It was late September when Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, stared into a video camera and recorded a message, their minds focused on two 15-year-olds who had both taken their lives just months prior.
Savage and Miller thought of Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas, two gay teens who chose death as a way to escape the constant bullying. They both hanged themselves.
“We were responding to a horrifying spread of suicides,” said Savage, a prominent sex-advice columnist and founder of the It Gets Better project, an online video campaign that encourages LGBT youth to persevere through bullying. “It was just two deaths, but it was two too many. Those kids could’ve been saved.”
As an estimated 1 million people prepare to flock under a virtual sea of rainbow banners for the 41st annual San Francisco Pride Parade and Celebration this weekend, the event’s focus on LGBT youths is directly linked to the same efforts spearheaded by Savage’s project.
Brendan Behan, Pride’s executive director, said he hoped this year’s event would bring awareness to LGBT bullying and expand suicide-prevention efforts.
Pride named The Trevor Project as its national organizational grand marshal. A partner of It Gets Better, The Trevor Project offers LGBT youths support through various channels, including a 24-hour national suicide hotline. Among those being honored at Pride are one of the project’s founders, James Lecesne, and board member Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the screenplay for the 2008 hit “Milk.”
“Our goal is to eliminate the need for our existence,” said Laura McGinnis, the project’s spokeswoman. “We want to see a world, and we’re working toward it, where all youths can achieve their dreams regardless of their sexual orientation.”
One of the many stages at this year’s Pride is Queer Youth Space in the heart of the Civic Center, where people can mingle and gather info on youth programs.
Despite the success of It Gets Better — the effort has inspired more than 10,000 video messages from regular well-wishers and well-known celebrities, including members of the World Series champion Giants — many wonder if the world has actually become safer for LGBT youths.
Even with the increased presence of gay-straight alliances in schools around the country, Behan is still mindful of what LGBT youths face every day.
“One of the things we know is that LGBT youths are at greater risk in places where they lack those resources,” Behan said. “Those alliances have been growing, and it has gotten better for LGBT youth in many ways, but we have to be cautious.”
Since the It Gets Better project launched, calls to The Trevor Project suicide hotline have increased more than 50 percent.
- 9 out of 10 LGBT students who have experienced harassment at school
- 200 to 300 Percentage LGBT teens are bullied more than straight teens
- 33 Percentage of LGBT kids who have attempted suicide
- 400 Percentage LGBT kids are more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers
- 800 Percentage LGBT youths with “highly rejecting” families are more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them
Source: It Gets Better
If you go
41st annual SF Pride Parade
Where: Market Street, starting at Beale Street and ending at Eighth Street
When: 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday
TV: Live coverage on Comcast Hometown Network (Cable Ch. 104); tape-delayed on KOFY (Ch. 20) at 7 p.m.
Live webcast: SFPrideLive.com, 10 a.m.
Prepping for the parade
When: 3:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Dolores Park
Annual Pride Concert
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Everett Auditorium, 450 Church St.
When: 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Dolores Park
Pink Triangle installation and Commemoration Ceremony
When: 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Twin Peaks
SF FrontRunners 32nd Annual Pride Run
When: 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Golden Gate Park Polo Fields, south entrance
13th Annual Pride Brunch for Positive Resource Center
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Whitcomb Hotel Grand Ballroom
Gay Pride Freedom Ride and LGBTQ History Bike Tour
When: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Embarcadero and Folsom Street to the Castro
Dykes on Bikes (35th Anniversary)
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: El Rio, 3158 Mission St.
Pink Saturday Street Party
When: Saturday evening
Where: Castro Street