Will you thank Joel Burns for his #ItGetsBetter video?

October 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm 44 comments

by Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign Institute

I’ve found myself crying in public more often than I could have imagined over the past week.

What made me cry? The suicides of gay kids (or kids perceived to be gay) and their struggles — and the heartbreaking stories inspired by the “It Gets Better” campaign launched by Dan Savage to stop those suicides.

You might have already seen the powerful “It Gets Better” story told by Joel Burns, a member of the Ft. Worth City Council in Texas. Since a video of Joel’s poignant city council testimony was posted on Wednesday, more than 1.6 million Americans have watched it and shared it with their friends. And now, many more will see it today after messages like this one from Courage, the Trevor Project, MoveOn and the Victory Fund.

Please take a moment to watch Joel’s story now — and join us in thanking him for his courage in expressing his personal story to the world. Along with thousands of other people, your signature will be presented to Joel Burns on behalf of the Courage community:

Tears burst forth when we’re angry or sorry or compassionate or mourning or simply incapable of expressing what’s in our soul.

Friday night, I spoke in Stockton, California. I choked up as I tried to relate some of the testimony from the Prop 8 trial — testimony from an old and famous book that informed millions of Americans that gay people were inferior. The passage I cited sounded funny at first, but then I cried. That passage has been with me my whole life, never out in the open until it was in open court.

That’s what Joel Burns did. He said what was in his heart and locked in his soul, never released until he publicly testified, connecting his story with the teens who killed themselves because they were made to feel like they were less than human beings.

Joel said he may face repercussions for being honest about his story. Will you join us in showing Joel that he faces not repercussions but support for his courage? Just click here to watch Joel’s amazing testimony and then sign our community card thanking him:


Sharing Joel’s story is just one of many ways you can help spread the word about bullying and teen suicide. If you’re looking for a helpful list of resources and organizations working to help solve the problem, click here:


Thank you for showing your support for Joel. If we all raise our voices together, lives will be saved.

Entry filed under: Testimony, Uncategorized.

Teen idol Justin Bieber allegedly a victim of homophobic bullying BREAKING: City and County of San Francisco files response brief to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

44 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kathleen  |  October 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    • 2. Ann S.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm

      • 3. JonT  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm

  • 4. Alan E.  |  October 18, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I sent him an email the moment I finished watching it. I’ll sign onto this one, too.

    • 5. Ann S.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      I tried to send him a FB message (not sure it got through) and signed this one when I saw it on FB, too.

      Thank you, Joel Burns!

  • 6. Ronnie  |  October 18, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I signed it….the link is posted on FF4E too…<3…Ronnie

  • 7. Alan E.  |  October 18, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    testimony from an old and famous book that informed millions of Americans that gay people were inferior. The passage I cited sounded funny at first, but then I cried. That passage has been with me my whole life, never out in the open until it was in open court.

    That was a tearful day for me reading the liveblogs. Part of me misses the group shared cries. I’m sure there will be more as the trial continues, but nothing as powerful as those days with the witnesses on the stand.

  • 8. Kathleen  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Judge in DADT case says she’s inclined to deny gov’t request and will issue ruling by end of day:

    • 9. Kathleen  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      It’s being reported she has declined stay and DOJ plans to appeal, but nothing on the docket yet.

    • 10. Alan E.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm

      She also balked at their admission of a Rolling Stone article to support its argument that the abrupt change in the policy would hurt military readiness.

      “I hardly need to say more than that,” Phillips said of the article. “It’s hearsay. It’s not reliable.”

      Plaintiffs even called this out in their brief.

    • 11. Bob  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      interesting, what to make of it, hmmmmm go with your inclinations Judge Phillips, hope you get a really clear sign from somehwere by the end of the day.

    • 12. Judy  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks for keeping us posted, Kathleen. I hear that her stay denial was expected.

      Who could argue that more harm would come from continuing DADT than would come from at least temporarily halting the policy? More irreversible harm would come from issuing a stay.

    • 13. Kathleen  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      I think her denial was expected and I don’t doubt the reports, but I”m one of those “show me the order” people – won’t feel real until I see it entered on the docket. :)

      • 14. Kathleen  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm

        L.A. Times says it’s “tentative” ruling, with official decision later today or tomorrow.

        It sounds to me like the reports that “judge likely to reject request” and “judge rejects request” are two different reports of the same facts.

      • 15. Alan E.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm

        plus it’s all hearsay at this point.

  • 16. Josh  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Yes, his testimony was very powerful. I don’t know how he held it together as well as he did. I could never do that.


    • 17. Bob  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:52 pm

      well done Joel, bring it HOME make it REAL right where you are right in the work place, tell the story there, speak to the adults who share your space today, woot woot,,,

      I’m still working on my relationship with my mother, I was the kid that got out of the house because that’s what it took, mom and I are not good at communicating, but we’re struggling, today I woke to an e-mail, she told me of her dream last night, (I haven’t been home in years, and lately we communicate through dreams) she said last night the kids called her out to the yard because I was there, she said I was on a horse, and she wanted to hug me but I lookded all bruised and sore, she said I mentioned how the trees had grown, and then I was gone, she wanted to thank me for visiting her in the dream and asked me to come again.

      I replied thank you for acknowledging me in your dreams, and on a horse very symbolic, you know I am a warrior in the gay rights battle, and at present I am very bruised and battered by all the teen suicides, so that image too represents my feelings., it’s the church we battle, and the hatered they preach from the pulpit, remember you told me to leave your church alone and seek my blessings where I can. I’m sure you are hearing about the battle from the other side, your pastor must keep you up to date in his sermons, do you remember your last dream where we were threating to kill each other, and I acknowledged the anger, can you please tell me what you are so angry about, I can think of a million reasons, but it would be good if you could express it for yourself, thanks again for entertaining me in your dreams, your garden is lovely, and the trees have grown, but so have we, thanks your son Bob

  • 18. fiona64  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:06 pm


    Honestly, if it hadn’t been for three supportive teachers, I doubt I would have survived high school. I was short, poor and “too smart,” so I was a target. My parents provided me with well-meant but useless advice like “ignore them and it’ll stop” and “they’re just jealous.” None of that was true.

    What I did instead was put up a wall that never allowed anyone to get near me. Anything that anyone found out about me could be, and was, a weapon turned against me. Instead of making friends and having all of those “wonderful memories” that we’re all told we’ll have of high school, I kept people *out.* Some of them have turned out to be really cool adults whom I am fortunate to have in my life … but it took a lot of work for me to get there.

    How wonderful would it have been if folks back then had stood up and said “Enough!” as they are starting to do now? As I said in my note to Councilman Burns, it breaks my heart that kids still go through this; I graduated high school almost 30 years ago, and I had really hoped the world was a better place for young people than it apparently is.

    It only stops when we *all,* including school administrations, stand up and say “NO MORE!” Ignoring them doesn’t make it stop; it gives them a license to continue.


    • 19. Alan E.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      I know all about that wall, and I’m still battling with it today. I have found it difficult to find the fine line, but I know I have drawn it a little close. For me, though, there is a difference between being myself and open publicly and being myself and being open on a more private, limited level. As friendly as I can be, it has been incredibly difficult to make close friends because I have that little voice that keeps me on guard with personal information.

      • 20. fiona64  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

        Alan, it took me being 26 years out of high school before I could let it down even a tiny bit — and I had to have help in order to make it happen.

        I still tend to put it up and keep it up for a long time.

        Congratulations on taking the “tiny little turtle steps” … every single one of them counts, you know … and I am so glad for what you have shared of yourself here, on FB, etc.


      • 21. Gregory in SLC  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:36 pm

        ((HUGS)) to both Fiona and Alan! Thank you for sharing just a little bit more of yourselves and your struggles. Love Gregory

  • 22. Ann S.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I can’t say I was actually bullied in high school but at the same time I always knew I was not one of the cool kids, and not one of the popular kids.

    Just last night our daughter said to us, “I didn’t like middle school”. I told her that no one does. Then she said, “And I don’t like high school now”. Ouch, but that’s also true for most, I think. The only person who ever told me that he loved high school and that he was one of the popular kids is not someone I like much at all.

    • 23. fiona64  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm

      One of the real shocks to my system was when, on a Yahoo group someone put together for my graduating class, I started talking about my experiences. (Again, I had a lot of help from a wonder-full friend in order to get the point where I felt safe to say anything.)

      Anyway, one of the most popular cheerleaders chimed in and talked about how much she hated high school and how lonely she was … despite appearances to the contrary. It was a really heartfelt lesson that things are not always what we think they are for others.

      Ditto my friend who helped me to get to the point where I could talk about things. I didn’t know until long after high school, but my friend’s dad walked out on the family when we were freshmen. J. worked 40 hours a week at a gas station by night so that he could pay the mortgage; he played football because he couldn’t see any other way he was ever going to get to college. He wore the same pair of jeans every single day, just laundering them every night so that they were always clean; he didn’t own another pair of pants until high school graduation. That night, he came up to me in his dress trousers, nice shoes, shirt and tie and asked whether he looked okay. I couldn’t believe that one of the “cool kids” would ask me that, but we had started making friends with one another when he came in on his lunch breaks to the hamburger joint where I worked.
      Nobody knew any of it, because he was ashamed and embarrassed.

      I only know one or two people with the proverbial “fond memories” of high school myself. Sad but true.


      • 24. Ann S.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

        Fiona, those are very interesting stories. I still have 4 very close friends from high school. Over 30 years later, we still get together when we can, and I still consider them very good friends. When we get together we catch up on news, but the relationships haven’t changed.

        Our daughter is probably doing better than I did at surviving high school — she has more friends, more poise, more activities, and has had a few boyfriends (by the time I graduated from HS I had had exactly one). She has a few teachers she just loves. But the academic pressure is greater now, I think.

      • 25. Catherine  |  October 19, 2010 at 1:39 pm

        In one sense, I liked high school. I had some “cool” friends (stoners) but I was in the “smart” classes and I was adequately athletic. I hung with the stoner kids because there was a cachet of coolness around them and, frankly, getting high was a way of coping with my insecurities, shyness and awkwardness. Buried deep within me I knew I was gay, but I was raised in a very fundamental Christian household and I wouldn’t even contemplate the idea that I was really gay. When it came to dating, high school sucked. I just never really attracted guys – and I wasn’t bad looking – just gave off a different “vibe”. My partner calls it a certain “masculine vibe” that has nothing to do with how I look apparently. Anyway, I blended until I was basically invisible in order to keep my deep dark secret hidden. Even though I wasn’t bullied for my orientation, it is still soul damaging to feel that you can’t be who you are because of other people. I certainly empathize with all of your stories and the young people going through these things today. It sucks to deny who you are. It sucks to be thought of as less of a person just because you love differently than someone else.

  • 26. Alan E.  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    ooo City and County of San Francisco just filed!!!

  • 27. Kathleen  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    UPDATE (Perry)
    Response Brief filed by Plaintiffs-Appellees City and County of San Francisco

  • 28. Sagesse  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Signed and signing up.

  • 29. Richard W. Fitch  |  October 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Just have this to say: Joel Burns is really on fire!!

  • 30. Richard A. Walter (soon to be Walter-Jernigan)  |  October 18, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    We will sign the thank you letter tomorrow. Right now, it is almost time for sleep.

  • 31. Ray in MA  |  October 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    FYI: Error…

    currently I get:

    “Invalid signup form requested: ThankYouJoelBurns” when trying to access the link.

    I’ll try later.

  • 32. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 18, 2010 at 6:50 pm


    I’ve been struggling to write a blog about a conference I attended:

    Utah Pride Center: Family Acceptance Regional Conference, October 8-10, 2010, Sheraton Hotel, Salt Lake City.

    I have much materials and notes and memories but cannot seem to get it all together in a coherent format. So I decided to just share a link to a small album of pictures I took with detailed captions. I invite you to visit the links included in the photo captions more information.

    I would like to give just a bit of more information about Alison and Bruce Black (captured in one of the photos). Alison got involved in PFLAG when “In 2009 a young man who my children knew committed suicide. For me, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could not sit back anymore and watch as our children are killing themselves because they do not feel accepted and loved for who they are. This is the point in my life I decided to start the Ogden Chapter of PFLAG…..” http://www.ogdenpflag.org/words.html The Blacks also have an openly gay son. They are active Mormons who were patient and friendly as I peppered them with many questions about why they choose to stay in the Mormon church despite all. I asked Alison directly how she felt about Elder Packer’s comments she vehemently said “I think he is a Turd!” I tried not to laugh, instead I probed further to find how she felt and “what next?” She is a teacher at church and she said “quite frankly, while some were protesting at temple square, I was in my Bishop’s office telling him ‘I can’t do this any more, this is too much (ignorance and hate speech).’ She said “Bishop, I cannot separate my two lives I must speak out against this kind of talk in the church” Her bishop said she can do the most good to changing minds and hearts within the church and he encouraged her to keep teaching and talking and educating w/in the church. I may have gotten some of the details wrong but fairly representative what she told me and a small groups that stayed to visit. I respect the decision of the Blacks, Santa Barbara Mom’s and Sheryl’s of the world but still hard for me to understand it. Alison said her gay son appreciates all her PFLAG work but he too can’t quite grasps why his family still decides to stay active in the church. Having said this, I do find many fabulous people in the Mormon church who believe in and practice not interfering with others lives and represent what I consider true Christianity=unconditional love.

    Bless you all in your Blogs, articles, emails, public and virtual events, protests, prayers, meditations, thoughts, your caring, sharing, understanding, posting, revealing, your dreams, worries, loneliness, despair, bliss, your JOY! and your love(s). ((HUGS)) Gregory


    • 33. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 18, 2010 at 6:50 pm

      Click on Last Link “Picasaweb” for picts :)

      • 34. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 18, 2010 at 8:23 pm

        AND I forgot to mention the Movie we previewed “Out of the Silence” at the convention is avail to purchase though all the usual sources or watch FREE:

        I highly recommend taking 1 hr of your life to meander through this lovely documentary that was filmed over 3 years in a labor of love. About half the time I wanted to “punch” the townspeople but the filmmaker and others kept trying to educate in a peaceful way. Astounding (yet effective) patience!

    • 35. Kathleen  |  October 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm

      Wonderful pictures and thank you so much for all the information. And particularly great to see pictures of you!! I love our P8TT family. <3

      • 36. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm

        I love the P8TT family too! Thank you Kathleen for taking time to read/link/view –its a little embarrassing to publish so many picts of me so I appreciate your encouraging words : ) I just couldn’t help hug and pose with these magnificent people!

  • 37. Mackenzie  |  October 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I sent him a letter. His speech deeply touched me, and had a profound impact on my mom as well. Simply amazing. We need to get this out there for all to see.

    He did a fantastic job!

    • 38. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 18, 2010 at 7:21 pm

      Glad you shared the story with your Mom Mackenzie :D I love the story too.

  • 39. Elizabeth Oakes  |  October 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    I signed and sent a message too. It’s so hard to stand up when you have so much to lose–your political career, for starters. I hope I will be as brave when I’m called upon to stand up. We got your back, Joel!

  • 40. paul  |  October 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I can’t imagine anyone with a heart…even a tiny little heart…not realizing the damage done to each of us when we’re alienated from our species by anything at all, let alone something we have no control over. We’re social animals…and especially as children we need to feel part of the flock, herd, clan, family…whatever. Being made to feel “less than” or “separate from”… damages us. In the animal kingdom it would be a death sentence.
    I came through with some scars but I’m a survivor. I pray for the kids coming through now and this message from Joel really brings that home again.
    Is Maggie even listening? I have to believe she has a heart in there…somewhere. Can it be reached by this video? Maggie….can you hear me?

  • 41. Lora  |  October 18, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Over the past week or so, since he made this speech…I have seen it aired on the news a few times and played in it’s entirety! I think once was on CNN..I don’t recall the others. I was very happy to see this on national TV.
    Kudos to those stations that played this and interviewed him on the subject.
    Sad that this has to be a subject for news and talk shows but glad that it’s at least getting talked about and out in the open…finally!

    • 42. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 19, 2010 at 5:17 am

      DITTO! Can’t think of a better ambassador for the “It gets better” project to go national :D

  • 43. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 19, 2010 at 5:22 am

    I re-read Rick’s post the morning:
    “I’ve found myself crying in public more often than I could have imagined over the past week.”

    • 44. Gregory in Salt Lake City  |  October 19, 2010 at 5:59 am

      hit enter too soon…. about crying.

      I find my self crying often…
      -when I watched Joel burn’s entire video
      -for our dear P8TT’s stories about being bullied in school
      -about their families rejection of them
      -when I read another story of a kid committing suicide
      -when I read another absolutely ignorant comment about ‘us’ I cry and wonder how we can reach them
      -when someone has a relationship end.

      This weekend I was discussing many aspects of the world with my hubby and we got more and more frustrated over the unfairness of our current situation that is largely due to the unfairness of DOMA and the absurd laws being proposed across the country related to “immigration reform. Before long we were saying unkind things to each other and at one point we were even discussing his going to live elsewhere for a time or permanently because the pressure is too great and our cultural divide to huge (he is a minority w/in a minority who focus on social issues and how they affect…..and I come from a socially dominant position, psychology, an eternal optimist and we often frustrated each other with our different approaches to life.)

      He called and visited with his family and I went to another room to clean and organize. His family who has constantly bullied, rejected, criticized him, actually embraced, expressed love, appreciation and support for him and us as a couple…in the meanwhile during my cleaning I was reviewing photos, various paper documents, memorabilia, noticing our bicycles leaning against each other in the corner….throughout this process I was reflective, though somewhat mechanical “what will be, will be” attitude.

      After about an hour I heard his call had finished. I peaked around the corner to see how he was doing…and the tears just started to cascade down my face….without words we came to each other and embraced tenderly….tears, smiles…more hugs…few words. One more crisis averted.

      Sometimes as I wait for “it to get better” I fail to cherish the present. Love and Light to all — even Maggie!(thanks Paul for the reminder)


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