Dan Savage wisely interspersed witty remarks and anecdotes, causing the crowd to burst into laughter just when so many suicide stories had the audience somber.
In a sold out Zellerbach Theater Monday evening, the LGBT activist described himself as angry. He stopped a few times to compose himself and quell his frustration. “I’m sorry this issue makes me so angry sometimes,” he said.
But Savage prides himself on that anger and uses it as fuel.
Savage and partner Terry Miller started the “It Gets Better” project in September 2010 in the wake of multiple suicides of young people who had been bullied for allegedly being LGBT.
He talked extensively about the project, whose mission is to help young LGBT people realize they are not alone. The title stems from a comment left on Savage’s blog, giving young LGBT individuals hope that their lives will improve after their teenage years.
When it debuted, Savage and Miller’s “It Gets Better” video was followed by tens of thousands of submissions from those wishing to share stories about facing adversity as members of the LGBT community. The movement has received praise from important voices within the public domain, including Penn President Amy Gutmann and President Barack Obama.
The event was hosted by Penn’s Social Planning and Events Committee in partnership with the Center for Public Health Initiatives as part of QPenn week.
Wharton junior and SPEC member Dennis Johnson said “this event will open up dialogue around campus. I think it will really promote QPenn week and resonate as a whole.”
“[Savage’s] message is important because he lets LGBT individuals who feel completely isolated in the world know that there’s a whole community of people who have gone through what they’re going through, and they will be there to help,” said College junior Matthew Valdespino who attended the talk.
Savage recognized that some criticize him for targeting only LGBT bullying, rather than bullying as a whole. But he remains realistic about the potential of “It Gets Better,” citing what it can do as well as what it cannot. “The goal is to save lives,” he said. “It can’t stop all suicides.”
The point of the “It Gets Better” project is that it doesn’t ask for permission to reach out to young LGBT members. Savage took matters into his own hands and started a war on LGBT bullying, but unlike other wars, he feels this one has saved lives.