Thursday, November 11, 2010

T.G.I.F. Joel Burns and the "It Gets Better" project

Well the midterm elections are over, and I suppose I could write about that--but I think I'd rather focus on the positives (or at least not get into a rambling post about the state of politics in this nation and what it may or may not reflect about the state of race/racism in this nation) and so let me turn to a different topic. Because it's Friday, and this blog is overdue for another

T.G.I.F.: The Great Impossible Feat award

So let me introduce you to Joel Burns. Many of you probably know about Mr. Burns and the video that went viral on YouTube of his thirteen minute address to the Ft. Worth City Council (where he serves as a member). Burns had been haunted by the rash of suicides by adolescents and young adults that were the result of bullying and/or a lack of support because of their sexual orientation (or in one case, perceived sexual orientation). Inspired by the "It Gets Better Project"--an on-line movement of celebrities and everyday people speaking directly into the camera and telling young people, specifically young queer teens, that life will get better--that suicide is not the answer to their current pain, Joel Burns used his time at the city council meeting to address the rash of suicides and share his own story about bullying and suicide with the people of Ft. Worth and as it turned out, the world:

[Joel Burns speaking to the Ft. Worth City Council]

The aftermath of Burns' speech is told by Burns to different news programs and talk shows, like CNN and The Ellen DeGeneres show:

[Joel Burns being interviewed on CNN]

[Joel Burns on The Ellen DeGeneres Show]

One of the things I was particularly struck by is the anecdote that Burns shared about one of the most poignant and remarkable stories that emerged after his video went viral. And that is the correspondence he has had with a friend of a gay Australian teen who had been contemplating suicide that very week--and after being shown Burns's video by his friend, he realized that there was hope and he didn't go through with his plan.

One person really can make a difference. And for that, Joel Burns, the "It Gets Better Project" and the many queer adolescents and teens who struggle with finding a place for themselves--who daily endure with taunts and threats--they all deserve a T.G.I.F. award.

Because sometimes just surviving is an incredible feat in itself.

[UPDATE: 12:21pm: I just saw this very moving 2-minute spot by Tim Gunn (of Project Runway Fame) where he shares his own story of failed suicide and gives a plug for The Trevor Project--which is this AMAZING website/resource/suicide hotline for GLBTQ people, especially for youth. So here's Tim Gunn's "It Gets Better" video below:]


Joel Burns said...

Thanks Jennifer. I'm honored!

Jennifer said...

Wow--it's Joel Burns leaving a comment on my blog! Thanks for stopping by and of course, thanks for your words of hope and encouragement for LGBTQ teens and everyone else feeling different and alone.