hard truths

Dan Savage: We Can’t Tell Every Gay Kid To Come Out ‘Without Risking His Future’

Yes, we have to recognize that for some queer kids that is the best we can offer. There are kids in situations of extreme isolation, where all we can do is put the message in a bottle and throw it to the sea and give them hope for the future. And I think that’s legitimate. In the book, there are tons of essay from people who are sharing how they made it better for themselves – some people got their GED and left school early, some kids started a GSA. Not all the videos say you have to wait. In some cases, you can make it better for yourself right now. But for a kid, 15-years-old, with fundamental evangelical parents in the deep South dragged to a mega-church every Sunday, that kid can’t come out right now without risking his future. Forty percent of homeless teenagers are LGBT kids who were thrown out of the house when they were outted or came out to their families. It’s insensitive of us to suggest that all kids are in a place where they can make it better by snapping their fingers, or starting a GSA or coming out. Some kids have to go into deep cover and tough it out. And they need our love and support and advice, too.

—Dan Savage, whose It Gets Better Project is now in book form, defends the message of the vehicle he started with partner Terry Miller [via]

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  • Lilly

    Who made him the expert on that subject?

  • Joe

    @Lilly: Who decided you aren’t the expert on the subject?

  • Kenster999

    Sounds realistic.

  • Stephen

    It makes a lot of sense. Protect yourself from harm first. Live an authentic life, when it is safe to do so.
    I spent 32 years in the closet and it was hell. But it was the safest decision I could make at the time. I let it go on too long, but staying safe until you are able to look after yourself (becoming an adult) is often the only option.

  • Charlie

    @Lilly: Was there any data you wanted to point to to refute his statements… or did you just need to feel better about yourself?

  • Ian

    @Lilly – Can we please hear you expertise on the subject, you fucking troll??

  • Ted in Cali

    I grew up in that type of environment, with authoritarian and abusive ‘non-denominational conservative evangelical christians’. I didn’t come out until I was 19, and it had been really bad generally up that point, and became 100% worse after I came out. I moved out at 20, and almost had to shove my ‘father’ (who was armed with a pistol) out of my way to leave. It’s unrealistic and dangerous to tell people ‘just come out, and things will magically get better!’ Even though I’m out of the closet and my parents house, things have yet to get better. For many, many reasons.

  • reason

    Don’t think he could be any closer to the mark. Everyone has different experiences, and internalizes situations in different ways. I applaud his work, sometimes just hearing someone cares makes all of the difference.

  • Daez

    @Ted in Cali: Its not a magic bullet. You don’t magically come out and have everything get better, but its a lot better to die true to who you are then to sell yourself out just so you can live a little longer completely unhappy.

    The real message we need to send gay kids is, “STUDY YOUR ASS OFF AND STAY IN SCHOOL!” These are the kids that need to make it on their own much faster than most kids. These are the kids that need to cut off their family to be themselves. Therefore, these are the kids that need to get a good education in order to get a good job. Most jobs really don’t care if you are gay anymore as long as you show up and do the job.

  • justiceontherocks

    It’s not realistic to expect every 17 year old who is gay to be out and open about it. Family situations and their own uncertainties play a role.

    But for an adult to be living a lie is just freaking pathetic. The only person you’re kidding is yourself, and you’re sending a horrible message to kids – this is something to be ashamed of so stay in the closet.

    The best thing adults can do to make it better is quit lying about who we are.

  • prohomo

    @Stephen: Right on , STEPHEN. Common sense is crucial in this area.

  • Jeffree

    Coming out to the parents when someone depends on them for *everything* is often a huge mistake. I’ve seen too many people I know get kicked out the house, cut off from siblings, and end up homeless or close to it.

    Until a LGBT youth has a support network, & can fend for him/herself, it’s too risky to come out. Get an education, a job, a place to stay and some close friends first — only then will life “get better.”

  • WillBFair

    I said he should have included this warning long ago. I said it again on towelroad on Mar 24, after Savage’s recent tv talk. Glad to be of help.

  • i.n.3some

    I love how a fugly racist is trying to pretend he has depth. Dan Savage needs to go back under the rock from which he slithered.

  • merkin

    Dan’s “expertise” about coming out is the same he’s claimed about his right to pen a relationship column: he has an opinion. We are all free to heed or ignore it. I personally think he’s very smart and agree with much of what he has to say. And at this point, you can say he’s devoted his adult life to reading about and discussing sexuality, which gives him more expertise than most.

  • jeff4justice

    This is kinda correct. Indeed a kid out in the middle of nowhere with anti-gay family members in an anti-gay area has no choice but to endure it (if they can) until becoming able to be financially independent and able to leave.  But considering how much anti-gay rhetoric especially damages young folk, we’re kidding if we think they’re all graduating with straight As and headed to college.  

    If we in the LGBTI community spent less of our $$$ and time on the superficial, then perhaps we could develop a grassroots nationwide group (where the EDs don’t make 6 figures) that ensures every corner of the country provided LGBT folk access to support, fellowship, education, and community involvement.  Instead, the big-city gay groups/centers tend to divide over every petty label difference while ignoring the small town gay folk.  I bet if we were somehow able to find out how much gay folk spend on partying and porn versus investing in bettering the LGBT community I worry we’d be embarrassed.   

    More or my jabbering about this on YouTube:  

    A Realists It Gets Better Video For Both Youth & Adults http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUg4eUkRVDY&list=PL6C23BB0DF0F9778B&index=2

  • Shannon1981

    Unfortunately, he is right. When you are dependent upon others financially, and those “others” are your homophobic parents, coming out can ruin your life. You wind up homeless,or worse, oftentimes. In a perfect world we could all be out and proud. But, we don’t live in a perfect world. And even if you don’t get kicked out, often the rampant homophobia is too much to bear.

    And it isn’t just kids either. I had a thread going on AfterEllen about people being in the closet. Read some stories of women stuck due to bad decisions earlier in life, and now are eyeballs deep in debt, dependent on husbands and homophobic families, stand to lose their children,etc, if they come out. While it didn’t change my mind about not dating closet cases, it did make me realize that people can’t always just come twirling out of the closet without great consequences, usually pretty negative. Some of those people stand to lose everything. After reading all that, I no longer have the same level of disdain I once had for people who are closeted. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll never have the same level of respect from me as those who are out, but I have a bit better understanding of their reasons for living as they do now.

  • Brian Miller

    He’s right, which is why he’ll get crap slung at him again.

    Gay Inc. seems to think that every gay kid grows up in a progressive Berkeley household with mildly supportive parents who rush to find their young son or daughter a partner upon learning of his/her orientation.

    I’ve advised LGBT young people to stay in the closet to their parents through college (if their parents are paying) to maximize their future opportunities. Being out and homeless is not preferable to being closeted and finishing your education — which will be a huge boost in living life as an out adult.

  • alan brickman

    he did it to get a reality show people…a reality show….

  • JT

    now Dan Savage can be transphobic, biphobic, and misogynistic on TV! Of course he is a total media whore so the 15 seconds of fame that MTV will give him will go to his head.

    It’s clear that his whole “It gets better” campaign isn’t about helping GLBT youth-all while he trashes adult bisexuals and Trans people-but it’s just about getting him a reality TV show on MTV, fame/self promotion, and money.

    Dan Savage is also highly Transphobic and does not understand people who are trans or intersexed.

    Dan Savage has a lot in common with Maggie, he’s full of hatred towards trans people and bisexuals.

    Dan may claim that he’s a friend and ally to women but you wouldn’t know it from his misogynistic rants in his “advice” column.

    Such as where he told a woman who’d been raped that she should just STFU and have sex with her husband even though she was not over the rape and having sex with her husband gave her traumatic flashbacks about being raped.

    Then there’s that racist tantrum Dan threw at African Americans in the state of CA when prop8 passed.

    Why any woman or anyone at all would go to Dan Savage for any sort of “advice” is a mystery.

    He’s an idiot and a tool who does not know anything about human sexuality at all.

    The whole “It gets better” project was not about helping GLBT youth-all while Savage trashes adult Trans people and bisexuals-but it’s about self promotion, fame, money, getting a reality TV show on MTV, and pointless do nothing feelgood celebrity videos that don’t actually help GLBT youth at all.

    “It gets better” is the stock quote every kid even straight kids are told in school when things are rough.

    Sorry Dan but you don’t speak for all gay men, the gay “community” or the larger LGBT community.

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