It Gets Better: video postcards to isolated queer kids from happy queer adults

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49 Responses to “It Gets Better: video postcards to isolated queer kids from happy queer adults”

  1. C0nt1nu1ty says:

    After a bad day at work I come home and see this and its genuinely heartwarming.
    Also I have a strange urge to move to San Fransisco

  2. philipb says:

    My Son’s large high school, in the heart of the Christian Bible Belt has a very popular GSA of which he is an active member. Careful with the stereotypes please.

  3. social_maladroit says:

    OK, so that was uplifting and kind of sweet.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well, I liked the message. It’s a great one, life really does get better as you get older, whether you are GBLTG or not. However I felt like this wasn’t just a support message – it came across as a SF promotion ad, as if SF is the only wonderful magic land.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Feel free to organize one from your city.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you’re queer San Francisco can certainly feel like a magical land. Imagine going to a place where, for the first time, you both get to be all of yourself, unexceptional, as big as you want and part of-though not a majority-what feels like it.

    • Eric Ragle says:

      For many people San Fran IS the only choice. I wouldn’t encourage people to come to where I live. As far as I know, I’m only 1 of about maybe 50 people in this community who would love them as they are. The rest would be intolerant, hateful, bigoted and possibly violent.

      There is a time for gay people to be brave and tough it out in the city they live in, and there is a time for them to go someplace where people will accept them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    That just made me feel real good even though I’m straight. It only gets better! March on, folks!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m straight, and that made me tear up a little.

  7. Xenu says:

    I like the idea of this a lot. Just about everyone is depressed at some point, especially teenagers.

    It seems like the hard part is getting this delivered to the people who need it, and making them understand that things will get better for them, too.

  8. Mim says:

    Not to be a negative nelly, but so so many of these “it gets better” videos suggest that everything becomes magically way more awesome as soon as you leave high school. So, maybe kids who just entered college and still encounter harassment will be that much more concerned & depressed by it. Maybe this added to Tyler Clementi’s worries.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movement, and many of the videos are amazing and make me tear up… but maybe the whole “high school is where it ends” message isn’t the best one to send.

    • Zig says:

      I can only speak for myself…

      I suffered non-stop harassment and bullying throughout grade, middle and high school with the worst being in high school. It was so bad that in my freshman year I was sent to an adolescent psych hospital for a long stay due to deep, deep depression and being on the verge of taking my own life. When I returned to high school ( a different one) at the mid-point of sophomore year it was just as bad. I made it through to summer and refused to ever, ever go back no matter what.

      The summer before what would have been my senior year of high school I got my GED and started at the local community college. It was like a different world. No one bullied me. No one harassed me for who I am. I found some wonderful people. It even got better when I went to a university two years later.

      So, in my experience it does get better post-high school. However, of course, that is only my personal experience and I can’t claim that it is universal.

    • Tensegrity says:

      It is fine to be realistic, but this is not social policy development here. This is about, at minimum, a pep talk and, in some cases, a life saving intervention for a kid considering self-harm. “Don’t worry, everything will be okay… well, maybe” is just not the way to go about supporting someone in crisis.

      And kids have a pretty short time horizon and very immediate emotional needs, so the promise of something better can’t be, “Well, things will probably get better, oh I don’t know sometime, like maybe in your mid-thirties.”

      Sure, there is always the possibility that things don’t improve, but the odds are that they will. It is not just a question of high school vs. college, but the ability to remove themselves from an unsupportive environment that is granted to a young person when they reach a certain age.

      In the words of Harvey Milk: “And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.”

  9. redesigned says:

    This is the unicorn chaser we all needed after the Shirvell story. While the negative stories are important to report, we all need to hear a positive message of hope now and then. Thank you BB.

  10. FreddieR says:

    This is a great idea! I have a gay cousin, and growing up in this hick town of 1,300 was a miserable experience for him. I think something like this would have eased the loneliness and the ridicule he endured until he went away to college.

  11. d15724c710n says:

    Great message! also, unbelievable beard on that green guy!

  12. technogeek says:

    Maybe it used to be that SF was the only place you could be out and proud and comfortable. But “it gets better” applies to that too. And part of how it’s going to get better will involve people from all parts of the spectrum demanding respect for everyone.

    This reminds me — having recently gotten wheels again, I should start tracking down appropriate bumper stickers.

  13. Anonymous says:

    @2: I’m pretty sure that if you’re an LGBT individual coming from a homophobic region, San Francisco really is a wonderful magic land.

  14. deckard68 says:

    Anna Paquin in a superhero cape! LIKE!

  15. Muse says:

    This brought a tear to my eye. What a great message. “It gets better” could be a slogan for the whole internet. Connecting like-minded people and discovering communities that share your values and perspectives is one of the best things about the modern world.

    There are so many kids that don’t fit into the communities that they were born into and feel like their lives aren’t worthwhile because of the narrow-mindedness of the people they grew up with. Luckily, many of us aren’t limited by geography anymore. GBLTG or not, finding people who love and accept you, really does make everything better.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m sorry, Muse, but for people constrained by the circumstances of age, location, ability or obligations, the idea that the internet delivers something that makes your life better is a sick joke.

      What the internet and such positive messages as this deliver is too often a depressing confirmation of failure or exclusion or outsiderness. The internet is a rich source of reasons to lose self worth. Whatever you do, someone else has done it better. Does every gay man who moves to SF join the party? No. It doesn’t always get better. All groups exclude, even the really inclusive ones. Create unrealistic expectations, and you will inevitably deliver hurt.

      I’d rather see something that said it CAN get better, and also warned that it can get worse…much worse; but gave some support and advice to those who are unable to escape.

      • djfatsostupid says:

        “It can get better but it can get much worse,” is pretty terrible advice to give a to a teenager who is already pretty good at imagining how awful their life is going to be. This project was started out of a shared sense of grief over a gay teenager who committed suicide. Is having strangers tell suicidal teens that their lives may just spiral down from here a useful thing?

        If I were on the phone with a suicidal person on a hotline, or I were talking to a suicidal friend or relative, then I would be primarily concerned with addressing their emotions at the time. I would be happy to talk to them about realistic problems they might encounter in the future and discuss real worst case scenarios.

        As a stranger sending a video postcard over the internet to people you don’t know that would be a hopeless approach. I don’t know the person who I am sending the video to, and hopefully I am sending it to a vast number of people in different circumstances. The point of the project is not to say that everything will necessarily get better, its so that queer teens (and probably lots of non-queer teens) can hear that many now-happy adults had experiences very much like the ones they are having now. To know that other people had a terrible time in their teens for much the same reason you are having a terrible time and that they came out the other side of it to be happy and seemingly cool people is about as reassuring as strangers on the internet can be.

        If you find a legitimate group with a history of positive results working with at risk youth who says this could do more harm than good then I might be inclined to listen. Other than that I see a comment #19 and a lot of the other negative comments here as reactionary naysaying and hating.

  16. Anonymous says:

    As a more or less straight guy, I can say that it does get better even for us HETS.

    High school is the only time in life where you are legally obliged to put your self in harms way.

    This goes doubly for Gay folks, and goes off the chart for gay folks in rural supposedly Christian areas.

    If you go to college it is elective. You don’t need to be afraid any more.

    And yes SF is no doubt a gay Emerald City, if that isn’t a total tautology, but there are lots of Emerald Cities,Sydney is a very gay town due to Pink Flight.

    As soon as any one can they get the hell out of Woop Woop and off to the city. It’s no guarantee but man it is a lot better.

    Anyhow, it didn’t make me tear up, I had something in my eye.

  17. hadees says:

    Unless you were popular in highschool I think this could pretty much apply to anyone who got bullied in highschool. I’m straight but am a nerd and I can with out a doubt say when you get more of a choice of where you live and the people who are around you life is way more fun.

  18. Anonymous says:

    GBLTG? what’s that second G for? and why scramble the letters, just so everyone has a term to be first? First I’ve heard of this it, and I’m from San Francisco. can’t find any references through google.

    • mtellers says:

      I was pretty sure it was a Q….for Queer? I’ve never heard of GLBTG, and the most letters I’ve ever seen was LGBTQQIA. oy

  19. jocoska says:

    Don’t mean to be rude, but it did remind me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQhsxr__UMo

  20. gmb says:

    What a lovely video. I believe the person in the rainbow cloak is Raya, whom I photographed at an anti Prop8 protest in Boston in 2008 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/codedragon/3032987499/). Knowing – even vaguely – someone in the video made it even cooler for me.

  21. Chupacabara says:

    We accept her, we accept her, gooble gobble, one of us, one of us…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBXyB7niEc0

  22. aeternata says:

    I thought the first half of the video was brilliant. Love the concept.

    The second half just got creepier and scarier though. All the forceful “It gets better” chanting sounded like a brainwashing cult. Less fast cutting and glib tag lines and more life experience interviews would be far more effective.

    • Talia says:

      I didn’t think the second half was creepy in the least, personally.. I guess its just how any given person percieves it.

  23. SamSam says:

    It should have been mentioned that this project was created by Dan Savage, of Savage Love, in response to yet another gay kid committing suicide because of being tormented by his peers. (Someone submitted an original write-up of his project describing it much better, but it languished there without being posted despite receiving +19 votes.)

    Here it is from Savage’s column:

    “My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas,” a reader wrote after I posted about Billy Lucas to my blog. “I wish I could have told you that things get better.”

    I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

    But 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, GBVWS: Make a video. Tell them it gets better.

    Reply

  • Anonymous says:

    “Undecided” = LOL

  • bfarn says:

    Just wanted to add +1 to the brought-a-tear-to-the-eye column. Thanks for this.

  • mattymatt says:

    Hey thanks for all the comments everyone! I directed the video above and it’s a real treat to see how well it’s been received, and to hear the thoughtful comments & critiques.

    I’m planning on heading out to the Castro Street Fair this weekend to get more personal stories so we can make more videos like this. You can follow along by friending or following or facebooking for whatever over at my site, http://Stop8.org

    Please do feel free to get in touch if you’d like to provide some input or lend a hand with making more vids — I’m at mattymatt – at – gmail – dot – com. And I hope you’ll consider making your own “It Gets Better” video to share your thoughts.

  • Ted8305 says:

    That was really encouraging. San Francisco is cool and everything, but I wonder if they meant to have it come off as “move to San Francisco and everything will be awesome!”

    In an ideal world, LGBT kids would be encouraged to move to any old place they wanted, with similar positive results. The ghettoization of queer folk is not a sustainable solution.

  • mwschmeer says:

    The cynic in me says that the far right is going to jump all over this as evidence of the “gay agenda” that is is attempting to “brainwash” our precious children and turn them in to “freaks and weirdos” who are “committing their lives to sin.”

    Which is to say, haters gonna hate.

    So screw the haters.

    And also, no one has mentioned this yet:

    http://www.tolerance.org/bullied

    Teaching Tolerance, a project of The Southern Poverty Law Center, has recently released a DVD about the the bullying of LGBT youth, tracing Jamie Nabozny’s efforts to seek restitution from the school district which didn’t intervene when administrators knew that the bullying of gay students was a regular occurrence. He sued the school district, and eventually won, and the school district settled the case for almost a million dollars (and a jury might have awarded him even more).

    Best of all, the DVD is being made free for teachers and educators. So all you liberal homeschoolers and unschoolers, you count as educators! Request a copy and share it with your friends.

  • SamSam says:

    I’ve been watching the videos at http://www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject all morning. Some of them are really beautiful, and bring tears to your eyes. I was even surprised to find someone I knew there.

    The overwhelming message I took home was: adults have it so much easier. We forget this as we grow up. Being a kid can be really, really tough. You don’t know everything, there are so many things you don’t understand. You don’t have the perspective and experience to be able to say “I’ve been through tough times before, and I know that it can get better.”

    Adults often trivialize kids concerns and fears. They forget how much easier they, as adults, have it.

    • Kimmo says:

      I’ve been watching the videos at http://www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject all morning. Some of them are really beautiful, and bring tears to your eyes. I was even surprised to find someone I knew there.

      The overwhelming message I took home was: adults have it so much easier. We forget this as we grow up. Being a kid can be really, really tough. You don’t know everything, there are so many things you don’t understand. You don’t have the perspective and experience to be able to say “I’ve been through tough times before, and I know that it can get better.”

      Adults often trivialize kids concerns and fears. They forget how much easier they, as adults, have it.

      That’s a fine point; everything is harder the first time, potentially to the point straightforward stuff can seem nearly impossible.

      A slight coincidence: I just made a comment pissing on the notion of cultural equivalency in response to the news that some kids from the 3rd world can’t recognise themselves in the mirror till they’re six… the subtext of the vid, that enlightened San Fran is heaven next to your redneck hicksville home town backs this up emphatically IMO.

      Ironically enough, I’m sure there’s no shortage of SF residents who are quite prepared to denigrate their home’s clear cultural superiority, simply because it hasn’t occurred to them to question the received PC wisdom.

      To my mind, elements of culture which significantly constrain individuals and choke off vast amounts of human potential are not to be tolerated.

      And nor are bullies. Despite the vast spectrum of philosophy and ontology floating around in people’s heads, we can pretty much all agree on one thing at least: we want to have a good time while we’re alive.

      Defective units who go around actively preventing others from doing that (and the means can be so active that a bully can still be affecting their victim decades after they lifted a finger), they need to be identified and reprogrammed or isolated.

      Bullying and bigotry are worse brain viruses than religion… that’s saying something.

  • Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this what Belle & Sebastian are for?

  • Anonymous says:

    While it’s true that things may not “magically” get better after high school I’d like to think the message runs deeper than this.

    The real message is not, “It gets better after high school”.
    I believe the message is, “It gets better when you have some control over your life, who you associate with, and where you live.”

    It’s easier to feel confident when the people you choose to spend your day to day with are supportive, or at least accepting. SF happens to be a major center for this kind of environment.

    I can only wish that the hope this video gives to youth leads to them calling the number and getting someone, anyone, on their side.

  • bklynchris says:

    Cry Cry. Happy Happy! Joy Joy! Yes, this is the necessary unicorn chaser for Shirvell. Thanks!

  • ransom notes says:

    thanks for posting this Cory. Every little bit of positive reinforcement helps. And I am sure this will be circulated in new camps thanks to your thoughtfulness.

  • Anonymous says:

    For another approach check out http://wegotyourbackproject.wordpress.com/
    the “We Got Your Back Project.”

    It’s also attempting to project support out for GLBT and other youth who need someone. It doesn’t seem to have the relentless upbeat-ness of “it gets better.”

  • Daedalus says:

    “It Gets Better” is true.

    It’s not “It Gets Perfect.” Or “Nothing Bad Will Happen To You Ever Again.” It’s “It Gets Better.” Less bad. More good.

    It’s gotta be pretty clear to GLBT kids that it’s not perfect. They can see the problems that GLBT adults face on a regular basis on any cable news show.

    But “better.”

    Those guys who surround you, intimidate you, and ridicule you?
    Those girls who jeer at you and spread vicious rumors about you?
    Those authority figures who refuse to do anything to help you?

    They don’t go away. But they do become less powerful when you’re not legally mandated to deal with them on a daily basis, with no power over them yourself.

    Better.

  • Anonymous says:

    So it gets better – but only if you move?

  • Anonymous says:

    Man with non-standard sexuality here. I definitely am more into women, but men are on my range of sexual attraction.

    But that was never something that was open to people. Most friends today (and I’m 27) don’t know it.

    But you know what? It DOES get better.

    Mostly because you get to choose what city or town you live in, and you have far more choice as to who you spend your time around.

    Basically, being an adult and having more freedom DOES make it better. Is San Francisco better than most places? Absolutely.

    But given what most people think of my state (Michigan) lately thanks to our Asst. AG, I have to tell you, we have a great, tolerant community in the capital.

    Come join us here – straight, gay, bi, trans… there are a lot of all of us here who are friendly to everything. We need all the good people we can get. We are good people who are always welcoming to more good people. That’s what this is about to me.

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