City Hall

Dallas City Employees Make "It Gets Better" Video, But What is Mike Rawlings Doing In It?

This week's edition of the Dallas Voice features a long article about the video you see above, an "It Gets Better"-themed compilation featuring a whole bunch of LGBT city of Dallas employees, including city spokesperson Frank Librio, assistant city manager Joey Zapata, asisstant city attorneys Melissa Miles and John Rogers, Theresa O'Donnell, the director of Sustainable Development and Construction, and Laura Martin, the LGBT liaison officer at the Dallas Police department.

The more than 13-minute long video was the brainchild of city manager Mary Suhm, who told the Voice she was inspired by a similar video put out by the Austin Police Department not long ago (who were in turn, of course, inspired by the "It Gets Better" project originally launched by sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage).

It cost around $4,100, the funding for which came from former city council member Ed Oakley, as well as Gregg Kilhoffer and his Caven Enterprises, which runs several gay and lesbian clubs around town. Spokesman Librio tells the Morning News that the video was shot over a couple of days in November, after he went around personally soliciting people to participate.

It's pretty damn touching. Many of the city employees share their fears about coming out to their friends and families, with Miles at one point admitting that her life in the closet became so difficult, "I contemplated suicide." Rogers breaks down in tears describing the suicide of a college friend, one of the first other gay men he knew.

And of course, all of them talk about their lives today, proudly showing pictures of their families and describing their loving partners. All of them urge LGBT youth to hang on just a little bit longer.

"Just take a deep breath and give it another day, "Miles says. "And keep giving it another day. Because to do anything else will deny you the opportunity to have a happiness that is as deep as your pain is today."

It's enough to make you a little verklempt.

"The video itself is amazing news for a city in Texas," Daniel Cates tells us. He's an LGBT activist with GetEQUAL TX, the state chapter of a nationwide equal rights group, and who we've profiled here before. "I do hope that it makes people feel more welcome in our city. We have city representatives who really support our community, and I am grateful for this gesture."

But he's not quite as impressed with the presence of Mayor Mike Rawlings, who pops up near the end of the video to quote from psychiatrist and author Scott Peck.

"Life is painful. It's true," Rawlings says. "We all experience a lot of pain in our life. I believe that the best days can be in front of you. You've gotta believe in yourself. God gave you some very special gifts. The future is great because you can be a great businessperson, a great artist, you can work in the city of Dallas. We embrace diversity. Being different is a good thing here, not a bad thing."

But Cates says the mayor's cameo doesn't do much to erase the wounds caused by Rawlings' refusal to sign a pledge supporting gay marriage last year.

"It's politicking," he says. "He isn't going to openly support anything concrete to ACTUALLY make anything better for queer youth or the LGBT community at large. Our mayor has proven time and again that his support for our community is a sweet wrapper on a sour candy."

Cates also points out that Rawlings has "yet to commit support" for the pro-LGBT resolutions proposed by City Council member Scott Griggs.

"If he wants to 'undo damage' he will have to stop talking and start making tangible change for LGBT dallasites," Cates says. Showing up in a video or attending the gay pride parade, as Rawlings did back in September, is just a gesture, he adds. "A pride reception or parade appearance doesn't actually make anything better."

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan

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