Everett Fire Department Features LGBT Employees in “It Gets Better” Video

The City of Everett today released this video made in November featuring Everett Fire Department employees along with members of other fire departments in support of the It Gets Better Project. It talks about the challenges Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people face as they consider careers in the Fire Service.

The 13-minute video features testimonials from LGBT firefighters from Everett and other local jurisdictions, as well as words of support from colleagues and city leaders

Matt Sorenson, the Everett firefighter who spearheaded the video, hopes it will inspire young people. He believes the fire service is one of the last places where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees feel comfortable coming out.

“Traditionally, the fire service has attracted a lot of macho men, and there’s this idea that to be anything other than heterosexual somehow diminishes your masculinity,” said Sorenson. “The LGBT community keeps knocking down those old stereotypes and showing that we can be soldiers, we can be police, we can be firefighters. Jobs that were traditionally thought of as straight men’s jobs, we can do just as well.”

The It Gets Better Project was started in 2010 by Seattle author and activist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller. The couple created an encouraging YouTube video for young people facing bullying and harassment. The project has grown into a national movement, with more than 50,000 user-created videos featuring celebrities, politicians, organizations and everyday people.

However, as Sorenson discovered, no other American fire department has ever created a video for the project. When he asked Fire Chief Murray Gordon about participating, the chief didn’t hesitate.

“Our department has made incredible strides toward inclusiveness and acceptance since I started as firefighter nearly 40 years ago,” said Gordon. “All of the individual experiences that our employees bring make us a stronger department overall. I am very proud to be a part of this video.”

The video includes firefighters from Lacey Fire District #3 and the Shoreline Fire Department, who join the Everett members in talking about their experiences growing up, coming out and being a part of the fire service.

Mary Schoenfeldt, with Everett Emergency Management, describes the challenge of feeling different: “It’s a very, very difficult conflict and one side of it is, ‘Wait a minute, this is who I am.’ The other side of it is, ‘Maybe they’re right and maybe I’m damaged.’”

“I was very uncomfortable with [my sexuality],” said Amy Boos, an Everett firefighter. “I knew that everyone around me didn’t really accept that; people were not accepting at all. So I just kept it to myself. And that’s a hard life.”

The participants all agreed that it does get better, and that being true to their identities has made their lives easier.

“It has gotten a lot better since I came out,” said Boos. “Life is really good now. I am free to be myself, I don’t have to keep secrets, I don’t have to sneak around. It really lifts a weight off your shoulders.”

Schoenfeldt adds: “It’s so much easier to not hide who I am, so much easier; it takes so much less energy.”

Sorenson and his colleagues hope the video inspires LGBT youth to not give up and offers encouragement to young people thinking about joining the fire service.

“The world has changed and continues to change,” said Sorenson. “If you dream of a career as a firefighter, and you have what it takes, then know that me and my fire department will accept you exactly the way you are. So hang in there, because it gets much better.”

To watch the video, visit http://youtu.be/yIfZzf4iMl0.

For more information on the It Gets Better Project, visit www.itgetsbetter.org. For information on the Trevor Project, visit www.thetrevorproject.org.

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My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring breaking news and events in Everett, WA. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live and work in Everett. It's written by Leland Dart a former Snohomish County based radio reporter born and raised in Everett.

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