Scroll To Top

Texas Councilman Revisits His Moving, Viral ‘It Gets Better’ Speech

Ft. Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, ten years ago and today

Joel Burns's original speech in front of the city council went viral on YouTube 10 years ago.

When Joel Burns gave an impassioned speech in front of the Fort Worth, Texas, City Council back in 2010, he thought he might change a few minds of people in the room. Now, a decade later, that speech has been seen by over 3.1 million people on YouTube alone.

In 2007, Burns became the first out gay candidtate for any public office in Fort Worth history, and that December, he became the first out city official when he won his runoff election.

For the 10-year anniversary of that touching video, the It Gets Better Project sat down with Burns to watch the video and reflect on what things really are better now.

In the original speech, Burns recounted times in his youth when he was bullied and how it almost led him to suicide, and he told other LGBTQ+ people, especially young ones, that life won't always be so hard and painful. "You will get out of that high school, and you will never have to deal with those jerks again if you don't want to," he said. "You will find and you will make new friends who will understand you. And life will get so, so, so much better."

Burns was inspired to speak out after he read about Zack Harrington, a 19-year-old Oklahoma teen who had died by suicide after hearing antigay comments at a city council meeting.

"I haven't watched that in at least a couple years, and it takes me right back there, I get a lump in my throat," Burns says in the new video. "Those kind of experiences when you're in your adolescence, like I described, stay with you forever. They're like scars that you never get rid of, you can makeup them up and darken them up, and you ultimately heal from them, but they're still always there."

He says that in the middle of giving his speech, Burns realized his parents were probably watching, and he had never told them he had struggled with thoughts of suicide. He got up right then and called his mom to tell her about what he was saying. Burns recalls that she started crying and asked, "Did we do everything that we could have?" to which he replied, "Mom, you all did, you loved me."

Burns also says that all the attention he got from the video is nothing compared to "the relationships that came from kids who were hurting and in trouble, young people." One special piece of mail will always stick with Burns.

It contained the corner of a burnt piece of paper, which it said was all that remained of a suicide note from someone who happened upon his video and decided to burn the letter rather than take their own life. "I still have that; it's a good and stark reminder that there's a lot of pain experienced by people all over the world, and they need reminders like the It Gets Better Project gives them that their lives will get indeed a lot better."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories