10 Questions for Dan Savage

Sex columnist Dan Savage talks about It Gets Better, his YouTube campaign in support of bullied gay teens

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John Keatley/Redux for TIME

How did you come up with the idea for It Gets Better?

Last summer I was reading about teen suicides, speaking at colleges and thinking that what I should be doing is going to high schools. But I would never get permission, as a gay adult, to speak to gay kids. Then it occurred to me that in the YouTube era, I was waiting for permission I no longer needed.

Are there more suicides and incidents of bullying now, or are we simply more aware?

Both. I think that kids are coming out younger. So [some] suicides that used to be chalked up to "Who knows why they were sad?" we are now able to attribute to conflict about sexual orientation. And with the culture wars in the past 20 years, I don't think we realized how bad it was getting in [certain] places.

This campaign gives kids hope but doesn't change their lives right now. How can we do that?

There's nothing about this campaign that precludes doing more. But we also have to recognize that there are places where we will never be able to fix the gay-bullying problem. So this may be the best we can do.

How many It Gets Better videos have been uploaded?

There are over 10,000.

Tell me about a video that surprised you.

There was a video that people saw and said, You're not going to post this. Not only did I post it, but we put it in the top spot. It's by Gabrielle Rivera, who says, I'm a gay woman of color, and it doesn't get better. She contradicted the whole message. She said, What happens is you get stronger.

Who hasn't made a video yet who you hope will?

Rick Santorum. Tim Pawlenty. Sarah Palin. Glenn Beck. The Prime Minister of Britain, who leads the Conservative Party there, made a video, and we haven't seen one from anyone on the right in the U.S. to even say, You're 14 and gay. Don't kill yourself.

It seems unlikely that Santorum will participate. Because of you, if one Googles Santorum, a very inappropriate definition is the first hit.

Rick Santorum has said insanely offensive things about gay and lesbian couples. He was a two-term sitting U.S. Senator with a lot of power, and my readers and I are a bunch of jackasses without a lot of power. We made a joke at his expense, and now he [plays] the victim, which is all Republicans seem capable of doing these days.

You recently attended an antibullying conference at the White House. Did you meet the President?

No. But I was 20 feet away from him and the glamour supernova that is Michelle Obama. It's staggering how charismatic and beautiful she is. It takes a lot for a woman to ping onto my radar like that.

So much of your writing is not emotional. And this project is.

I have a thick skin, but I have a heart. Every once in a while, as rough and tumble and cynical as the column can be, I'll really reach out to someone. This is only out of character for people who perceive me as the potty mouth who writes a dirty sex column.

What advice can you give readers of TIME?

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