Entry by Kyle Golemba, Guest Blogger
Dan Savage, columnist of the popular advice column Savage Love, started the It Gets Better Project to help struggling gay youth on their journey. The project was developed in reaction to a shocking rash of LGBT students committing suicide. The basic concept is: LGBT adults making YouTube videos to help our youth know that no matter what they’re going through, no matter how bad it seems, it gets better.
Inspired by this project and our own struggles, Bruce Dow, Steve Ross, and I pulled together a wide variety of people from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to lend their voices to this important project. What excited me about doing the project in Stratford was not only to show how many LGBT folks may be gainfully employed in an organization, but also how many varieties of people in a variety of positions are LGBT-identified. We had a stage manager, actors, an electrician, a props manager, a producer, a director…well, you’ll see below.
If any LGBT kids stumble across this blog, I want to add a little more to my message. I was bullied from about the time I was 10. I walked in to school on Hallowe’en as Billy, the blue Power Ranger (who coincidentally, just publicly came out), and was mocked for dressing up. To make matters worse, all the grade fives who dressed up were paraded through all of the older classrooms. Awesome.
The bullying continued.
Older kids picked on me because I got good grades, because I sang, because I was different. I was chased home from school, thrown in garbage cans (it doesn’t just happen on Glee), and called every name in the book. By the time I was in high school, hearing the word “fag” barely made me wince. It was just part of my life.
But I had an amazing group of friends. As I say in the video, I was part of a drama company called Do It With Class that was my life-saver. As I typed that last sentence, I almost wrote “drama community” – but that’s really what it was. A network of amazing people, most of whom I’m still in contact with today, who shared a love of theatre and everything related to it. We were a crazy bunch and we were there for each other through thick and thin. With them I shared my passions, goals, loves, fears, and hopes. Being with them was what I looked forward to when kids at school would tease me, write offensive things in my yearbook, or shun me from their company.
Eventually, I got through it. I came out at 17 and, surprisingly, most people were pretty good about it. (I was actually annoyed that more people weren’t surprised, shocked, or scandalized by admission.) I actually got harassed less once I had identified myself. My friends and family stood by me through it all. There were some rough times, some growing pains, but we made it relatively unscathed.
And now I’m 26, living my dream of being an actor, and in a happy relationship. If you had told me 10 years ago that this is where I would be, I maybe wouldn’t have believed it. At times, it seemed too bleak; but here I am.
I do what I love every day; I have great friends; I have an amazingly supportive family; I am building a successful relationship daily with my partner; and I am here to say that it gets better.
And those guys that used to beat me up and call me names? I don’t hear much about them anymore. But the last I heard, one of them got chased across two provinces and thrown in jail for selling drugs. You decide who’s the cool kid now.
So, all that said, persevere and you’ll be telling some kids about your horror/glory stories some day. I promise.