In recent months, the media has covered a group of people who have exposed their homophobia, and another group of people who have revealed their compassion toward the LGBT community.
The homophobic group includes the people who have bullied, tormented and assaulted bullying victims such as Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Justin Aaberg, and Raymond Chase.
The compassionate group includes the many people, ordinary and famous alike, who have contributed to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
Dan Savage, a popular syndicated sex columnist who is openly gay, started the online video project in response to the recent bullying related suicides. The idea is to remind LGBT teens that if they stay alive, their lives will get better.
Check it out for yourself- It Gets Better Project.
The people who have added videos so far are a mix of sexual orientations, including some supportive straight people.
Well, this past Wednesday, October 13th, a video was uploaded to the project, and to Youtube from Fort Worth, Texas councilman Joel Burns. His genuine emotion and moving speech in city council quickly went viral.
By Friday, October 15th, Burns was invited to appear on CBS news and CNN.
As of this writing on Sunday, the 17th, at 1:09pm EST, the video has received 1,386,647 hits on Youtube.
I have a theory about why the video went viral. A lot of ordinary people and famous video have contributed videos to Dan Savage’s project so far, but there haven’t been a lot of politicians. Politicians, more so than some other groups of people, have a lot to lose by coming out gay. Just think of the gay sex scandals that have been covered by the media in the past several years, most involving Republicans.
If a politician has a lot of homophobic constituents, or comes from a political party with a lot of homophobes, coming out can jeopardize their careers. Some of those closeted gay politicians have actually voted for homophobic laws and policies, including issues such as denying people the right to marry those of the same sex, and upholding the American military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
I’m Canadian, but I know very well that Texas is considered a ‘Red State’, which means the Republican Party tends to get more votes there, at civic, state and federal levels. Austin, Texas, tends to be a socially liberal exception. But, I’m fairly sure Fort Worth is as ‘red’ as the rest of Texas tends to be.
So, many Americans know that it’s courageous for a Fort Worth city counselor, such as Joel Burns, to be openly gay.
Submitting a moving twelve minute speech about having been a victim of homophobia, especially one with such genuine emotion, for international viewing, well, that’s even more courageous!
As a Canadian, I would have never even heard of Burns if he didn’t record that video.
Hopefully, the more public figures come out and talk about homophobia, the better the world with be for LGBT people everywhere.
Gay and trans rights are matters that I’m very passionate about. Although I’m a heterosexual cissexual (non-transexual), there are a number of people all across the LGBT spectrum of whom I love and admire. Some of those people are out of the closet, and some of those people are still in the closet, but have privately confided to me, knowing how supportive of the LGBT community I am.
I hope my closeted friends find the courage to come out someday. It’s amazing that there are still LGBT people in the closet in Canada, a nation that is supposed to be very socially liberal. Sadly, even as more and more people speak out about homophobia, those people I know still have to deal with their families.
I commend Councilman Burns for his courage.
Here are some related links for readers if they want to read more: