Getting through middle and high school can be stressful – especially for students who struggle with their sexual orientation.
The national It Gets Better Project is in Tampa for the first time this week, assuring young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that their lives can improve after high school.
The project was started in 2010 when syndicated columnist Dan Savage created a video with his partner, Terry Miller, to encourage young LGBTQ people who dealt with suicidal thoughts.
The video went viral. Since then, numerous celebrities and thousands of ordinary people have created their own videos sharing their stories of how things improved for them.
Members of the anti-bullying effort will visit several schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and hold workshops to support LGBTQ students.
On Friday night, the project will end its visit with a performance from members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, as well as local choirs.
Alice Santana is with the Straz Center, which is hosting the event.
"With this particular project, they’re going to be bringing in a program to address bullying and LGBT issues that youth face," Santana said. "It's definitely about awareness, letting them know that they have support, that they matter and that we're here for them."
Music is a unique way to help young people who are struggling, said Harold Harkins. He is the president of Una Voce, the gay men's chorus of Tampa Bay.
"Music has an inherent component of emotion that is sort of subtle, whereas speech, you just don’t have that skill,” Harkins said. “So there are many, many things that you convey with music that you really just can’t do with speech, and that’s why we do it."
And Harkins said he has seen things get better himself.
“When I first joined our predecessor chorus in 1993, we had a lot of people who would list their names under a nom de plume in the program because they were not out, couldn’t be out at work or felt that way,” Harkins said. “So we’ve come a long way and we don’t have any of that anymore.”
Santana said the performance shows solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
“It’s always good to hear inspirational stories and let others know, ‘We’re here for you,’” Santana said.
People in Tampa who want to support the performance can join the community choir. The volunteers sing the song “More Friends Than You Know,” written specifically for this musical.
“[The musical number] is really powerful for our audiences because they get to see their friends, their neighbors, people that they may not have known were in support of them, there for them up on stage showing support and being role models,” said Amber Hurst-Martin, a cast member in the show.
The performance will be Friday night at 7:30 at the Straz Center.