Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns deserved the standing ovation he received last night.
He put his emotions on display during the meeting in council chambers. He spoke from the heart and from his personal experience of being bullied as a 13-year-old because he was “different.” That difference turned out to be the fact that Burns is gay.
Burns went through a roll call of teens and young adults who recently committed suicide because of bullying prompted by their homosexuality. He told younger members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community that if they can hang on, get past the moment of being bullied, and look to the future that, “it gets better.” (The It Gets Better project was started last month by Dan Savage as a way for those in the GLBT community to reach out to GLBT youth to help them push past bullying and toward a better future.)
In his speech, Burns called for an end to bullying at Fort Worth schools. Burns recounted for the first time — often near tears, often having to regain his composure — his experience of being "roughed up" by older teens in his hometown, how the bullies called him epithets, and told him he should die and rot in hell.
He then recounted the happy times in his life, the achievements, the impromptu union ceremony with his partner under the setting West Texas sun. He talked of wanting to have shown the good times to the wounded, hurting 13-year-old boy he was, and he essentially told his younger self and younger GLBT people, you know, mean people suck. Don’t let them win.
It gets better.
Bruce Felps owns and operatesEast Dallas Times, an online community news outlet serving the White Rock Lake area. He applauds Joel Burns.