October 15th, 2010
08:26 PM ET

Councilman's emotional plea about gay bullying goes viral

It started with an emotional 13-minute-long plea at a local council meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.

Councilman Joel Burns struggled to maintain his composure Wednesday as he shared his story about being gay and bullied as a child and how the recent rash of child suicides because of bullying has torn him apart.

That 13-minute plea caught national attention in part because of his brutal honesty. The video, which has gone viral on YouTube, has already amassed more than 540,000 page views and is being regarded on the web as one of the most emotional pleas about bullying children who are gay.

"I was cornered after school by some older kids who roughed me up," Burns said during the council meeting. "They said that I was a f**, and that I should die and go to Hell where I belonged."

Burns struggled to maintain his composure during that plea - his voice was quivering and at times he cried - but he continued on and in such a public forum, and in such a personal and blunt way continued to share his story. Burns told CNN in his first national interview Friday that he felt he had to say something because it was clear that not enough was being done to stem the crisis.

And as someone who dealt with the same issues, he wanted to share the advice he wished someone had told him as a child.

"The reality of it is, it gets better in ways you can never fathom as a 13- or 14-year-old. Times are dark, and you're either being harassed or bullied inside the school or outside the school. You have a household that may not accept you; there may be any kind of abuse around it," Burns told CNN. "There's just no hope that there's life after your adolescence and after your teenaged years. I have often thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if I could go back to the me that existed as a teenager that really didn't think that the future was all that bright at times, and show him just the amazing, wonderful things that have happened in the course of my adult life?"

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soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Ryan (IL)

    It is my hope, that every hurting person and every hateful person in this country will see this speech, and understand that this issue is about more than political beliefs or religious dogma, but rather about real people and the necessity of human understanding and kindness. Thank you for your courage, Joel.

    October 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rae

      Frankly, inclusion of how gays/Lesbians/ differently gendered kids and how they're bullied was completely missing from the 360 Anderson Cooper focus on bullying a couple of days ago. Any serious journalist who wants to expose bullying in America can't do it without mentioning it.

      October 16, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      It is heartening to see that easily 90% of the responses posted here are positive/supportive... and enlightening to see that the other 10% are the ones with grammatical and spelling errors. Hmmmmm........

      October 16, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kevin

    It is a very powerful message. Words can kill. Bullying can kill. We as adults and society need to take responsibility for these things and not just dismiss it as "it is just what children do"

    October 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ann agne

    Thank you for coming forward. I sincerely hope and pray your message is heard and helps. i also hope we adults realize how serious this problem is.

    October 15, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. InCalifornia

    Thank you, Joel Burns, for your bravery and your speech. I sobbed throughout it, and I hope that everyone will take it to heart. The bullying MUST STOP NOW!

    October 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TX Gal in CA

    Joel, you're very courageous and I sincerely want every parent, teacher and school administrator to wake up and have the courage to put a stop to the bullying NOW. As a gal who's originally from "Cowtown" (Fort Worth...where the West begins!) I'm so proud of you. Keep up the hard work in the council chamber, but remember your calling in life just changed–your past miseries have now become your ministry. And Fort Worth, I love you!

    October 15, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kuby2u

    This is the kind of politician I want in office.

    October 15, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dennis

    Children are defenseless, have no rights as such, are vulnerable in ways most people don't even consider, and rarely have any recourse to justice. Their pleas are rarely offered to adults after only a short learning curve. Adults marginalize children like no one else on the planet.
    But, yes, things do get better on the average as they grow older, but the intensity and agonizing slowness of the process is worse for some children.

    October 15, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bravo

    Finally a politician who speaks honestly. Bravo, Mr. Burns. Your emotion and honesty is appreciated by all who see this, especially the kids who need to see there is a different ending to the story.

    October 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jasper

    This is truth. This is honesty. If you are anti-gay, wise up. Mind your own business. Let people alone to be themselves. Let freedom ring.

    October 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Horace Ramtahal

    Your words of love and encouragement will save many a life tonight. Thank you, and thank your family, for giving humanity a wonderful human being to share, you.

    October 16, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Brenda Gardner

    I applaud you for being the courageous man you are. I truly believe you will save lives because of your speech. No one can reach a young person who is feeling the way you felt, except by another person who has lived through it. You are a brave, loving, caring person. I wish you and your partner all the happiness in the world. And I believe that someday (and I hope that day is soon) that all people will learn to love and accept all people the way that you do. Thank you for speaking out on this very important issue.

    October 16, 2010 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Terry J. Morris

    Thank You Joel Burns – you are a credit to society and a role model for all to emulate – thank you for being brave enough and loving enough to share your story – your husband and family are very lucky to have YOU in their life – Simply THANK YOU

    October 16, 2010 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tony

    Thank you for your courage. Thank you to the council members that recognized his courage and validate his and many others who suffer in silence.

    October 16, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tony The Italian

    So the guy is honest about his immorality and we are suppose to support this guy? Am I missing something? No one gets treated good for being immoral.

    October 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      RE: Tony the Italian.

      You are missing something. Morality is relative. It is most often related to a person's culture and the socialization they experience growing up, though at the individual level, this can be changed.

      Just because someone's morals are different doesn't mean yours are better. It means yours are different.

      October 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mama

      There are many words that come to mind for you but I would not waste them. I will simply quote Christ. 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'.

      October 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lisa baby

    Thank you for your courageous speech i do not judge my fellow man like mike and haters like him his hatred is so ugly he should bury it in a hole and take a good at himself i was bullied as a child because of an injury i sustained in a car wreck so i know the pain of wicked little kids who bully antone whos different these matters like being gay are between the person and God let he who is without sin cast the first stone not you mike !

    October 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
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