Starvoice • 05.06.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYap_rick_santorum_110414_wg

Rick Santorum turns 53 on Tuesday. The former Republican senator from Pennsylvania was a vocal opponent to LGBT issues. However, sex columnist and gay advocate Dan Savage turned the tables on him by coining his last name as a sexual term — and not a good one. It ended up Google bombing the politician and tops the list when searching his name.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Eris are aligned in Aries. Take care of yourself while remembering it’s not all about you. While the North Node is in Sagittarius trining this pile-up, philosophical discussions can help you get clear focus on needed lessons.

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TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Too much time alone is bad for your health. Some dark erotic adventure channels that energy toward your betterment and helps unlock self-destructive secrets so you are free of them.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Host one hell of a party, but don’t set the house on fire. Map out the future with your partner. Your plans are extravagant, but your sweetheart will help you get a clear focus.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Focus more on work than your career. Quality and effectiveness speak better for you than aggressive self-promotion. Being noticed is inevitable. The question is: What will they see?

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
The best arguments don’t depend on winning, but rather help you to understand broader perspectives. You can also learn a lot from the art, film and music of other cultures.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Challenges at work aren’t severe as they seem. The lessons of childhood make a good starting point. Your partner, family and tribe can be more helpful than you expect.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
If there’s any doubt that your partner is on your side it is probably a problem in communications. Discuss your approaches to the tasks at hand. If it’s about love, solutions are in the bedroom.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Work problems build to a crisis that will make everything clearer, but there’s too much going on. It boils down to priorities. Tough choices could anger some friends; keep communications open.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Too many strategies are buzzing in your head. Rule No. 1: Be true to yourself. No. 2: Remember where you come from. Start there and you will succeed.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Are you a storm tearing through or the eye of the hurricane? It’s easy to get sucked into the maelstrom thinking you can fix the problems. Find your inner peace and operate from there.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Your tongue gets ahead of your brain. Reel it in, listen and think ahead before speaking. In all the babble that surrounds you, there are some brilliant ideas. Listen, discern and be inspired.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Know what you’re worth and what you can do. Both are probably a lot more than you realize. Focus and work; you will succeed! Having a plan helps, even if things never go as planned.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
You’re filled with energy and charm to conquer most worlds. Even if world domination isn’t feasible, you’re clever enough to plot reasonable victories. New perspectives will help.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Podcast

 

In this week’s episode we talked about the closure of The Bronx Cafe; new bars in Dallas and Fort Worth including Last Call, Club Reflection and Klub Wet; the anti-gay amendment passed by the Texas House last night; Dallas County’s nondiscrimination policy; and shows in Dallas this week including Dan Savage and Bill Maher.

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—  John Wright

WATCH: Dan Savage last night at The Kessler

Dan Savage spoke for nearly two hours at The Kessler last night to a standing-room-only crowd (OK, there were some chairs open) and the audience was putty in his beefy hands. The applause roared as he came out and instead of going with any kind of speaking agenda, he answered audience questions collected on notecards earlier in the night. Of course, most were sex-based questions and the show turned mostly into the live version of his Savage Love podcast where he doles out sex advice in hilarious, clever and poignant fashion. As you can see from the video after the jump, he even took on a question about sex robots.

—  Rich Lopez

Dan Savage comes to the Kessler tonight

The guy behind Savage Love and the “It Gets Better” campaign is coming to Dallas. Just like the poster says.

We wonder how he’ll approach this speaking engagement. Can he balance the sex talk from his podcast and syndicated column with the supportive message against bullying? Or is it one over the other? Personally, I’m just kinda hoping for anecdotes about his work for This American Life. Especially this piece.

 

 

—  Rich Lopez

Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Podcast

 

In this week’s episode, Rich Lopez and I discussed the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s addition of sexual orientation but not gender identity to the county’s nondiscrimination policy, Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement of James Nowlin over Angela Hunt, Dan Savage’s upcoming appearance in Dallas, the Dallas International Film Festival, Bill Maher and more.

—  John Wright

Savagely better

BETTER ALL THE TIME | Dan Savage, right, and his partner Terry Miller offered a helping voice for LGBT youth during a rash of suicides with the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign. The campaign has grown that the couple has turned it into a book. Savage comes to Dallas to talk up the book and likely, some sex.

Giving advice on sex or telling LGBT youth it gets better, people listen to Dan Savage

Sex advice guru Dan Savage — whose column/podcast/iPhone-iPod app Savage Love has made him the queer Dear Abby — founded and launched the It Gets Better Project (ItGetsBetter.org) in September 2010 with husband Terry Miller via its first YouTube video. At the time, he never expected that it would go as far as it has in sheer numbers (10,000-plus and counting) and input from across the globe and social strata: President Obama’s video went up just a month later, and Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns was attributed with expanding the cause when his (unrelated) heartfelt confessional went viral.

Now the book companion, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living (Dutton; $21.95), edited by Savage and Miller, drops, featuring all-new essays by the likes of David Sedaris, Kate Clinton, Michael Cunningham and Alison Bechdel, as well as video transcriptions and expanded essays from high-profile personalities and everyday folks alike.

Savage, who serves as editorial director for Seattle’s The Stranger weekly and recently shot a TV series pilot for MTV (he’s awaiting word on whether it’s being picked up), spoke about the book, where he turns for advice, and the next social-sexual mission on his agenda.

— Lawrence Ferber


Dallas Voice: How does this book further the It Gets Better mission and message? Dan Savage: The book includes pieces from people who haven’t made videos. It also creates another way for kids who need to hear these messages to find them. I’ve written books before, and you never really know where a book is going to wind up. Sometimes they wind up in school libraries; I’ve gotten notes from people who stumbled across my book The Kid in the Himalayas. The Internet has tremendous reach, of course, and kids are wired and tech savvy, but not all kids have access to the Internet and not all kids want to leave a browser history that might incriminate them. So this gives another way to reach a lot of kids.

Who would you like to see contribute an It Gets Better video or message but hasn’t yet? I would love for the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, to make one. I would like to see — and am not surprised we have not seen — a video from a prominent Republican elected official. There has been not one. I wish every politician would make one.

Look at New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He made a video where he said we welcome everybody — LGBT youth have a home in New York if where you’re at is not welcoming you. At the same time that he released that video, he slashed funding for the Ali Forney Center, which is a shelter for LGBT teens, and he was called out for his hypocrisy. People were able to use the video to shame him and he reversed [his decision] and re-funded the center. So calling in these chits, and being able to hold the people to the promises they made in their videos, is valuable.

That said, for me the most important videos are the ones from people no one’s ever heard of — average, everyday LGBT folks reaching out and sharing their joy with LGBT kids who may be having trouble picturing a future for themselves. Queer kids know there are gay celebrities out there, and straight celebs and politicians who are fine with gay people, but what some of them are having trouble picturing is how they get from being a bullied, miserable 14-year-old gay kid whose family is also tormenting them to a happy, secure, loved and perhaps, reconciled with their family gay adult.

What are the next steps in It Gets Better’s future? There’s a good body of videos and we want to archive and tag them so they’re more easily searched. There are a lot by trans people, but you can’t always tell which just by looking at the thumbnail images, so we would need to make them easier to break out into playlists and search. We’re working on that now. The mission after that is to make sure that five to 10 years from now, once this moment of such intense media interest has passed, that kids who are 5 today and going to be 15 then and don’t know about the website can find their way there. We have to make sure that there is enough money raised to host and maintain the website and awareness about it in schools and where kids are at.

As a sex advice columnist, who do you look to or read for sex advice? I read a lot of sex columns. I like In & Out, Caroline Hax, Dear Prudence, Margo Howard. If you go to TheStranger.com/Savage, there’s a blogroll called “Want a Second Opinion?” which is links to other columns I approve of and enjoy.

So what is the one issue when it comes to our sex lives that you have made your number one mission to change through your work? I just want people to be more realistic about monogamy. People’s expectations about what a long-term relationships is like are so in conflict with what LTRs are actually like that a lot of decent, fine, functional relationships have ended because people had irrational expectations. If we can change expectations we can save a lot of relationships. Life-long sexual monogamy and the expectation that an LTR is always going to be this extraordinarily passionate fuck-fest sets us all up for disappointment.

And is there one strategy you are taking to go about that? It’s an issue that constantly comes up. Sexual dissatisfaction, mismatched libidos, unmet sexual needs, people being cut off sexually by their spouses after they have children. I’m in the position often of recommending what I describe as “the least worst option.” I think if the choice is a nasty divorce that upends the lives of four to five people and family or a little discreet infidelity that makes it possible for that family to remain intact and otherwise completely functional, I’m for infidelity.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Shunda K debuts new video and set to play SXSW

Now that Shunda K has gone solo, she’s making sure she has a heavy impact on the industry and that looks like she’s starting with her first video from her new solo album The Most Wanted. This is her contribution to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign, but it’s a lot heavier than just giving viewers the message.

Shunda K’s “I’m Da Best” clip is a direct assault on the Westboro Baptist Church (WIKI) and concerns a young boy who is harassed by his peers, faces even more tension at home and how, with the help of his faith and the support of his role model Shunda K, he overcomes these obstacles to stand tall. The video is Shunda K’s contribution to the ongoing “It Gets Better” Project (itgetsbetter.org) started by famed syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage as a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future.

You can catch Shunda K at SXSW in a couple of week at the Art Disaster event at the Beauty Bar March 15. If anything, she’s one of the first real gay acts I’ve found at SXSW this year. I’m sure there are more, but damn if its hard to pinpoint those smaller bands.

—  Rich Lopez

LGBT Person of the Year: Joel Burns

Fort Worth’s gay City Councilman put an ‘everyman’ face on the issue of bullying and teen suicide — and the world took notice

Arnold Wayne Jones  |  jones@dallasvoice.com

Joel-Burns-1
A TEXAS STAR | Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns speaks about the importance of anti-bullying legislation during a press conference Dec. 13, in Austin calling for passage of such a measure during the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature. Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, said Burns’ Oct. 12 speech on his personal experiences being bullied put a face on the issue to which everyday people can relate. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Joel Burns had enjoyed his share of viral videos, from Susan Boyle to pets who appear to play piano. But he never suspected he’d become one. But last October, that’s exactly what happened. The Fort Worth councilman, who is openly gay, was moved by a string of teen suicides across the nation, many as a result of anti-gay bullying.

But one in particular hit home: The death of Keith Harrington who, after attending a Norman, Okla., city council meeting, took his own life in despair.

“I wrote it all that day,” Burns says of the speech he delivered on the evening of Oct. 12. “Tuesday at lunch I wrote it and read the first draft of it [live at the council meeting]. Had I had any inkling that this would go the way it did I would have tightened it up. But it has a rawness to it.”

Indeed it does, as Burns recounts, for 12 fascinating minutes, a never-before-discussed incident in his youth where he was bullied.

It brought Burns to tears; it brought everyone watching at City Hall that night to their feet in applause.
And though it happened at the same time as the “It Gets Better” campaign was expanding, that was not Burns’ intent at all.

“No, it was not one of those,” Burns said last week from his council office. “I hadn’t seen any of them but had read Dan Savage was doing something like that. My comments were first and foremost made at City Council; that they got uploaded to YouTube was secondary.

“I knew that what I was saying was being recorded and it might be used in the future — maybe at a high school in the district I represent — but not what it became.”

And what it became, simply, was a sensation: 2.5 million views on the main YouTube posting alone, with thousands upon thousands more in follow-up posts, comments and links by others … not to mention excerpts broadcast nationally for weeks on MSNBC, The Today Show, Ellen DeGeneres, CNN and hosts of other media outlets.

Everyman

For a while this fall, you almost couldn’t escape the name and face of Joel Burns — even if you weren’t gay or from North Texas.

And his was a face that people could relate to, a fact that gave his message even more weight with many.

State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth — who represented District 9, which Burns now represents, before stepping down at the start of 2008 to run for the Senate — called Burns “a uniquely capable public servant” to whom people can relate easily.

Joel-Burns-2
Joel Burns, right, and his husband, J.D. Angle

“I would say that he left his ego at the door when he entered public office, but he never brought it with him at all, actually,” Davis said of Burns. “He is down to earth, genuine and sincere about everything he does. It is rare that he enters a room, a restaurant, a neighborhood gathering, where he is not received by warm hugs.”

She continued, “The people that he represents understand that he cares about them, and they care about him in return. He has an actual ‘relationship’ with the people that he represents, which is, unfortunately, rare in political leaders. Though his warmth and humor endear him to people, he is loved more because he is a leader who is not afraid to stand strong for the issues he cares about.”

Burns’ everyman appeal resonates beyond the boundaries of District 9, and that’s what gave his speech such impact around the country, said Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas.

“The thing about [Burns’ speech] is that he is a very likeable person,” Coleman said. “The thing that made it resonate with people so strongly is that he is an everyday person doing a very public job.

“There are a lot of celebrities who have talked about bullying and suicide. But this was someone from a small town in Texas who was talking about his personal experiences, talking to his colleagues about what he had been through. There was genuine feeling to it.”

Burns’ speech that night during the council meeting was not something planned in advance and worked on by speechwriters or aides. The councilman decided only hours before to speak out, and scribbled his remarks down during his lunch hour.

And it was that sense of immediacy and personal conviction that made it stand out, Coleman said.

“His speech was very raw. It was very honest. That’s an interesting thing to see from a public figure,” Coleman said. “And the timing was perfect. He tied it to something that was very personal, and he tied it to something that was very ‘right now;’ he tied it to the death of the young man who committed suicide after hearing so much hate at a city council meeting [in Oklahoma]. All those elements made it very, very real for a lot of people.”

The LGBT community could have hardly chosen a better spokesman if it had tried. Smart, handsome, articulate and sincere with a soft but authoritative Texas voice, Burns exudes gay Pride in its most prosaic incarnation.

Where mainstream media often portrays gay culture in stereotypes, Burns showed a face that Middle America may not have seen before. And that presence as a role model is what made him the effortless choice as Dallas Voice’s local LGBT Person of the Year.

While Burns himself is local, the reach of his message proved to be national, even international. But as he did it, Burns had little idea what it would become.

“I got up the very next morning and went on with my life the way I normally would,” Burns said. “I had two back-to-back appointments starting at 8 a.m., then I came home. J.D. [Angle, Burns’ husband] was sitting in the bed when I came back from speaking to the gay-straight alliance at UT. He said, ‘You know you’ve got 5,000 people who have viewed this since it was posted at 5 a.m.’

“Before I left at noon, I got 1,000 Facebook ‘friend’ requests. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God — how did that happen?’”

The story of how the video made it to YouTube is a strange one. All of Fort Worth’s council meetings are recorded and streamed live on the Internet. Chris Hawes, the WFAA reporter covering Fort Worth city hall, had already posted her story for the day but continued to watch the stream. When she saw Burns’ confessional recollection of childhood bullying, she dropped the story she’d already filed and went live. But Burns was not available.

“We had another five hours worth of council meeting that night,” Burns said. “I was busy with zoning cases.”

Burns learned of the report and stepped out of the meeting long enough to warn his parents that a story about bullying and teenage suicide would be about him. “I said, ‘There’s some content that comes from a very personal standpoint.’

“I knew when it aired — right after, both my phones blew up. Todd Camp [ironically, Dallas Voice’s first LGBT Person of the Year last year] was texting me saying ‘What are you gonna do with this? Will you put on YouTube?’ I said, ‘Yes eventually.’ He said, ‘No, you need to do it now. I will come up to City Hall and do it for you if you’ll just get a copy to your council aide.’”

Camp and Kyle Trentham finally got it uploaded at 5 a.m., Wed., Oct. 13. Before the day was over, Burns had spoken to CNN, CBS and scores of other outlets. He was soon on a flight to New York City for appearances on The Today Show and other programs.

Then Ellen called.

The whole experience ended up being “kinda strange,” he said. “Walking down the street in Portland, Ore., someone said, ‘Hey, are you the dude that cried?’ On the street in New York City [a day after the story broke], people would stop me and ask if I was from Texas.”

There have been other surreal moments. At the beginning, Burns was surviving on few hours’ sleep, traveling constantly and doing interview after interview.

“Honestly, during the interviews on Today and Ellen there was such a crush of activity, I was probably not as present for that experience as I should have been,” he said. While waiting in the wings of DeGeneres’ show, “I thought, ‘Holy crap! I am about to meet Ellen! I hope I’m able to speak English.’”

But far beyond the celebrity it brought him was the gratification of affecting so many lives in concrete ways.

“The experience of talking to the kids and various people who have e-mailed me is the best part,” Burns said. “A couple weeks ago, I got an envelope that said nothing but ‘Joel Burns, Fort Worth, Texas’ — no postmark or return address. Inside was a torn up piece of paper and a note that said, ‘This is the remains of the letter I left for my roommate to find with my body. After seeing your video, I burned all but this piece. You saved my life.’”

“All of the e-mails were uniformly positive. My dad was worried — he said, ‘You need to get a security system and lock your doors,’ but honestly, that hasn’t happened. Walking on the set of Today is slightly unnerving, but no one’s threatened me or scared me. It’s kind of hard to be for bullying and teenaged suicide.”

Hard, but not impossible, as KLIF shock jock Chris Krok proved. He assailed Burns for wasting councilmembers’ time with his story and “lying” by referring to Angle as his “husband.”

Krok also affected a lisp mocking Burns’ tearful monologue. Burns says, so far as he can tell, Krok was the only person to actively attack him for the speech.

“He was trying to capitalize on it, to get attention,” Burns said dismissively. “He was doing what he could to draw attention. But he’s the only one I’m aware of. There were supposed to be protests at City Hall but that never materialized.”

Burns opened his speech that night by acknowledging that he could be torpedoing his future in politics. But he felt that bringing attention to the issue of bullying and teen suicide and saving maybe even one life was worth it.

And the risk he was taking didn’t go unnoticed.

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, speaking after Burns at that Oct. 12 council meeting, said it plainly:

“I have witnessed a lot of things over my 30 years of public service … but I have never seen anything as courageous as what I saw tonight,” Moncrief said to Burns. “Obviously, you spoke from the heart and you touched every heart in this room. No matter how big and tough you are, that touched you, in some shape, form or fashion.”

While some critics, like Krok, said the council meeting wasn’t an appropriate forum for Burns’ remarks, Moncrief, in his response that night, insisted otherwise.

“It is something that needs to be addressed,” the mayor said. “Young people, especially, are entitled to a chance — a chance to enjoy a childhood, a chance to enjoy looking forward to the next challenges in their life. It is only through people like yourself, who will speak out from experience — not from reading a book, not from watching a movie — from experience, [that change will happen. Experience] is always the best teacher. It teaches those lessons way down deep.

“And it takes a special courage to reach down deep to pull those things out and express them. I thank you for what you said and I thank you for how you said it,” Moncrief told Burns.

And people obviously have taken note of that courage and responded to help create the change Burn called for. In fact, earlier this month, Davis prefiled a bill in the Texas House  of Representatives to create a comprehensive statewide approach to bullying in public schools. She credited Burns’ speech with being the impetus.

“I am proud to have filed a bill in the Texas Legislature that attempts to have a positive impact on this issue, and I am particularly proud to do this in response to Joel’s personal story and the awareness he raised in all of us regarding teen suicides that occur as a result of bullying,” Davis said.

And Coleman said Equality Texas is proud to be able to work with Burns to get Davis’ legislation passed. In fact, Equality Texas invited Burns to go to Austin on Dec. 13 to speak at the press conference during which the organization launched its efforts to pass the anti-bullying bill.

“As the statewide organization, having someone who can put a face on this very serious issue was important for us, and we feel it was very appropriate to have [Burns] at the press conference. But we didn’t invite him to participate as a councilman from Fort Worth. We invited as Joel Burns to participate as a Texan who himself experienced bullying when he was growing up,”Coleman said.

While many people have focused on the changes Burns’ speech has made in others’ lives, Burns acknowledged that what happened that night and since has changed his life, as well.

“I am a little more mindful of some things that others would perceive as bigger picture stuff. Instead of getting hunkered down in resolving our pension crisis or fixing our budget for next year, it kind of pulls you up a little bit out of the [minutiae] of everyday life.

“You hear these stories and it fills me with, I don’t know what to call it, contentment? It has instilled a sense of who I am at 41 that was not present to prior to the 12th of October. It makes me much less afraid. Whatever happens, happens. If I don’t get re-elected [in May], I know now I’ve had an amazing life — a lot better than many others out there.”

And his video has made life a lot better for countless others, too.

Senior Editor Tammye Nash contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

National spotlight focuses on Burns

As Fort Worth councilman’s staff, volunteers continue to field e-mails, calls from bullied teens seeking help, Dallasites stage a 2nd vigil to remember teen suicide victims


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

PROUD COUPLE  |  Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
PROUD COUPLE | Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Joel Burns has been a familiar name and face in North Texas since 2007 when he was first elected to the Fort Worth City Council, becoming Cowtown’s first openly gay council member.

But in the last two weeks, thousands have learned Burns’ name and are hailing him as a hero of the LGBT community and the battle against bullying and teen suicide.

Fort Worth City Council’s Oct. 12 meeting started out as usual. But then Burns took his turn during that part of the meeting in which councilmembers routinely offer recognition to individuals and events in their own districts. But this time, Burns took on a national topic.

Struggling to choke back tears until finally giving up and letting the tears run down his face, Burns talked about several teenagers who were LGBT, or at least perceived to be LGBT, who had recently taken their own lives after enduring months, sometimes years, of anti-gay bullying and harassment.

And then the councilman told his own story, how he had himself been bullied as a teen and had contemplated suicide.

By the time he finished, everyone in the Council Chamber had risen to their feet to salute him with applause.

But it didn’t stop there. Burns posted the official  Fort Worth City Council video on YouTube as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign to encourage and reassure LGBT teens — and suddenly, Burns was an Internet sensation.

Newspapers around the world posted the video on their websites and it went viral on YouTube. Before he knew it, Burns was being asked to be on, first local and then national and international news programs, including The Today Show with Matt Lauer. On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Burns was a guest on Ellen DeGeneres’ television talk show.

During an appearance on Ellen, Burns said that the best part of the last two weeks has been the number of teens from around the world who have e-mailed him and contacted him on Facebook.

“The countless number of kids from around the world … who said, ‘I was in a really, really bad place and I was making plans to take my own life,’” he said. “The fact that they have reconsidered — that makes it worth me crying at City Council, the heartache for my mom and dad, worth every bit of all that because they’re still alive.”

While Burns has been traveling coast-to-coast speaking out against bullying on all of the network morning shows in New York, on cable news and on Ellen in Los Angeles, a team of volunteers has been sorting through thousands of messages pouring into his e-mail inbox at Fort Worth City Hall.

By Monday, Oct. 18, more than 20,000 e-mails had arrived after the video had been streamed 1.3 million times. On Thursday, Oct. 21, the number of YouTube hits passed 2 million, and the e-mail and Facebook messages continue to pour in.

The YouTube page has logged more than 27,000 comments.

Actually reaching Burns or his office this week has been almost impossible. His office phone switches to directly to voice mail.

The Fort Worth City Hall media office said they would pass a message to his office to contact Dallas Voice. But spokesman Bill Begley said he’d walk a message down to Burns’ office himself.

Will Trevino in Councilmember Kathleen Hicks’ office said that former staff and volunteers in Burns’ office had been working overtime trying to keep up with the flood of messages.

Remembering the lost ones
Wednesday was Spirit Day, designated to remember young people who have committed suicide as a result of bullying. Many wore purple to show solidarity for efforts to stop the bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the call for an end to bullying by releasing an “It Gets Better” video earlier this week and wearing purple on Spirit Day.

More than 200 people gathered in the Caven parking lot off Cedar Springs Road and held a candlelight vigil marching to the Legacy of Love monument at Oak Lawn Avenue.

Marchers carried purple signs that read “Hope” and “It Gets Better.”

At the monument, organizer Ivan Watson read the names of recent suicide victims and a moment of silence was observed for each one.

Watson said he was inspired to organize the vigil after hearing about Asher Brown, the recent Houston suicide victim.

Organizer Steve Weir of DallasGay-Agenda.com billed the event as a peace march and vigil in memory of those who died and a stand against bullying D/FW area. He said that school policies must change to make schools safe for LGBT youth.

Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas said he searched bullying policies of school districts across the state and found none that specifically addresses bullying based on sexual orientation. Austin’s comes closest, he said.

McDonnell also said that Philadelphia’s school system passed a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that specifically addresses sexual orientation and sexual identity.

“It’s in Lew Blackburn’s hands,” McDonnell said.

Blackburn is the DISD trustee who has shown the most interest in crafting a policy that will protect LGBT students and those perceived to be.

The “It Gets Better” campaign continues. Randy Potts is the grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts. His uncle was gay and committed suicide. He is recording an “It Gets Better” video this weekend.

To watch video from Wednesday’s vigil, go to DallasVoice.com/videos

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Perez Hilton pledges to end his bullying ways

Last week, I sat down at the computer and watched a number of videos from people — famous and not-so-famous — who were participating in Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign, sending video messages to LGBTQ youth that even though they may face bullying and harassment and discrimination now, life will get better if they just hang on.

One of the videos I saw was from gay gossip maven Perez Hilton. I have to admit, I didn’t even finish watching his video because I — apparently like a lot of other people — couldn’t stomach the apparent hypocrisy of watching this man — who has made a living bullying people and outing people who weren’t ready to be out — speaking out against bullying and trying to console young people who were being bullied.

Apparently, Perez realized the hypocrisy of it, too. And he went on Ellen DeGeneres’ show to acknowledge that hypocrisy and to pledge to change his ways. Will he change? I guess we just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, watch the video, and decide for yourself whether you believe he is sincere.

—  admin