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Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns Stands Up for Asher Brown and Other Bullied Gay Teens

By carolyncastiglia |

Joel Burns

Joel Burns

This week, Oklahoma teenager Zach Harrington killed himself “after attending a city council meeting in Norman, OK where speakers made disparaging anti-gay remarks.”  That’s what Joel Burns reported at the most recent meeting of the Fort Worth City Council, where he used his time on the floor to give one of the most moving “It Gets Better” speeches to date.

“There is a conversation for the adults in this room and those watching to have – and we will have it – that this bullying and harassment in our schools must stop, and that our schools must be a safe place to learn and to grow.  It is never acceptable for us to be the cause of any child to feel unloved or worthless, and I am committed to being a part of that conversation.”

But, Burns continued, that conversation would have to wait.  Instead, he chose to tell his personal story to a room full of colleagues who not only clapped, but gave him a standing ovation.

Burns is the gay son of a cowboy and Methodist church pianist.  In ninth grade, Burns says, he was “roughed up” by older kids who “said that I was a faggot, and that I should die and go to hell where I belonged.”  After that, Burns went home, scared.  He doesn’t say what he did – because he got too choked up to talk about it – leaving one to imagine that he at least thought of and likely attempted taking his own life.

Burns admits that while he may face political repercussions for telling his story, he says, “This story is for the young people who might be holding that gun, or the rope, or the pill bottle.  You need to know that the story doesn’t end where I didn’t tell it on that unfortunate day.  There is so, so, so much more.  Yes, high school was difficult.  Coming out was painful, but life got so much better for me.  And I want to tell any teen who might see this: give yourself a chance to see how much better life will get.”

Take a look:

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About carolyncastiglia



Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns Stands Up for Asher Brown and Other Bullied Gay Teens

  1. JennaBoettger says:

    Thank you Joel. I appreciate you opening up and reaching out to so many kids who rarely hear anything but hurtful remarks from politicians. Thank you.

  2. Martin Tomas says:

    Your speeched moved me so much, I as a gay male myself know what thses beautiful, young, bright boys went threw. Thank you for speaking out for all of us.

  3. Susie LaLonde says:

    I commend you for standing up for our troubled and tormented teens. If this video helps one or a million teens it is a success. I know it was a very hard story for you to tell, and rightly so. I was also a bullied teen and dropped out of school because of it. We are behind you! You are an intelligent, brave man. Thank you!

  4. Livia Scott says:

    I didn’t know about this until I saw your posting – thank you so much! Very moving; what being a human being should be all about.

  5. Roger says:

    Comments Joel Burns is my hero. Thank you for caring for kids. It’s about time someone did this. It takes one to know one. Thanks, Joel.

  6. Anne says:

    I was 60 before I ever came out and it was traumatic. I therefore know that what you did took more courage than any act I can think of. Thank you for being truthful and for encouraging gay teens not to give up hope. Only by speaking out can we save lives.

  7. Thomas says:

    Thanks for stepping up for our young people. Makes us love you more.

  8. alexis says:

    we need more poeple to stand up like joel burns im sure that came from deep inside your heart

  9. alexa says:

    there are tears in my eyes

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