Activist and author Dan Savage kick-started a movement in 2010 when he encouraged LGBT adults to post videos offering encouragement and hope to bullied teens. Savage's "It Gets Better" movement has since spawned tens of thousands of video submissions and two MTV specials, and in honor of National Coming Out Day on Thursday (October 11), Savage revealed his favorite user-submitted video to MTV News.
Savage also gave advice to young people thinking about coming out. In his experience, he said it's important to think hard about coming out and whether the timing is right.
"Coming out is not the solution to your problems," he admitted. "Coming out is often the beginning of new problems. ... We shouldn't just blindly encourage kids to jump out. They need to come with a plan: who your parents are, friends are, whether you're going to have support and then line up that support."
This very message of managing expectations through the coming-out process is ultimately what makes for the best videos submitted on Savage's website, ItGetsBetter.org. With thousands of user-submitted videos, Savage recently went through the daunting task of choosing his favorites and landed on videos that were both realistic and forward-thinking. "I'm always looking for videos that illuminate the path and reveal how people made it better by taking steps toward progress, rather than recounting being bullied."
His favorite of them all, though, was done by Gabriele Rivera, who offered up her brutally honest lesson about dealing with adversity. "It doesn't get better," Riviera says bluntly in the video, "but what does happen is that you get stronger. As an adult, you learn how to deal with it and you learn how to love yourself. Do I say it gets easier? No. My bottom line is: You get stronger."
While coming out might not always be an immediate relief, for most young people Savage has encountered, it's the first step to living a better life. "For a lot of kids I hear from at 'Savage U,' they come out and it's a sh--storm and they're weathering that alone and nobody warned them that coming out can be complicated.
"It can cause you short-term grief," he continued, "but in the long term, a lot of good things are going to come your way."
For more on National Coming Out Day and issues of youth sexuality, visit the MTV Act blog.