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Dan Savage Wins September Sidney for "It Gets Better" Project

Video Archive Created to Give Hope to LGBT High School Students

October 18, 2010

NEW YORK: The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today that Dan Savage has won the September Sidney Award for his “It Gets Better" Project, an online video archive designed to give hope to high school students who are being bullied because they are perceived to be lesbian or gay. Savage began the project in September in response to the recent rash of suicides by gay teenagers around the US.

Savage said he decided to start the project after 15-year-old Justin Aaberg of Minnesota and 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Indiana both hung themselves after severe harassment in school. Following the suicides, Savage wanted to figure out a way to reach out to teenagers dealing with similar types of harassment, to let them know "it gets better”–and then he realized that he could do exactly that, through the Internet. 

Savage said his project was especially aimed at students attending high school in small towns across America–places that would never consider inviting an openly-gay person to address the school on the subject of what it is like to be gay.

The first video Savage posted was one he made with his husband Terry; which, after a month on Youtube, has nearly 900,000 views. In it Savage says that if his adult self could have spoken to his 14 year-old self, “I would have told me to really believe the lyrics of ‘Somewhere’ from "West Side Story”–“There’s a place for us.”  His husband Terry says, “Living well is the best revenge–and if you can live through high school–and you definitely can–you’re going to have a great life,  and you’re going to be the envy of all those people."   Hundreds of gay and lesbian citizens have posted videos, including well-known people like the singer-songwriter Jewel, and Rich Tafel, the former executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.

Sidney Award judge Charles Kaiser said, “Savage used a national crisis to begin an inspirational project, which has brought hope to young gay, lesbian and transgendered people everywhere–not only in America but all around the world.”

After Savage was notified that he had won the Sidney, he said, “Thank you for recognizing that, at its heart, the IGBP is a piece of advocacy journalism.” Savage asked that his $500 prize from the foundation be given to The Trevor Project, whose mission is to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources, including  a 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline.

Dan Savage has been writing “Savage Love,” an internationally syndicated sex advice column, since 1991. His column originates in The Stranger, and appears in The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader and many other weekly newspapers. Savage’s writing has also appeared on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, in Forbes, on Salon, and in numerous other publications. In addition to his regular appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and "The Colbert Report," Savage is also a regular contributor to public radio’s “This American Life.” He is the author of four books: “Savage Love” (Plume 1998); “The Kid: What Happened When My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant” (Dutton, 1999); “Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America” (Dutton, 2002), and “The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family” (Dutton 2005).

For an interview with Savage about his project, click here.

The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of socially-conscious journalism by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. For more information please click here.

Since 1950, the Sidney Hillman Foundation has honored journalists whose work fosters social and economic justice. Our prizes and awards celebrate the legacy and vision of Sidney Hillman, founder of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, a predecessor union to Workers United, SEIU.



Certificate designed by Edward Sorel

The Sidney is awarded monthly to a piece published in an American magazine, newspaper, on a news site, or a blog. Television and radio broadcasts by an American news outlet are also eligible, as are published photography series.

Deadlines are the last day of each month. The piece must have been published in the month preceding the deadline. In the case of magazines, please nominate according to the issue date on the publication, not when it first appeared.

Nominations are accepted for one's own work, or for someone else's.

The Foundation will announce a winner on the second Wednesday of each month. Recipients will be awarded $500, a bottle of union-made wine, and a certificate designed especially for the Sidney by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel.

If you wish to nominate yourself or a piece by anyone else, please click here for our nomination form.If you have any further questions about the nomination process, please send your inquiry to [email protected]