Thursday, May 26, 2011

"It Gets Better" in Every School and Library--Update

Some of you will recall I recently sent an email to the principal of the local high school, offering to donate a copy of Savage and Miller's book "It Gets Better," so students would have easy access to it.  Two weeks later, I still haven't received a response.  

For the past week or so, I've wondered how to follow-up on my offer in a way that feels right to me.  Today, I wrote and sent the email below.  We'll see if I receive a response this time.

Hi, Mr. _____. 

You might recall a couple of weeks ago, I sent you an email offering to donate a copy of Dan Savage and Terry's Miller's book "It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living" to the library at __________.  I wrote that the book is an offshoot of the "It Gets Better Program" on YouTube and would be an invaluable resource for any lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) student at your school.  To date, I haven't received a response from you, but, of course, I understand this is a busy time of the school year.  

Did you know that, despite the fact we live in the age of the Internet, thousands of Canadian school-aged children don't have access to it for one reason or another. What this means is that many LGBT students, unless they're able to get their hands on a copy of the "It Gets Better" book, may not hear the positive and inspiring message of the Program--a sorely needed counterpoint to the bullying a majority of them endure at the hands of some classmates.

Did you know one of the findings in a recent University of Winnipeg study of 3,700 Canadian high school students, surveyed between December 2007 and June 2009, is that "rampant homophobia stalks the hallways and classrooms of Canadian Schools"?  Further, that LGBT students report they "...are exposed to language that insults their dignity as part of their everyday school experiences"? And, finally, that "almost two out of three non-heterosexual students do not feel safe in their schools"?

Did you know that with a reported 2010/11 population of 950 students at _____, approximately 48 to 95 students, or 5 to 10%, don't identify themselves as heterosexual?  That these are the young people who feel isolated and alone because they're unable to find each other in the school population, or because they're unwilling to take the risk of hanging out with each other?  That they face all manner of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of their fellow students?  And that LGBT students are 5 to 7% more likely to commit suicide?

In 1977, I graduated from Kelowna Senior Secondary, after enduring years of endless bullying in the public school system, because classmates thought I was gay.  As it turns out, they were right.  I am gay.  I'll be 52 this year, I've been with my same-sex partner, in a committed, loving, and monogamous relationship for nineteen years, and I've turned out all right.  But I can't tell you the long and difficult journey I've been on over the past decades to overcome the effects of bullying and the resulting self-loathing--all because of my sexual orientation. 

I'm committed to help LGBT people, young and old, to restore their sense of self-worth, and to learn to accept and love themselves for who and what they are.  To this end, I've created a blog called "This Gay Relationship:  Together, Lifting the Experience of Being Gay," where I write about what being gay was and is like for me; where I share my life experiences with readers from around the world; and where I do my best to write something that will help LGBT people begin to look at themselves in a positive way.  I invite you to check it out.      

This will be my final communication to you because I'm not politically motivated or interested in stalking you.  That is not my intention.  I leave my offer in your hands.  If you're interested in receiving a copy of "It Gets Better" for your school library, or if I can be of any assistance to the LGBT students at your school--as a middle-aged, partnered, gay man and positive role model--I would be thrilled to hear from you.      

I assure you, Mr. _____, I only have the best interests of your students at heart.  

Thank you for your time.                 


  1. That's a wonderful email, Rick. I would hope it would at least promote a response, but if it doesn't, if he ignores you, that says a lot about the school, and even more about the need for that book to be in the library. I didn't even go through the principal, I just donated it to the librarian at our school. If you knew any of the parents, perhaps they'd be willing to donate it? Here's hoping all of those kids do have access to the internet, if they don't take the book....sad.

  2. Sarah, as I thought about the first email I sent the principal, and how I might receive it if he sent it to me, I saw that it was a little cold.

    With yesterday's follow-up, I hoped to warm things up a little, to show him I was sincere without being political or militant. In other words, I wanted to make a response from him, one way or the other, easier to send, without making it look like I'd go off the deep end if I didn't like what he wrote.

    If the local school board can't approve of placing this book in any of the area high schools, then so be it. I'm not prepared to fight the school board because I doubt I'd win. But I can certainly donate a copy to the local public library, where young people would have access to it there.

    You know, my concern for those kids who have access to the Internet is their parents may still not allow them to view the uplifting messages of the "It Gets Better Program" (I'm not sure how closely some parents monitor what their children view online). After all, I'm sure many parents don't consider the so-called "gay lifestyle" an option for their kids. So they wouldn't want their children to see videos promoting it.

    I just hope this isn't the case, because, as you and I know, the overriding message of the Program is an important one, not just allowing young people to realize nothing is wrong with them, but also to possibly prevent them from taking their own lives.

    As always, thanks for your interest and comment.

  3. The following was received from a reader:

    "I think its great that there is a movement attempting to help teens in this situation. Good for you guys and this blog and hopefully we can prevent some of these teenage suicides along with self hatred."

    I thank you for your comment.