For Billy: It Gets Better
When gay Los Angeles writer Michael Anthony created his It Gets
Better video, he didn’t think much would come from it — until he
received an anonymous letter in the mail. With no return address and
signed simply “Billy,” it was a cry for help detailing
one boy’s painful struggle with his sexuality and the unimaginable high
school bullying he regularly endured in Wheeling, Ill. — a suburb of
Chicago and also Michael Anthony’s hometown. For Billy
documents Michael Anthony’s return to Illinois to explore LGBTQ bullying
in the Midwest and to combat homophobia through art and activism —
while attempting to rectify a painful mistake he made 10 years ago.
I have been home sweet home for eight days and have (literally) gained eight pounds. Chicago-style pizza and subzero can’t-cardio temperatures rarely have a way of making for six-pack abs. But my crew and I are work 18+ hour days while filming this documentary, and craft services is the only way I can express my gratitude. So I say thank you a lot, and then we eat a lot.
I have gone to bed crying each and every night. Why? Because I am being berated and “gay-bashed” on Facebook by a few of the local high school students; it’s not a pitchfork-wielding mob, mind you, but it’s a few bad apples with snarky control-alt-delete-key fingers. Most of it is just the occasional underhandedcyber cutting. They continue to call me a “YOB.” I have no idea what this means, but students have alluded to the fact that it’s a northwest suburban slang for “faggot.”
However, there is one student in particular who’s gone for my homosexual jugular. He continually professes that it has nothing to do with me being gay, but that “Michael Anthony, as a person, is the problem.”
You see, I am a writer-comedian-activist-actor-artist. For four years I served as creative director of alternative programming at Celebration Theatre (the country’s longest consistently producing gay and lesbian theater) and currently cohost my own show (The Village Variety Pack with Dennis Hensley and Michael Anthony) at the the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Plainly put, we’re a really good gay ol’ time; sketch, comedy, dance, music, and everything in between — even the occasional drag dance number, which I usually (and painfully tongue-in-cheekishly) front.
This anti–Michael Anthony Facebook-bashing student has researched me, YouTubed me, read me, watched me, and is now sharing each and every wig-wearing, tap-dancing, bawdy-bellowing clip he finds with the city via the Net — and people (perhaps only slightly rightfully so) are apprehensive about trusting me now. His ultimate point: “Trannies like this have no place in our town and should not be allowed around children.” And people who have little exposure to homosexual culture perhaps (not so slightly rightfully so) agree.
Professional Chicago-based artists have taken anonymous student letters
about their personal bullying experiences and created original works of
art — paintings, photography, sculpture — to be shown and auctioned off
for charity. There will also be a live stage show at 7:45 p.m., featuring
music, dance and spoken word from some of Chicago’s most talented gay,
lesbian, and supportive straight artists and activists — all created from
the secret thoughts of bullied teens.
“BE” is also an interactive
exhibit. Guests will have the opportunity to write their own anonymous
letters about their fears, create original art that will be auctioned
off for charity, share their personal stories with our “5 Question
Confessional Cam,” participate in our stage show, and meet other
Chicagoland teens, families, and activists — all with the same aim: to
combat homophobia and teen bullying through art and activism.
DATE: Friday, March 18, 2011
TIME: Doors open at 6:30 p.m./Show at 7:45 p.m. LOCATION: European Crystal Banquet and Conference Center
519 W. Algonquin Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL
COST: FREE — Donations Accepted/Charity Auction
are welcome — All ages, all races, all religions, all orientations,
everyone! I hope you join us; please come. Show your support for the
LGBTQ antibullying cause ... and even your love for young, scared Facebook
This project is no longer about “helping us”; it is about “saving them.”