New York City firefighters just sent a powerful message to young LGBT people.

I remember hearing the word "fag" tossed around the locker room like it was no big deal.

Like it wasn't the dehumanizing, hateful word that it is.

I am gay. And I, like millions of LGBT people, remember firsthand the pain I endured in locker rooms — and in hallways, and in cafeterias, and sometimes just sitting in class — because I was different.


Teens who identify as LGBT are significantly more likely to face bullying and violence at the hands of their peers than their straight counterparts — and that takes a toll on their mental health. Kids who are LGBT are at greater risk of depression and more likely to contemplate — and commit — suicide.

As a queer kid growing up and feeling less than, it seemed like only straight, macho guys could become heroes...

...which is why a new video made by New York City firefighters is so validating. I know "middle school me" would have loved to hear what they had to say.

All GIFs via FDNY/YouTube.

In the video, which was created in conjunction with the It Gets Better project and in recognition of National Coming Out Day (which falls on Oct. 11 every year), LGBT firefighters in the FDNY opened up about their own struggles being different.

Like, what it's like to feel alone...

Or what it's like to have parents who say things like...

They also shared stories of hope and explained that being different is actually pretty cool.

Because sometimes the most powerful thing you can tell a young person who can't see the light at the end of the tunnel is that, yes, things do get better.


"When I decided to come out, I kind of channeled that ... that defiant, I am 'the other.' And I'm OK with that. I'd rather be 'the other' than the cookie cutter." — Luke Allen, FDNY


"Being able to embrace who you are and say, 'This is me, I'm not changing for anyone. I love who I am,' is such a powerful, empowering experience." — Victor Berrios, FDNY

In a statement, FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said, "As firefighters, paramedics and EMTs in the most diverse city in the world, FDNY members have the tremendous opportunity to inspire young people through their brave work every single day. Through this video, they deliver an important message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth around the world — it absolutely does get better."

I may not have become a firefighter, but I did become a writer who's very happy with how things are turning out. So I, too, have to agree: Hang in there! Blue skies are on the horizon.

Check out the whole video below. It's worth the watch.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

RELATED: A homophobic ad was placed next to a pizza shop. They messed with the wrong place.

He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.