Much has changed for our friends in the LGBT community. But there is still a long, long way to go.
Media attention to the high profile Tyler Clementi case raises awareness of the bullying problem that young gays and lesbians face every day. Clementi was a Rutgers University freshman who tragically committed suicide two years ago after learning that his roommate secretly streamed video online of Tyler's intimate encounter with another man.
There are far too many other Tylers out there. Many of them are on the edge, perhaps contemplating suicide. These young people may feel isolated, but they need to know that they have support. That is why I joined several of my New York City Congressional Delegation colleagues to record a video that tells LGBT youth that It Gets Better.
In my remarks on the video, I highlighted the progress: Gay and lesbian soldiers now serve openly in our military; same sex marriages are now legal in several states; and in many parts of our nation, it is now illegal to discriminate against anyone because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
Unfortunately, bigots and bullies try to make life difficult for gays and lesbians who are brave enough to step boldly out of the closet. They make life particularly difficult for vulnerable young people. But I am here to tell you, IT GETS BETTER! You don't have to put up with it. Reach out and talk to someone who understands and can help.
If you or someone you know is a victim of harassment because of sexual orientation or gender identity, I recommend viewing the encouraging messages and other valuable resources on the It Gets Better Project website, www.itgetsbetter.org.
The project's organizers report that millions have already viewed the many inspirational video testimonies on the website. In these videos LGBT youth share their difficult experience of coming out of the closet to family and friends, as well as their experience in dealing with bullies.
Our federal government is also an invaluable resource. I am pleased to report that the CDC is a hub of information for LGBT youth, their parents, and educators. Here is another government site that I highly recommend: http://www.stopbullying.gov/topics/lgbt/. It focuses specifically on bullying.
I have fought long and hard to create and support laws that have made equality and justice a reality for the LGBT community. Unfortunately, no piece of legislation can end hatred or change people's hearts. Yet I remain optimistic that ultimately negative attitudes toward the LGBT community will change. In the meantime, we urgently need to focus our attention on preventing LGBT youth from yielding to their tormentors and choosing to commit suicide.
Suicide is not the answer. Stay strong. IT GETS BETTER!