Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why "It Gets Better" is the wrong message to send--and why we should do it anyway

When the "It Gets Better" project began a couple weeks ago, I didn't feel like I had anything actively helpful to contribute. As I said at the time, my not inconsiderable bullying had nothing to do with being queer--except maybe in the older form of the word. But, as we've now reached the "backlash" portion of the news cycle, I do feel as though I have things to say. Things, which I hope are helpful.

We have reached a point where not only has there been backlash over Dan Savage being the head of the movement (nb: that backlash happened immediately, I don't want to make it seem as though I've missed that), but where shitbags are posting things called "It Gets Worse." In these delightful musings, bigoted assholes co-opt the momentum of "It Gets Better" to further bully and hate-vomit on the QUILTBAG community.

But, sadly, that brings me to my next point.

"It Gets Better" is a terrible message, because it doesn't. It changes, sure. But as the blog 49percent asks, what, gets better, exactly? (The link referred to there is also well-worth reading.)

The answer, in short, is that as you get older, you are better able to choose your family and surround yourself with people who love, respect, and support you. So yes, in that sense, it's a wonderful message.

But it does precious little to help now.

"It gets better" is something I told myself for oh, about seventeen years. Or, from the age of five through the age of about 22. I said it to myself for differing reasons, and because of different hardships. I leaned on those words so often that by the time I was 27, and went through the worst fucking year of my life, they had lost all meaning.

They had become so devoid of power, that they became nothing more than pandering to my ears. In my destroyed state of mind, hearing them drove me to nearly ruining two of the closest and most important relationships of my adult life.

So we need to be careful what we're telling these kids. Because if, as an adult, without suicidal tendencies, those words drove me to extremes, I don't want to know how these kids will react.

"It gets better" is a placeholder. What these kids need are the tools and support to make it better now.

One of the other things that I find especially problematic about Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project, is that The Trevor Project was already here. It was already here, and it was already inclusive to PoC and the whole QUILTBAG. While it's good to have more than one organization for an issue, Dan Savage is such a divisive figure, that it's diluting the message, not strengthening it.

And, The Trevor Project is all about giving kids the tools and support to make it better now.

So while I think it's wonderful and important to see celebrities filming videos telling us that they know where troubled youth have been, how many news cycles until It Gets Better peters out and these kids are left, once again, alone?

Let's make it better now.


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