Joel Burns, who was raised in Fort Worth, delivered his speech Tuesday, detailing the pain he experienced as an adolescent at the hands of anti-gay bullies.
"One day, when I was in the ninth grade," Burns told the audience, "I was cornered by some older kids who roughed me up. They said that I was a faggot, and that I should die and go to hell where I belonged. That erupted the fear that I had kept pushed down, that what I was beginning to feel on the inside must somehow be showing on the outside. ... There must be something wrong with me, I thought. Something I could never let my family or anyone else know."
Burns began his remarks with a slide show of recent teen suicide victims, including Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Justin Aaberg and Seth Walsh -- all of whom had been bullied because of their perceived homosexuality.
"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," Burns said.
On YouTube, video of Burns' remarks, which earned him a standing ovation from his colleagues and audience members, has been viewed more than 500,000 times. Burns was interviewed on CNN today about his emotional address and his belief that bullying of gay teens has gotten worse in recent years, not better.
As Burns himself put it in his City Council address, "Yes high school was difficult, coming out was painful, but life got so much better for me. Things will get easier. Please stick around to make those happy moments for yourself."
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