It Gets Better
Seattle-based advice columnist and writer Dan Savage joined anti-bullying efforts this week by launching a YouTube channel dedicated to hosting videos that tell LGBT youth that "It gets better."
The project was inspired by the death of Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old who hung himself in his grandmother's barn after intense harassment and bullying by his schoolmates:
In the video below, Dan Savage and his husband Terry talk about their youths and their coming out. Both went to religious schools and had religious parents. Dan grew up in a Catholic family and went to a Catholic school; he says that he was "obviously gay" and that "some people didn't like that." Terry talks about growing up in Spokane, Washington and goes into detail not only about the abuse he got from his classmates, but how the administrators told his parents that it was his own fault because of how he dressed, walked, and talked. "Honestly," Terry says, "Things got better the day I left high school."
The idea that "It gets better" is an important one to get across, but it's very difficult to do so without making it sound like a vapid platitude; the idea driving the "It Gets Better Project" is that the more often and more specifically people can tell their own stories of it having actually gotten better, the more likely those three words will resonate with LGBT youth who can't possibly imagine such a thing.
Unfortunately, there are lots of people out there with stories just like Dan and Terry's. Fortunately, they seem to be eager to tell their stories on the Internet so that the next generation can know that there's something for them beyond the abuse and humiliation of their peers.
And fortunately, this isn't the first step that's been taken to combat bullying and harassment of LGBT youth. It's getting less and less acceptable to treat abuse by classmates as an inevitable part of growing up and more as something that has to be addressed, either through discipline or counseling. For the fact that this awareness is becoming more and more broadly accepted, we have to thank not only Dan Savage, but queer activists like Ivan E. Coyote and Kate Bornstein, who have spent years trying to expand options for teens who are just becoming aware of their queerness and suffering for it. Coyote has spent over ten years speaking to middle school, high school, and college campuses, eschewing lecturing in favor of storytelling to inspire questions and discussions; Bornstein's book Hello, Cruel World! 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws offers an unconventional approach to teen suicide, treating it with humor and compassion and tells teens to do anything they have to to stay alive. Thanks to these activists, and to everyone who makes a video for the It Gets Better Project, more queer youth will make it to adulthood alive.