It Gets Better

29 09 2010

This is a terrific idea—and one you probably already know about:

Dan Savage, profane sex columnist (is there any other kind?), author, and alternatingly-amusing-and-irritating pundit, had heard one too many stories about queer kids who killed themselves, and decided to do what he could to buck up all of the rest of those kids who aren’t supported in schools or loved at home: he set up the It Gets Better project on YouTube, posted a video (with his husband, Terry) of his experiences, and invited queer adults to add their own stories—all as a way of reaching out and hanging on to those kids who might just let go.

It’s a wonderful idea, and it’s wonderful that so many adults have contributed to this project.

(I won’t be making a video because my bisexuality only emerged in the past couple of years; whatever difficulties I had in high school could not be traced to my sexual orientation.)

I do, however, have one observation: Some of these videos—the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus vid, for example—include exhortations to the kids that they should just be who they are, that in a few years they can get out and find a place where people will love them for themselves.

A beautiful thought; alas, it is not enough.

This is in no way a critique of the project: no one project can do everything, and, as Dan pointed out in his column, there are other resources that adults should support and kids should turn to. To remind this particular adolescent community that it’s okay to be queer, that the problem is with the bullies and the hateful and not with them, is exactly what so many of them need to hear.

But some of them won’t hear this. For the kid who feels that who he is is awful, for the teen who believes that her real self is bad—to tell those kids that they just need to hang on to their real selves and everything will get better is to miss the fact that them, their sense of their real selves is the problem.

They hate themselves because they are queer, or because their inherent badness made them queer, and thus they might believe that they deserve to be bullied: the problem isn’t that the bullies don’t know who they are, but that they do.

Maybe these videos will help a gay kid to reconsider himself, to question her belief that to be a lesbian is to be bad, and to help those kids find a way out of their self-hatred.

It would be wonderful if that would happen.

But it’s not enough to tell those kids that they can survive the bullies when they can’t survive themselves.

It Gets Better is a start. It tells so many gay, lesbian, bi-, and trans teens that there is so much more in life for them, and that they can make it through these tough high school years to liberate themselves into that life.

But we also  need a way to reach those self-hating kids, to tell them that not only can they live a better life, but that each and every one of them deserves that better life.

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