look into a camera and say to an isolated, vulnerable kid; ‘Hang in there!  Don’t hurt yourself.’  That bar is pretty fucking low and not a single Republican official can clear it.”

Asked; Will he vote for Barack Obama?

“Yes, because I’m not a total fucking idiot.  I don’t have the luxury of an alternate universe where I can get a candidate who’s perfect in every way.  I can’t get Mary Poppins as my candidate.  And yes it took a lot of yelling, and some feet-holding to the fire, but he’s delivered – not everything and there’s plenty of things I’m really pissed at him about, but he’s delivered.  And if we don’t reward that then politicians will ask themselves, ‘Why give them anything?  Because we sure aren’t going to get anything from the Republican psychos.”


  • LGBT teen risk of suicide = 4x.  If parents unsupportive or hostile = 8x.  Tony Perkins actually advises parents of gay teens to reject their kids.
  • Yeah, I feel pretty lucky to be able to walk four blocks from my house and hear national figures speak.  Savage was hilarious, moving, and I learned a lot.  I think he’s done a lot to make life better for a lot of Americans – people around the world actually – even straight people who were never comfortable being part of homophobic culture and have an opening to say; Not doing that anymore.
  • Aww, poor little Rick Santorum.  He says it’s all Google’s fault.  (Just a hint, Rick; if you convince Google to destroy their own business model to please your campaign, then you still have to work on Bing, Yahoo, and ASK.  Though the latter doesn’t have a top link to spreadingsantorum.com, the first several links are to what a slimy, frothy bigot you are.  You fix that by looking in the mirror, not by arguing with search engines.)




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