The Used, a popular rock/screamo band from Utah, are calling attention to a problem that plagues their state and many others: discrimination against gays and lesbians. The artists headlined this year's Sub City Take Action Tour in Salt Lake City on January 19. The tour raised funds and awareness for the It Gets Better project, a national organization established to help LGBT youth. The band took the opportunity to talk to the audience about the struggles that gays and lesbians in the U.S. face.
"It's a very important, positive charity," said vocalist Bert McCracken of the project. "In high school, I was bullied for being different," he added, referring to his vehement rejection of both drugs and religion in a Mormon town.
He noted, furthermore, that his community frequently referred to homosexuality as immoral and sinful. He added that much of the lyrical content of The Used's new album, Vulnerable, is about living in such places and rising above the closed-mindedness, and making choices about finding better ways to live. "It's about taking the first step," he said.
"We teamed up with the It Gets Better project to spread the word about fair treatment for everyone," he said. "Ultimately, it's really about treating people with the same type of respect that you would expect to get.
"I was bullied in school for wearing fingernail polish and makeup. I was called a lot of sexual slurs. So I know how rough it can be to be different. Hopefully we can inspire [people] to really be themselves. I think it's just nice to know that people have a place to go when they need it. The "It Gets Better" project website has communities set up online where you can go and talk and get support. People in this world have the right to love and be loved" without enduring prejudice.
Metalcore band We Came As Romans opened for The Used, having jumped at the opportunity to use their music to support a progressive cause. They performed songs from their 2011 album Understanding What We've Grown to Be. Guitarist Joshua Moore said he was thrilled with the mission of It Gets Better. "Being a part of this inspiring positivity is a great thing to be involved with." He said the charity fits perfectly with the worldview of the band, and went on to say, "If you're not about something [positive], you shouldn't be a band at all."
The tour, which will now hit other U.S. cities, comes at a pivotal time for the LGBT community, who witnessed a landmark event on January 21, when President Obama openly advocated gay rights in his inaugural address - the first time this has been directly discussed in the high-profile speech.
Obama equated the struggles of gays and lesbians with civil rights movements, particularly those of African Americans and women. "We, the people," he said, "declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us are created equal - is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears in Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.
"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like everyone else under the law - for if we are truly equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
Lizbeth Flores, a 32 year-old resident of Long Beach, California, remarked, "Real change is happening now. It's way different now than it was five years ago. We're more comfortable being out there and being ourselves."
George Roehm, a San Francisco resident who sat in the gay-friendly Twin Peaks Tavern, added, "I never in my lifetime expected the president to talk like that. Obama makes me so proud to be an American."
McCracken said that as the struggle moves forward, The Used's and other bands' music is an excellent way to get the message out to people. "Music has always been my savior. Whenever I was struggling in life, I could put on a record and kind of escape and forget. Music saves lives."
Photo: The Used vocalist Bert McCracken. Official website