2011 Superheroes for Washington Families: Dan Savage
Dan Savage is throwing out a lifeline to thousands of young people struggling with their sexual identity. Check that: He is throwing out thousands of lifelines.
Savage's It Gets Better Project links users to more than 10,000 YouTube videos in which successful, happy adults assure lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youths that a better life awaits them beyond high school; a future where they can live, love and work as openly gay adults.
Tragic stories of gay teens killing themselves last fall compelled Savage and his partner to act. Six months later, the Seattle editor and author admits to being stunned by the website’s enormous, worldwide support. “We are delighted by the celebrities’ and politicians’ involvement,” says Savage. “But as important in the aggregate are the videos from everyday people showing that life ahead can be fabulous.”
LGBT youths often face torment at school, and Savage urges parents to help. “A lot of parents believe they can change kids by rejecting them, and that’s just wrong.”
He adds that watching the videos together can be a shared experience, even for supportive parents. “With the videos, this hard topic becomes a bank-shot conversation, not a direct conversation.”
The website also directs teens in crisis to The Trevor Project, the only nationwide suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youths. That group’s executive director, Charles Robbins, credits Savage’s site with directing young people to the crisis line, possibly saving lives. “There’s a critical mass being reached, a sort of cultural shift, and Dan’s work is allowing the country to come together in a positive way.” — Hilary Benson
Get to know Dan Savage...
Personal hero: My mother.
Pet peeve: Anything another person might be doing that could possibly interfere in any way with whatever it is I happen to be doing — that’s vague and broad, I realize, but I have a lot of pet peeves, and picking just one would be like playing favorites.
Best recent read: Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan.
Best way to get kids involved in giving back: By setting an example — by giving and trusting that your kids will emulate your example. Don’t force ’em.
Flip ahead to meet the rest of our 2011 Superheroes:
Michael Schindler, Operation Military Family
Shandra Benito, Reach Out
Estela Ortega and Roberto Maestas, El Centro De La Raza
Karen Kodama, Seattle Public Schools
Dr. Beth Harvey, pediatrician
Ron Sher, creator of local retail centers
Rebecca Mallos, Attachment and Trauma Specialists
Mike Heinisch, Kent Youth and Family Services
Karen Bryant, The Seattle Storm
2011 Superheroes: Home