When people outside Washington learn I'm from Seattle, they often connect the place to one of their favorite things — usually coffee, sometimes Nordstrom clothes or a techy innovation or, for those with a more historical bent, really big airplanes. In a weird way, and for no logical reason, it makes me kind of proud, as if I had something to do with those successes.
But I've never felt the least bit emotional about a Northwest export until recently. One day last fall I saw a video posted by Dan Savage on Slog, The Stranger's blog, that was a very simply produced, candid talk with Savage and his partner of 16 years, Terry Miller. Following the suicides of two gay teenagers who had been bullied by classmates, Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas, Savage and Miller were moved to tell of their own difficulties growing up and to encourage other young people to be strong. Their message: Your life is harder now than it probably ever will be again. It will get better.
They invited others to send in similar videos, and soon the project, which took on the tag "It Gets Better," spread around the world. Adults wrote Savage to say how moved they were. Kids wrote to say they felt hope, some for the first time in their lives.
Today there are more than 10,000 videos posted at itgetsbetter.org and on its YouTube channel — some by celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, President Barack Obama, and Anne Hathaway — and they've been viewed more than 30 million times.
Tomorrow (March 22) marks the release of the book It Gets Better, a collection of stories similar to the videos. Pre-order a copy here. Next week, Savage and Miller will appear at Town Hall Seattle.
I could go on with examples showing how and why this project is so important and so moving. That would not do it justice. Go see for yourself. Spread the word. Order the book. Contribute money. Or just feel it in your gut.
The "It Gets Better" movement is my all-time favorite Seattle export. It may not be making anyone rich, but it's enriching people in a much more profound way.
If you go: Dan Savage and Terry Miller will discuss "It Gets Better," 7:30-9 p.m. March 29, Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave. Tickets cost $5 (free for 17 and under) and are available here or at the door beginning at 6:30.
If you're too busy to explore the itgetsbetter website right now, start by clicking below: