Savage speech shocks, inspires high school journalists at the NSPA convention


Author and cofounder of the “It Gets Better Project” Dan Savage addresses an auditorium full of high school journalists at the NSPA convention in Seattle.

Jonathan Baer, Cody Siler and Sabrina Werby, Staff Writers

Founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign and sex columnist Dan Savage sparked controversy on Friday while presenting the keynote address at National Scholastic Press Association High School Journalism Convention in Seattle .

Introduced by NSPA Executive Director Logan Aimone as a “wildly popular syndicated sex and love columnist,” Savage looked out on the audience of student journalists, yearbook staffs and advisers, directly speaking to his prime constituency: “Hello, young people.”

The “It Gets Better” campaign is “obliged to youth,” said Savage. “(LGBT) kids don’t know it gets better, and somebody needs to tell them.

“They can’t imagine a future where they have enough joy to compensate for the pain they are in now,” said Savage.

Started by Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, on their You Tube channel, the “It Gets Better” project grew from an original goal of 100 videos into “a movement, inspiring more than 40,000 user-created videos viewed more than 40 million times,” according to the project website. Savage’s book, a compilation of videos, letters and stories from gay teens and adults worldwide called “It Gets Better: Coming Out Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living,” was published in March.

Savage pointed to faith and the tensions it can create for LGBT youth. But he said that religious dogma shouldn’t dictate how parents and educators respond to gay teens. “We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation,” Savage said. “We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things.”

Following these comments, the yearbook staff from Arrowhead Christian Academy in Redlands, Calif., chose to stand up and leave the presentation. Salvage responded by saying, “I was really glad it was a big room because they had to listen to most of what I had to say before they got out.”

Not all Christians present for Savage’s speech were offended, however. “The church I go to is super-accepting of LGBT kids,” says Sarah Edger, a student journalist from Kansas City, Kans. “They don’t like discriminating against those people just because the Bible says so.”

Savage, who is a Catholic though he is often called anti-faith by his critics, said that he believes the reconciliation of religion and sexuality can be a powerful healing tool. Said Savage: “For many LGBT kids, faith has to be part of the solution.”