Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

“It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle and Dan Savage (Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr.Sprinkle, was an early contributor to the "It Gets Better Project").

When Dan Savage and Terry Miller conceived of the “It Gets Better Project,” the goal they had was a hundred videos.  Now there are over 10,000 of them, and the videos have been viewed over 40,000,000 times to date—and growing!  Dan has said that had there been 20 videos online, and one life saved, it would have been worth it.  We know now that many, many teenage lives have been given new hope, and also that young lives by the hundreds have been saved by this visionary project.  As the Jewish Talmud teaches, Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a).  The IGB Project, and now the New York Times bestselling book by the same name has already saved a galaxy of worlds by this rabbinic measure.

But the IGB project and book have gone one better than this, if such a thing might be possible.  Dan, Terry, and the worldwide host of contributors to this positive effort have changed the world irrevocably, queer and straight alike.  Here are two of the ways I see.

First, the “coming out story,” a staple of LGBTQ life, has been transformed into a declaration of how the queer community is overcoming shame, persecution, and victimhood—and coming on strong.  For two generations since Stonewall, the coming out story has been a way LGBTQ people shared their struggles and established solidarity with each other.  Most of these stories were accounts of struggle, hurt, and survival. Queer folk got to see they were not alone and isolated—we heard the battles others fought, and compared scars—and that was powerful for all parties, because these stories allowed us to see that there were others like us in this difficult world—that we resisted and lived on into a new life together, no longer alone.  But IGB went a crucial step further: as thousands of us were empowered to speak directly to queer teenagers with a positive message of hope and power, “It really does get better, and this is how it got better for us,” we got to overhear ourselves rehearsing stories of strength and success—not just repetitions of woe and endurance.  IGB powered up the queer community to tell the whole world how we are defeating opposition in fine style thousands of different ways everyday.  The message is, “We are no one’s patsies anymore, thank you! And we are ready and able to make things improve for ourselves and our teens every day, until it gets better for all of us!”  IGB changed the coming out story into the overcoming stories of a powerful queer people who will never settle for victimhood again.  In my religious tradition, as a queer Baptist preacher, that makes me want to shout, Hallelujah!

Second, IGB empowered our straight allies to come out strong, too.  From President Obama to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  From Prime Minister David Cameron to Lutheran Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. From moms and pops, school teachers who taught us, and straight employers who hired us.  Our allies joined the queer community to make the message of zero tolerance for school bullying perfectly queer.  I know the term “queer” rankles some genteel sentiments, but to see the way our straight allies have taken the term and wrapped themselves in it for our sakes should dispel the last reservations we have about the word and about how the LGBTQ movement for human rights and equal dignity will grow and eventually prevail.  Straight queer allies by the hundreds of thousands are rising up against bullying, het privilege, and the culture of violence that imperils not only gender non-conforming youth, but all youth everywhere.  By ourselves, LGBTQ people are not numerous enough to change the het world.  But IGB shows youth and adults in our LGBTQ communities—out or closeted—that growing numbers of queerly empowered straight allies are joining us to transform the world we all share.  This is no panacea, of course.  My generation may not live to see it, especially in the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques where old prejudices linger with desperate power.  But even there, straight allies are queering religion with us.  When the annals of these years are written, I believe the IGB Project will feature prominently in the story of how all us queers, LGBTQ and straight, overcame together. Like the Black Gospel refrain goes, “Over! Over! My soul looks back and wonders how I got over!”

So, Dan and Terry, and the tens of thousands who have rallied to the cause of a safer world for youth to grow up in, a salute to you!  The children will rise up to call you “blessed.”  And so does this mighty queer Baptist preacher from Texas, too!    ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School, and Unfinished Lives Project Director

April 3, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Dan Savage, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Popular Culture, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle

Dustin Lance Black & Neil Patrick Harris Elected to Trevor Project Board

Dustin Lance Black, Neil Patrick Harris, The Advocate photo

The Trevor Project, founded a decade ago to prevent LGBT teen suicide, announced Tuesday that Dustin Lance Black, 2008 Academy Award Winner for the screenplay of Milk, and Golden Globe nominee Neil Patrick Harris have joined the Board of Directors of the non-profit corporation.  The Advocate reports that Charles Robbins, executive director and CEO of the Trevor Project hailed the news that these two prominent gay men have accepted spots on the board in a prepared statement to the press:  “Because Dustin Lance Black and Neil Patrick Harris have already demonstrated their tireless commitment to LGBTQ youth and The Trevor Project, we are thrilled to welcome them to our leadership team,” Robbins said.  “As prominent members of the entertainment community, they will certainly help raise awareness about The Trevor Project’s programs and their insight will be invaluable as we work to empower young people with the crisis intervention skills and suicide prevention resources they need.”  The bios posted on non-profit’s Board of Directors web page chronicled the qualifications each of them brings to the work of LGBT teen suicide prevention.  Black, the bio notes, was honored in 2008 with The Trevor Hero Award, which annually honors an individual who, through his or her example, support, volunteerism and/or occupation, is an inspiration to LGBTQ youth.  Black, who was the motive force behind the Oscar-winning movie on the life of slain gay rights leader, Harvey Milk,  said, “All of the work we’re doing today to win LGBT equality is for these young people’s futures. So it is vital that we insure they survive today’s challenges so they might know tomorrow’s freedoms. I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue and expand my involvement with this lifesaving organization as a member of the Board of Directors.”  Neil Patrick Harris, star of Dougie Howser, M.D., Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and successful host of recent Emmy Awards and Tony Awards ceremonies, was given the 2009 Trevor Life Award, based on his efforts to support and inspire LGBT youth around the world.  Harris expressed his enthusiasm for being elected to the Board of Directors, saying, “I’ve been a longtime supporter of The Trevor Project, and I’m excited to become even more actively involved in raising awareness of its unique and vital mission. I hope that my involvement with The Trevor Project will help bring attention to the need for effective crisis and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth nationwide.”  The addition of these two important figures in the entertainment industry will continue to life the profile of the Trevor Project.  LGBT teens are three to seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Bullying in schools is the largest single cause of gay teens taking their own lives in America.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Bullying in schools, gay men, gay teens, LGBT teen suicide prevention, Popular Culture, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dustin Lance Black & Neil Patrick Harris Elected to Trevor Project Board

   

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