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Mounties say 'It Gets Better'
Twenty B.C. Mounties released a moving YouTube video this week to remind lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other bullied teens that they are not alone – and life will get better.
The gay and lesbian RCMP officers share personal and poignant stories about their own coming out, with red serge, stetson and Canadian flag as a backdrop.
"I felt like I was the only one, in this Christian school, who was actually gay," Const. Alice Fox, a Mountie previously stationed at the Ridge-Meadows detachment and who worked as a school liaison officer, says in the video.
"It was a huge, huge struggle for me."
The B.C. Mounties are the latest group to film a video for the international "It Gets Better" campaign, sparked by syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage to inspire hope in young people facing harassment.
In 2010, Savage made a video in response to suicides by gay teenagers, who took their own lives after being bullied.
With support from celebrities, activists and politicians, the It Gets Better Project has become a worldwide movement, inspiring more than 50,000 user-created videos viewed more than 50 million times.
Const. Fox believed coming out to her family would be a huge moment of rejection, but it wasn't.
"They said, we knew," Fox relates in the video.
"Never give up ... it does get better."
The officers – including homicide investigators and gang task force members – describe how they survived homophobic slurs, bullying, and battled homosexual stereotypes through school and their careers. But they conclude with a message of hope.
Suzanne Davies, a counsellor at Garibaldi secondary, shared the video on Tuesday with a few students who are part of the school's small Gay-Straight Alliance Club.
Davies sees the video as another way to break down the stigma still faced by LGBT teens.
"It's important for students to understand that this might be a period in their life where there is not always great acceptance of who they are," she says.
"But high school is just one period of time. When they see adults are breaking down the walls and the barriers, it normalizes [the issue]. They realize they are like everyone else."
One of the teens who is part of Garibaldi's gay-straight alliance planned to share the video with his aunt and his friends.
The 17-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, is still not ready to be "out" in public. He has faced years of bullying. However, hearing that tough, confident and respected police officers faced the same struggles helps.
"You never heard it talked about on TV. You never hear about gay policemen," he said.
He would like LGBT issues to get more attention at school.
"I think it needs to be to discussed to get people to understand, to educate them and open their minds."
The nine-minute long video was initiated by Const. Cheryl Letkeman, a RCMP officer with Surrey's youth unit.
"I noted that a couple of police forces in the United States had put videos on the website and I just thought 'why haven't the RCMP? Why haven't we done this?'" says Letkeman.
She canvassed RCMP members in the Lower Mainland to see who would want to participate and ended up with the 20 participants in the final video.
"I just wanted all youth to know there are people that have gotten through high school," she said, "and that there's people out there that will stick up for them and try to help them any way they can."
- with files from Sheila Reynolds