On Friday, in solidarity with Bay Area LGBT youth, the San Francisco Police Department released an "It Gets Better" video featuring more than a dozen LGBT sergeants, commanders, dispatchers and police officers.
Since 2010, the It Gets Better Project -- a viral series of homemade YouTube videos -- has aimed to prevent suicide by helping LGBT youths facing harassment see beyond the difficult teenage years. Since its creation, thousands of videos have been released from influential names like Jake Shears, Chris Colfer, Stephen Colbert and Elizabeth Warren. And now, we can add the San Francisco Police Department to the list.
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"I never foresaw being a police officer," said one officer in the video. "Because I thought it was always something that I couldn't do."
"I literally thought I was the only gay police officer in the world," said another.
Throughout the eight-minute video, the officers relay personal stories of growing up gay -- from hiding from prom dates to dealing with bullies and gossip to concealing hobbies and interests to dealing with thoughts of shame and suicide.
"I would say by the age of five, six, I already knew that I should kind of keep it on the down low," said another officer. "Mostly the message was that there was something wrong with me and that I should just die."
Some reflected on what they would have missed had they given in to suicidal thoughts. "I would have missed the first time being held by someone I loved," said one officer. "I would have missed the joy and jubilation of life."
In September 2010, columnist Dan Savage released the first "It Gets Better" video with his partner Terry Miller.
"I was picked on mercilessly in school," said Miller in the video. "But things got better the day I left high school. Life instantly got better." Savage agreed. "If there are 12 year olds out there watching this video, what I'd love you take away from it really is that it gets better -- it can get great. But you have to tough this period of it out and you have to live so that you're around for it to get amazing." Since its posting, the video has received almost two million views and has prompted responses to LGBT youth harassment in publications like Rolling Stone and The New Yorker.
On Friday, HuffPost Associate Chicago Editor Joe Erbentraut told his own story to The Huffington Post. "I spent hours upon hours wondering if a happy life as an adult gay man would ever be a possibility," he wrote.
With the release of the It Gets Better videos, LGBT adults tell young people that, yes, it is.
"People might talk about you, but you know what? It's all ok," said one SFPD officer. "You don't have to tolerate people's non-acceptance of you. You just forge ahead and you do what you love and it gets better. It just does."
The video's message is best summed up by Chief of Police Greg Suhr: "It does get better. And until it does, we here in the San Francisco Police Department are going to stick up for you."
Check out the SFPD video by San Francisco filmmaker Shawn Northcutt below, and thank you to our friends at the San Francisco Police Department!
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