I have kind of a conflicted relationship with Dan Savage – I’ve read his columns for forever, and I love how he encourages people to leave shitty or abusive situations and to own whatever it is they like in bed, while simultaneously hating his biphobia, transphobia, and occasional gay male brand of misogyny. His newest project, though, is unequivocally and inarguably good, and I want you to put down whatever you’re doing and pay close attention while we talk about it.
It’s called It Gets Better, and it’s about telling the younger generation of baby queers exactly that – that things will get better. Especially those who live in rural areas where there may be no PFLAG or GLSEN, who have homophobic parents or communities, or who have no opportunity to see real live gay people in their own lives. They need to know that the way things feel when you’re fifteen and trying to figure it all out isn’t going to last forever, and they need to see that there are gay adults who have made it, and who are living the happy and fulfilled life that you can’t even imagine for your future when you’re young and scared. (@komo)
Savage introduced the project in yesterday’s column, in response to the question “I just read about a gay teenager in Indiana—Billy Lucas—who killed himself after being taunted by his classmates. Now his Facebook memorial page is being defaced by people posting homophobic comments. It’s just heartbreaking and sickening. What the hell can we do?” Part of Savage’s response:
…gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.
Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.
So here’s what you can do: Make a video. Tell them it gets better.
He’s since created a youtube channel for It Gets Better, which first featured one lonely video of he and his husband. I feel it goes without saying that you should watch it ASAP, and perhaps put it on loop with Gaga’s DADT PSA for maximum affirmation.
As of the writing of this post, there are 18 other videos that have been added by other users to the channel. I note, however, in a completely non-critical way, that almost all of them feature men. This is fine. Savage is a gay man, probably the majority of his readers are gay men, and the majority of the teenage suicides he’s responding to – like Billy Lucas’s – have had male victims.
But you and I both grew up young and gay and scared, and we both know how badly queer girls need to know that there’s nothing wrong with them, that their hearts are beautiful and perfect and made to love exactly the right people, and that if they can make it through this day and this week and this year then it will only get easier, only get better. But when you’re in middle school or high school or even college there’s precious little evidence to support this hypothesis. So please, ladies, grrls, bois, dykes and bisexuals and butches and femmes and womyn and genderqueer folk too, please consider taking 3 minutes of your time and letting the next generation know that it will be okay, that it will be better than okay.
Maybe it wasn’t so bad for everyone, maybe I’m generalizing, but I can remember a time when being told that it would get better – not even good, I was ready to settle for just incrementally better – was enough to get me through. Also that in the frenzied Googling of “lesbian” and/or “bisexual” that inevitably takes place, it would be nice to come across this instead of Christine O’Donnell’s website or shitty porn. I don’t know. Do you know what I mean? You do, right? I don’t know, maybe just talk for five minutes into a camera about how you and your girlfriend just got a kitten together, or about how your college has a GSA and also a hot girl who sits in front of you in Geology. Come on. This is a thing. You can do this.
Love this. Love Dan Savage but haven’t been reading his column or listening to his podcast lately, so thanks for keeping me in the loop.
If anyone here makes a video you should definitely link us to it.
the bigots don’t win.
I think that’s a good message even for my 25 year old self. Maybe not on a personal level, but with everything that happened on tuesday. They might have won, but they’ll never win.
That was so lovely. I might be a little over emotional right now, but I cried a little. Thanks for telling us about this. <3
I’m totally planning on making one of these – I’ll totally link it here when it’s up!
Making one of these would require a) taking the paranoia masking tape off my laptop’s webcam and b) figuring out how to use it, both of which are obstacles on this journey. I also would feel like a pillock. But then, I am 100% about helping the next queer generation so I should probably do this. Hmm.
I am in high school, and my high school is actually pretty awesome. The students are (mostly) really supportive of the gays, and so are the teachers.
I’m just not quiiiiiite out yet, because I still have that fear of being bullied, or harrassed, or given /that/ look. I’m only out to my gf (duh) and my closest friends and my mum. But I have made a pact to myself: I /will/, today, come out to my dad and brother. Because all the stuff you guys have put up here in the last few days has inspired me to be my queer self.
Best of luck KZ, that’s awesome. Let us know how it goes!
Good luck! We’re rooting for you! Let us know how it goes. <3
My dad had been suspecting that something had been going on with me and my gf, and I was like, “Dad, I’m gay,” and he was like, “You’re gay, and I’m happy!”
And then I started crying and we hugged and he said, “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown up.” And I am SO FULL OF RELIEF AND HAPPY FEELINGS.
So, guys! Sometimes stuff is better than you think it is!
He just wants me to be happy, and I bet most parents do, too.
SO MANY HAPPY FEELINGS.
This is SO awesome. Congratulations, KZ, on being brave and kicking ass! (Even when it turns out wonderfully, there’s still that moment of terror when you’re gearing up to say it, and pushing through that moment is completely and utterly kick-ass.) So happy for you, and for your amazing dad.
Yaaaaaaaaaaay! Oh, I’m so happy it went so well. Well done for getting that out there, I hope everything is awesome for you.
After a long day at high school, I really needed to hear this :]
this is wonderful. I’ve been reading his column since I was 11 in the village voice, and I’m so happy that he’s telling kids who don’t have accepting people in their lives that they ARE perfectly normal. It’s disgusting how homophobic people my age are! just today when I was in test prep one of the teachers came in to tell some of the kids to stop yelling, and the first thing they did when he left was throwing around slurs like “fruity fag” and the tutor did jack shit. And that’s in QUEENS.
just a little fyi, Lizzie the Lezzy has posted a video as well:
This is great, it would have helped a lot if there had been someone telling me when I was in high school and college that it gets better and it can be great.
aww this warms my heart.
Hell, not only is this good for the kids, but it’s good for the very people at the source of their suffering. Showing that queer couples are not just inherently fucked up goes against what these clueless individuals fathom from us. The notion is that we’re all batshit crazy drug and sex fiends hellbent on self-destruction. Ironically, my relationship with my girlfriend is the most sane, healthy, and incredibly functional experience I’ve had with anyone, ever. It’s a goddamn fairy tale, it’s just like in the movies, except we both are women. Otherwise, we might as well be motherfucking Cinderella and Snow White. Or, you know, a pair of Prince Charmings, whatever.
I’m going to see if I can get her on board with this, and see if we can’t get a couple of our friends to do so, too.
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This has sucked away a wonderful fraction of my morning so far! There are now a ton of videos by women (and a surprisingly robust amount of bi representation) – while I’ve had my problems with Dan Savage, this is is such an amazing thing that he’s come up with.
I think Dan’s boyfriend just turned me a little more bisexual. That is all. Hottie.
It doesn’t work that way… if you’re a queer girl who’s into a gay man it actually makes you gayer. ;)
(Or so I’ve been taught.)
Is there any places for people to volunteer to help young people understand that “IT GETS BETTER”?
Where do you live? There might be a community center for LGBT youth close to you.
Dan Savage really hates women and lesbians and talks about it frequently and makes fun of lesbians regularly in a very anti-gay damaging way. Why would you support him?
an interesting counter-perspective:
This is a little bizarre to me in that it assumes Savage’s project CANCELS OUT any other kinds of queer youth activism. It doesn’t at all seem to me that the project heen positioned as “Here is the only thing we need to do ever to stop queer kids from killing themselves!” It is *a* thing we can do and *maybe* it will help *some* kid, somewhere — and I don’t think that’s an unworthy goal at all. It’s a small thing, sure. I’m not sure anyone claimed otherwise.
A major part of her argument is that we SHOULD NOT hear stories of people for whom things have turned out well because they are not the only stories that exist. Of course they aren’t. But kids who are already going through hell know plenty about unhappy lives already, they’re living them.
Sure, Dan Savage is a priveleged white guy. But he’s not the only one talking — look up Kate Bornstein’s wonderful video for just one instance of a very different, super honest persepective.
(In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve worked on a video for the project with some friends, which should be finished soon. As someone who is even unreasonably full of class anger, I hear a lot of the criticisms made in the post linked, believe me. But I still think that collecting and sharing stories about our happy queer adulthood, whatever form it may take, is valuable.)
As someone who is working on a video myself as well, and who shares the opinions of the writer of the above linked article, I totally agree with what you’re saying. I don’t think the campaign is bad, really, or that it shouldn’t exist or that it isn’t important. But I do think it’s a very good point that telling OUR stories maybe isn’t the best way to go about it. It’s not about us. It’s about them. Most videos I’ve seen seem to be just another way for privileged people to exercise their voice. The ones who consistently are denied a voice are yet again, the audience.
That being said, it’s a YouTube campaign so there really isn’t any way to fix that. I think the key is to be aware of those problems. Is it problematic to have famous straight people talking about that one time they got bullied in seventh grade and billing it as this awesome campaign that’s helping LGBTQ youth everywhere? Yup. Does that mean that’s the only kind of video being posted? No. But you have to admit, that the video people are linking to is probably not going to be Kate Bornstein. It’s Zachary Quinto or Anne Hathaway.
I guess the point of this rambly comment is that the article makes some very good points. And that doesn’t invalidate the campaign or the experiences shared by the video-makers, but it does provide a much-needed perspective on the nature of it as a whole.
I grew up in Norman Oklahoma, the same town as Zach Harrington. I’m now 42 years old and a successful artist. I was bullied throughout school, my parents were/are fundamentalist Southern Baptist’s and they tried to “cut the devil” out of me (because I’m a lesbian) and I became a homeless teen at age 15 because of my parents hatred. It took a long time for me to accept myself, to learn to find friends and to create my own “family” that is accepting and supportive of me as I am – but learn I did. I also learned to look outside of Oklahoma for contact with the “real world” that isn’t filled with hate and religious anti-gay bigotry. For example I clung to any mention in newspapers or magazines which were published that showed gay people just living life in a positive way, that showed life from a point of view other than the fundamentalist religious one – and it took some effort to find these publications as I was a kid in the days before the Internet. I did contemplate suicide when I was about 21 or so – but fortunately I had met and made friends with a number of people who hadn’t grown up in Oklahoma and didn’t share the Oklahoma bigoted narrow-minded religious worldview. The people from “elsewhere” gave me hope that Oklahoma wasn’t the entire world, that there were/are other ways of being in the world, that there is love an acceptance for whoever you are available in the world. Its a matter of finding it.
Since learning that I’ve been able to move on and construct the life I’d only hoped/dreamed was possible, including a long-term loving relationship of 15 plus years. I was told way back when that “the best response to bigotry is living well” and that’s been true for me.
As best I can I focus on, work with, and give more credibility to, the kind, caring supportive people in my life than I do the hateful mean bigots. Just because someone calls me a “bad” person does NOT mean that I am one – it simply means that the person calling me “bad” is toxic to be around. So, I don’t associate with toxic people – I find some other friends, find some other family, find some connections that are positive – and give them my attention, time, money, love….
Life as a gay person really does get better – especially if you work to create the “better” for yourself. And we are worth the effort!
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