After the suicide of Tyler Clementi — the Rutgers freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge when his roommate streamed a video of Tyler kissing another man — millions of Americans felt sad.
Lori Andrews and Kristin von Staden took action.
The Westport couple — Lori teaches at Norwalk Community College; Kristin’s a nanny — read comedian Kate Clinton’s Facebook post: “What have you done lately for an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) teen?”
At the same time, a gay friend sent them a video he and his partner had made for “It Gets Better.” That’s a project started by writer Dan Savage, in the days after Tyler’s death. Gay men and lesbians, family members, friends, teachers and other allies have already posted hundreds of videos, all with a message for gay youth: No matter what’s happening in your life today, it gets better.
“Our friend’s video really resonated,” Lori says. “Kristin and I realized we were tired of writing checks to worthy gay organizations. We wanted to do something more.”
Mara Tarnopol-Gore — a video producer and friend — taped the women. They discussed their own experiences, including their wonderful, normal lives in Westport.
They mentioned their joy in raising their 2 13-year-old kids. They laughed, interrupted each other’s sentences, held hands — and proved powerfully, with words and deeds, that it does indeed get better.
Mara edited the video down to 5 minutes. On Saturday it went up on the “It Gets Better” website.
Within 2 days, it had over 1,000 hits. Dozens of people emailed Lori and Kristen directly.
You 2 are so adorable, teenagers wrote.
You give me so much hope.
I’ve watched hundreds of these videos. Yours is the best.
Thank you, people said. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Lori and Kristin were so inspired, they took another step. On Sunday they became co-facilitators of OutSpoken, Fairfield County’s gay youth support group. Now, in addition to video, they offer their insights, advice — and great humor — to teenagers face to face.
“I’m so fired up right now,” Lori says. “I just wrote Kate Clinton. I told her I’m living such an average life — but you motivated me to make a difference.”
She laughs. “If 2 old ladies can do this, anyone can.”
(Click here to view Lori and Kristin’s “It Gets Better” video. To contact Lori directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org)