Today was a very emotional day in my college class. The topic was sexual orientation, which is generally a fun, thoughtful day where we pick apart the differences in ways of defining and understanding sexual attraction. Today I raced us through that part of the class so I could devote a substantial portion to a conversation about the media attention that is currently being put on gay teenagers and suicide.
I have a lot of videos in this blog post, because there’s a lot of interest that is relevant. But if you only choose to watch one of the clips, watch the last one by Fort Worth City Council Member Joel Burns.
We started by watching this incredibly romantic clip from the show Queer as Folk. It is the only truly, deeply romantic scene that I am aware of ever shown on television.
After the men leave the prom, the younger one (whose prom it is) is a victim of a hate crime. We watched the following (which starts with a few clips from the prom and just before):
After watching this clip, we talked about how hate crimes are neither a thing of the past, nor are they from far away. Several gay men were badly beaten here in Austin (where we too often think we are progressive and liberal enough to be above this kind of thing) less than a year ago.
But the really, truly, deeply moving video that had much of the class in tears was of Joel Burns, a Fort Worth city council member. Council Member Burns gave a deeply moving and emotional speech on Tuesday night during the council meeting. He spoke eloquently and emotionally about his experience as a gay youth in Texas and alluded to a failed suicide attempt. His message was directed to young people who are considering suicide. Every young person who is struggling should see this speech.
And lastly, to my students, because I know that some of you read my blog:
Thank you for honoring this important subject and hanging in with me through class. I hope you are moved to be the message that needs to be heard – that life gets better, that harassment is never acceptable, and that the rampant homophobia that is intrinsic to so much of our media can no longer be overlooked. I challenge you be the the one who is vocal about these things that you know to be right. Speak up! Speak out! It can be scary. But the alternative, being silent, can lead to things that are even worse.