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Openly gay council member gives support in conservative suburb

By Andrea Ordonez, Columnist

Last week, Joel Burns, an openly gay city council member from Fort Worth, TX gave a moving speech directed to gay teens around the country that are contemplating suicide. "Please stick around to make those happy memories for yourself."

The speech has gone viral with half a million views only two days after being uploaded onto Youtube, and has brought even more attention to anti-gay bullying, something the media continuously covers as a pressing issue on today's youth.  

I was surprised to see this video go viral mainly because I am from conservative Fort Worth, Texas. Listening to Burns list the names of schools in Fort Worth that he was directing his speech to, many of which my high school friends went to, brought back recollections of my hometown's standards, and how the area can be perceived as difficult place for teens with sexual orientations that differ societal norms to fit in.

However, with all the hype and all the tears, does it seem like Burns is adding extra water to a fire that everyone is already aware of and now trying to contain? With all the emotion in his speech, Burns almost steers into ten minutes of good political theater. Were his intentions noble or self-centered?

Yet, the universality of Burns' message of hope sets it apart from those specifically related to today's gay teens that are being bullied. He arguably does not deny the other half of the spectrum, seeking to reach out also to teens that are not necessarily gay, but are just perceived by their communities as "being different."

After sharing a personal story, Burns words reached out to all teens contemplating suicide. "This story is for the young people who might be holding that gun tonight, or the rope, or the pill bottle," he said. "Give yourself a chance to see how much better life will get."

Bullying remains prevalent in today's schools, taking no mercy on anyone regardless of their sexual orientation. With the numerous suicides this month, both related to anti-gay bullying and bullying in general, Burns stresses a change of heart from everyone. This change begins, and can be accomplished, with earnest attempts to let go of personal prejudices and acceptance of people for who they are.

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