It Gets Better Project founder tackles queries from campus audience

Dan Savage planned to talk about the It Gets Better project, an online movement aimed to reduce suicides of LGBT youth, at his Monday evening keynote address for Oregon State University's Pride Week 2011 at LaSells Stewart Center.

But he spent well over an hour answering questions provided by the audience on note cards, with topics ranging from LGBT policy issues to sex and relationships.

"Wherever you want to go is wherever I want to go," Savage joked with an audience that nearly filled the 800 seats of the lower level of the Austin Auditorium.

Savage gives about 20 talks each year at colleges around the country, mainly using a question-and-answer format. He is mostly known for his syndicated sex column "Savage Love," where he takes written questions about sex and relationships from readers.

While many of the audience questions focused on open relationships, many were humorous. One card asked Savage to tell a dirty joke; he texted husband Terry Miller to send him a joke while on stage, explaining that Miller remembers jokes well.

One question asked Savage if he would ever vote for Ron Paul, a highly conservative Republican in Congress who has run for president.

"No," Savage said, quickly moving to the next card while the audience laughed.

Lately he's gotten a lot of publicity from the It Gets Better Project, which Savage and Miller founded in September 2010 in response to a wave of suicides by gay teens; Savage said LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youth.

The project has produced more than 20,000 videos from openly gay adults and allies around the world, encouraging young people with the message that life can be more fulfilling after high school, when bullying is often the worst.

"The goal was to save some lives, to reach LGBT kids who are bullied and help them," Savage said, adding that he's received lots of positive feedback from teens.

Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or gail.cole@lee.net.