EMails Pour In After Emotional Speech
Fort Worth City Councilman lauded for show of support for gay teens.
Thousands of e-mails from around the world are pouring into Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns' City Hall address.
In his emotional speech during a City Council meeting last week, Burns talked about his experiences of being bullied as a teenager and urged kids to "stick around" because "it gets better."
A YouTube video of his remarks went viral, racking up nearly 1.7 million hits and attracted national media attention.
"I had one come in from Japan, and several from Australia and Canada and Mumbai," said Taylor McCarty, of Burns' campaign. "A majority of them are just thank yous and 'you're so brave' and just short one-liners."
The councilman's personal assistant, Deyra Galvan, estimates about 15,000 e-mails have come in since Burns' "things get better" speech.
"We've gotten e-mails about people that have, maybe they were the ones bullying someone and thinking about it from the other side, like how they couldn't even imagine what the other person was going through and they wish they could reach them now," Galvan said.
Galvan, along with McCarty and about six other volunteers, are trying to reach and answer each and every e-mail.
"It's overwhelming, but it's probably one of the best experiences that I've ever had, just because it's not every day that you get to see the words of somebody else change people's lives," McCarty said.
"You definitely have an emotional attachment to every e-mail that you read," Galvan said.
One e-mail that is typical of the ones sent to Burns reads, "I was always bullied because people thought I was gay, and I really wasn't. I was just different."
Another says, "Whether kids are being teased for the sexuality, their looks, their weight, their clothes or anything else, they all need to know it gets better."
"We try to send the message of, you know, 'Pass it on,'" McCarty said. "You know, pass the story on so that you can help other people, and you can be a part of this, too."
Others have called with their personal stories or written letters. Some have reached out for help, admitting that they are contemplating suicide.
"We try to respond back to them and say, 'Here's your options. Please get help. Please let us know if we can do anything else,'"
In his City Council speech, Burns called on the Fort Worth Independent School District to end bullying.
Burns and Fairness Fort Worth's Jon Nelson are hopeful the district will add a more in-depth gay and lesbian component to its current anti-bullying programs.
Burns has already contacted the superintendent to discuss the expansion of the district's "Its Not OK" policy.
A FWISD spokesperson said Monday that the policy currently addresses "sexual harassment" as well as "personal choices."
Burns hopes the district can broaden the curriculum to specifically address the challenges gay and lesbian students face.
Writer and media pundit Dan Savage founded the It Gets Better project last month after several American teenagers across the country who were bullied committed suicide.
The project compiles videos that tell lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers that "it gets better."