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Comments

KT

i'm of two minds, here, as well. i'd like to think that these vids are helping someone, and some, like joel burns...

http://tv.gawker.com/5663083/

i think can do some good. but i find it a bit dishonest to keep pelting young gay teens with "it gets better" because in some cases, in some circumstances, it might get worse before it gets better, if it even DOES get better. giving hope isn't a bad thing, per se... i dunno, mayhaps i'm just too cynical. maybe i need to internalize some of the hope being offered, as well. but reality is that these videos aren't going to change the mind of the bigots doing the bullying, and kids will still have to deal with assholes.

Thanks

This is great, thank you

Draylen

Ke$ha's a dumb-ass cashing in on something that's really serious right now...but you put it in better words. As a gay teen myself, I can't say that those videos would have worked for me when I was younger, mainly because it was easier for me to figure out that it gets better myself than to listen to some random celebrities. I think it's a good cause, but like you said, I can't actually see this really working. I don't know. Everybody's different.

Brian

I've pretty much felt the same way about It Gets Better. I was feeling strongly motivated to make a video, but ultimately decided against it, because I felt the same way: It's a bunch of people competing to be the wisest and most experienced and to have come the furthest. It's like fucking ANTM girls: My pain is worse than your pain.

Am I an asshole for not sharing my story?

Well, I'm 19 and have only been out of the closet for about two years, and in varying degrees at that. I'm still, slowly, coming to accept that men kissing can be attractive, and I have problems even associating myself with sex a lot of the time. How the hell can I tell anyone it will get better? Just because I've made the transition to college two years ago, suddenly I'm a life expert?

I don't doubt that it's moving at the time, but while viral campaigns are excellent at attracting attention towards themselves in a snowball effect, they snowball out of sight just as quickly.

We clearly have a problem in this country, and it's good that we're starting to talk about it, but this is just one small battle in a huge war on gay teenagers.

Aki

Very well said!

Walt

YOU SAVED ME!

just kidin man, I really agree with you on the majority of what you are saying. being a gay male in the midwest has not been the easiest thing (thought I am not complaining and would not change who I am for the world) and the videos of people having no idea what they are talking about honestly upset me more than it helps. That being said if only one person gets help from the vids then it is worth it IMO.

I say we form a Gay version of the black Panthers. Acceptance through force. I will bring the pink frilly tablecloth and you bring the tea. I am sure one of our brothers will bring some sort of delicious cupcake or the like for us to nibble on. Then, after we eat...GAY REVOLUTION! lol PINK TIGERS UNITE!

Rob

Couldn't agree more. While I think the intended purpose of the videos is an admirable one (who wouldn't?) I find the bandwagon jumping and self congratulatory nature of some of the participants pretty gross. It's part of a larger issue with people confusing participating in an internet meme with some form of activism or social change. Making your Facebook profile pic purple isn't doing shit to help suicidal queer youth.

Besides, Amanda Lepore's video is the best and nothing can compete. Sit down, Key$hit, and behold a LADY.

Ben

Did you read Gladwell's piece in The New Yorker a few weeks back on the low impact/low stakes of social networking driven activism? Worth a read and I think it fits with your thoughts on It Gets Better.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

Gladwell: "Social networks are effective at increasing participation—-by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires....Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice. We are a long way from the lunch counters of Greensboro."

Matt

Thanks for this, Rich. My well-meaning straight friends are all over this "It Gets Better" meme, but as I inch closer to age 40 and still battle annoying assumptions and rampant heterosexism at work, I'm thinking "It Gets Moderately Less Bad At Best" is right on the money.

adam

Sorry, I'm half-dead with a head cold and I can't think clearly or type very well... But that's not going to stop me from commenting!
I'm glad you posted this, and I think that this type of reflection is necessary going forward from the massive response that the "It Gets Better" Project has received. I've noticed that jumping on the bandwagon has, esp. for famous folks, been a convenient way to get more face time. I'm doubtful that the videos are as useful in counseling depressed or suicidal gay teens as they are in acting as a kind of cathartic therapy for people who have unresolved issues from their own adolescence. And there's something really, really bizarre in watching an issue you've actually experienced become the cause de jour.

All the same, I do think it's pretty cool that this is happening at all, because in my childhood and adolescence, it couldn't have. There's been, in my lifetime, a tremendous change in the way the mainstream views these kinds of gay issues. I guess all I mean is that it has been a long time coming that we can even get a token display like "everyone wear purple to support gay rights" or whatever. It's not enough, but jesusgod, at least there's that start.

Anon

This is a good post. Thank you.

When I was fourteen and had my first attempt, I did not want to be told by some adult that "it gets better." Obviously I didn't believe it was going to get better, or I wouldn't have done it. I wasn't just waiting for someone to tell me that it would "get better". I didn't want some adult to tell me that they "cared". At fourteen, my response would have been: "You do not. You don't care about me as a person, you care about me as a statistic. You don't even know me. You don't know what's going on with me, you don't know my circumstances. I'm not you. Fuck off." Because I didn't want strangers to tell me they cared, I wanted my family to notice how much pain I was in and I wanted them to help me--but they didn't. So I tried to kill myself. If my parents didn't care about my pain, it wouldn't help that a stranger I would never meet who knew nothing about me claimed to.

It's an admirable goal but I feel like this is just more lip service. "Are gay people the new crack babies?" indeed. Where were these people when I was fourteen and had to have my stomach pumped? Where were these people, caring so much about me, when I was self-harming in the adolescent ward of a mental institution? Where were they?

Where will they be in a year?

Melissa

Straight people making "It Gets Better" videos strikes me as incredibly clueless.

Isn't the whole entire point of the exercise for young people to hear the voices of people *who have actually been there and lived through it?*

JR

I think that for a gay kid living in a small town who can one day move to a larger city it can get a lot better, and by that I mean go from really shitty to just regular shitty.

A lot of adult gay guys from more urban areas forget that that there are a lot of young gay kids from BFE, USA who would kill to have their, by comparison, insignificant problems.

On a less glib note, I do think people can make their lives better, but more than anything people just get stronger as they get older. Or maybe we just get more numb.

Lennon

"I say we form a Gay version of the black Panthers. Acceptance through force."

They beat you to it... 40+ years ago

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,908008,00.html

Elena

I made an "It Gets Better" video for the same reason that I send e-mails to politicians and others in power when I think they've done something shitty (or, occasionally, awesome): while I understand that the odds of my few words making a difference are a squillion to one, well, there's still that one. FWIW, I'm a lesbian and I attempted suicide in high school, so maybe my words carry a bit more weight... or maybe not. It's down to who's hearing those words to decide whether or not the words matter to them.

I also understand the concern that when people get involved with "Facebook Activism" they feel like they've done their part and are less inclined to do the real, hard, effective work. I worry about that too. But on the other hand, my real, hard, effective involvement with a lot of the campaigns I support stemmed from an introduction through a petition or an ad or a donation bucket, something quite hands-off. Having my attention brought to the issue spurred me to further action. Doesn't happen every time or with every cause, but you have to start somewhere, you know?

I agree that this project isn't going to solve the problem of homophobia and heterosexism forever and ever amen. But I don't think that was ever its intention. I think its intention was to give kids an outlet to hear something positive, something other than the bullying and bullshit they're exposed to every other minute of the day. Could it stop someone who's already got their hand on the bottle of pills? No, almost certainly not. But could it plant a seed in someone's head, just a bit of hope that it might not be this bad forever, that there are other places and other times and other people? That it might be able to do, and there are people for whom that could be helpful.

And as a few people have said, if it makes a difference to just one person - kid or otherwise - then fuck it: all the celebrity attention-grabbing and straight people talking about shit they don't really know about and all the rest is worth it. The end will have justified the means, in my book.

Bears Are Fat

While I think the kind of conversation happening amongst normal people that the It Gets Better Project has generated can only be good for gay teens, I think the celebrity embrace of the project is messed up -- odious -- for the reasons you identify. I think I was watching Kim Kardishian's video the other day, for some awful reason, and there she was: talking about how tough it is to be her because people say mean things on the internet about her. Eve's was somewhat similar: I'm straight, rich, and famous, but my life was/is tough too. Your diagnostic here, narcissism + commercialism = ugly, is probably an accurate one, but also one that is awfully easy to make these days (cf. the contemporary critical discourse on the genre of memoir).

OK that said, I also think the fact that the cause of gay kids has become an (ironically) celebrated one is a huge step forward, as are other recent developments in the courts, in opinion polls, etc. We are witnessing a basic cultural shift in our own lives: homophobia is unacceptable. IGBP is symptomatic of this.

k

thanks for calling bullshit on kesha. went to high school with her and we all see straight through her. same as she ever was.

dave20

While you were spot on with Kesha and Mariah...

"Live my life and tell me that it doesn't get moderately less worse at best."

Really Rich? Is your life really so bad? The flights across the country and a partner and a place to live in, plus a blog even major newspapers want to plagiarize from?

Some people have actual problems to face.

karen

Dave20, he wasn't saying his life was bad, he was saying that being called a faggot doesn't really get easier.

Bears Are Fat

I just wanted to add that Sarah Silverman's little Youtube on this topic is in fact the most effective one I have seen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM6xbW1DZyM

Stroll

I think that everyond doing "It Gets Better" videos has their heart in the right place, and some of them are really touching, even. The comments here are interesting, and I know where Melissa above is coming from about strait people, but to know some strait people, famous or otherwise, are on your side is good, even if they don't fully "get it".

I was young and percievably gay via effeminancy and speech before the internet, and I was punished for it daily and not just by my classmates. Adults can be "bullies" too. And when you make it out of high school and find the gay space you've been looking for, you learn that there are bullies amongst the gays to boot.

I think the reality is not "it gets better" but "you'll get better at dealing with it." When I hear "It Gets Better" I understand the concept -- you'll graduate high school, find a place where you belong and friends who accept you -- but I ask "what about NOW?"

Oh, and I can't stand Ke$ha.

Jay

I think I'm on the same page. This whole meme (that's all it is essentially) is definitely a good thing. If there was this much public support of gay teens in the late 90's maybe I would have come out much sooner. I also agree that this is giving a lot of people false hope, because it doesn't necessarily get better. I had to wade through an awful lot of methed up circuit queens before I found a group of awesome queer friends. I'm sure a lot of queer youth don't make it out of that mess. That said, my favorite It Gets Better vidjo:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X7nQDwRMK0

Aaron

I've been reading your blog for years and have to admit I was surprised at the intensity of your vitriol when you discussed Ke$ha's album. But I have to completely agree with your distaste for her blatantly cashing in on a national tragedy to push a new single that obviously, OBVIOUSLY has nothing to do with it. I don't know what's more infuriating: her being so stupid enough to attempt that, or her assumption that we wouldn't notice it.

Matthew

Would it be too stupid of me to say that this blog post "saved me"? This is exactly how I feel about the "It Gets Better" campaign. I've received some flack from fellow gay people about it. (Dare I say BULLYING?) Thanks for this blog post. I now know what to tell them if ever get another tweet saying "I can't believe you would say that!"

Sarah

What about your precious Katy Perry? Hello, "Firework"?

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