On an evening when New York state legislators passed a historic marriage equality bill, librarians at the American Library Association annual conference were entertained, moved, and captivated by the conference's opening keynote speaker, Dan Savage, syndicated columnist and co-creator with his husband, Terry Miller, of the "It Gets Better" viral video campaign. Alluding to the pending vote in New York, Savage, who married Miller in Canada, referred to him as "my boyfriend in New York," and said that while the couple was "enjoying the premarital sex," drawing laughter from the audience, he was looking forward to later joining Miller, who was in New York, as his husband. Soon after, the New York Legislature voted to recognize same sex marriages.
Savage's sense of humor was on display throughout, as he talked about his famous campaign, which grew from his initial video to thousands, including videos from celebrities, politicians, president Obama among them, a host of authors and librarians, and even major professional sports teams. Within a week, Savage and Miller, who had put the video up on a personal YouTube account, had hit the 650 video maximum on YouTube, and were contemplating how to set up a website when a Google engineer randomly emailed them, expanding their hosting privileges. At one point, he noted, the emails were coming so fast they were cascading down the monitor like a snowy TV screen.
It wasn't easy. Savage quipped that the couple's first attempt at the video would have made kids suicidal, as it focused on the bullying Savage and Miller also received. But they soon found their voice. The 46 year-old Savage, raised Catholic, told the audience that when he came out to his parents when he was 16, beyond the "tortured images," he was in essence telling them that he was doomed to a marginal life. That he would never marry, never have children, and would never be a marine. Today, he is married, a father, and not only successful, but a role model, and he can even join the military, proof that things not only get better, but "can be great."
Savage likened his video campaign to the work of librarians,who are dedicated to information and offering access to that information. He praised librarians for offering the kinds of books that can help kids struggling with their sexuality, being bullied by classmates, rejected by their families and their churches, and portrayed libraries as a safe haven for many kids. As for why he turned his Internet-based effort into a book (published by Dutton in March) Savage drew applause, telling librarians "I'm a print guy, and books are magic."