Fort Worth’s Joel Burns Revisits Viral ‘It Gets Better’ Moment

Joel Burns today and in 2010 as he gave his ‘It Gets Better’ speech (screen captures)

Taking part in the ’10 Years Better’ series from the It Gets Better Project, former Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns revisits the viral video of his city council meeting speech in October 2010 where he shared aspects of his young gay life and spoke out about LGBTQ bullying.

The new series features celebrities and everyday people who recorded It Gets Better videos early on, rewatching and reacting to their video. Host Emile Ennis Jr. speaks with guests about their life since — how it’s gotten better/evolved, and their message today for LGBTQ+ youth.

After video footage of his 2010 city council speech went viral, Burns found himself in the national spotlight regarding LGBTQ bullying and teen suicide.

Burns says he’s “still wowed that these few minutes have had this lasting impact some ten years later.”

As someone who grew up in Fort Worth, watching the speech – by the first man who had run for office as an openly gay man – had a powerful and very personal impact on me.

The morning of the city council meeting Burns read of 19-year-old Zach Harrington taking his own life in nearby Norman, Oklahoma, due to homophobic bullying.

Burns used his announcement time during that meeting to share some of his own coming out story (including being bullied in high school) and then segued to the growing epidemic of suicides by young LGBTQ people.

The 4-term city councilman’s prepared remarks originally included his own history with having had suicidal thoughts, but as he shares with Ennis Jr. in the video below, he stopped himself. “I realized, oh my god, my parents are probably watching this right now and I never told them I thought about committing suicide.”

While Burns was still in that council meeting, news outlets began reporting on his story.

Former Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns (screen capture)

In the following days, he remembers thinking maybe 300 people might see the video. Then, the numbers climbed to 3,000, then 30,000, then 300,000 and eventually garnered over 3.1 million views on YouTube.

Burns says he received over 20,000 emails regarding the speech and countless letters. One letter was addressed simply to ‘Joel Burns, Fort Worth. Inside was a note on a torn piece of paper.

“This is what remains of the letter I wrote for my roommate to find with my body,” remembers Burns. “I happened upon your speech and I decided to burn the rest of it.”

“It’s a reminder that there’s a lot of pain experienced by people all over the world. And they need reminders like the It Gets Better Project gives them that things will, indeed, get a lot better.”

The It Gets Better Project began as a viral social media movement in 2010 and has grown to an organization with global affiliates across 17 countries and 4 continents.

You can watch Burns’ powerful 2010 speech below.

Podcast: Suicide In Tennessee, Swimmer Booted For Being Gay, Music Video Highlights Domestic Violence

In this week’s headlines:

• A Tennessee teen commits suicide after being outed by fellow students (If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255)

• The Trump administration tried to wipe out Pride crosswalks

• A suspect has been arrested in brutal crime where a gay man was tied to a minivan and dragged through the streets of Jacksonville

• Collegiate swimmer says he was kicked off Stanford’s swim team for being openly gay

• Tom Goss’s new music video ‘La Bufadora,’ dives into domestic violence among LGBTQ couples

All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report.

Reminder – if you enjoy catching up on LGBTQ news in a quick podcast, I’d appreciate if you would share The Randy Report with your friends 🙂

News Round-Up: April 23, 2019

Who else is feeling springtime in the air? Graphic artist Silverjow captures the mood perfectly (above). He shares that he was inspired by the cherry blossoms in Japan as well as the stylish peeps heading to work in their business suits :)

Some news items you might have missed:

• Who else is feeling springtime in the air? Graphic artist Silverjow captures the mood perfectly (above). He shares that he was inspired by the cherry blossoms in Japan as well as the stylish peeps heading to work in their business suits 🙂

• Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, the brothers accused of attacking actor Jussie Smollett and later cleared when prosecutors announced Smollett had orchestrated a hoax to advance his career, are suing Smollett’s legal team for defamation.

• Donald Trump’s son-in-law and presidential adviser Jared Kushner suggested Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was more harmful to the US than Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Kushner downplayed Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election as “buying some Facebook ads.”

• Voter turnout for young voters during the midterm elections was the highest in four decades.

• Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old high school student in Huntsville, Alabama, took his own life after suffering from homophobic bullying from classmates. The Center for Social Equity found 89% of LGBTQ students report being bullied.

If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of suicide, please consider reaching out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.

• A major faith-based foster care and adoption contractor for the state of Michigan, Bethany Christian Services, announced it will place children in LGBTQ homes, reversing course following a recent legal settlement.

Politico reports that Donald Trump has ordered administration officials to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the annual fundraising gala attended by the White House press corps and scheduled for this Saturday. For the third year in a row, Trump has announced he will not attend, and instead hold a political rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, describing the dinner as “so boring and so negative.”

• Flipping the script from Trump’s negative, let’s end this Round-Up with Salt Cathedral‘s upbeat tribute to folks who work hard for what they want: “Go and Get It” featuring guest artists Big Freedia & Jarina DeMarco.

The bouncy, euphoric electronic track features playful pop vocals along with sunny horn samples on a bass-heavy track.

Salt Cathedral say, ”‘Go And Get It’ is our hustler anthem. Since we came to this country we worked to open doors constantly by hustling like crazy. Having Jarina and Freedia be part of this and bring their magic into it makes the message and emotion extra powerful. We hope for people to feel inspired and go and get the shit that they want in their lives.”