In Defense of the It Gets Better Project

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In Defense of the It Gets Better Project

I originally posted this as a comment in response to Adrian Brune's blog entry (see below). However, once I submitted it, I saw that it was annoyingly long for a comment, so here I am posting it more appropriately as it's own blog entry.

Hey Adrian!

I appreciate your brief positive analysis of the It Gets Better Project. While obviously the majority of gay activists support it (I say "obviously" because of how huge it's become), there is also a very vocal group of people who have been slamming it for several reasons- I've read them all and I agree with some. The two most common themes are:

1) It isn't inclusive enough. The original video made by Dan Savage and his partner spoke to a specific demographic- white, middle-class gay youth for whom it is more likely to "get better" because they will have more privileges than those outside of the demographic. 

I don't understand why DS is being held to a standard higher than he is able to achieve in this instance. Because he is someone from the above-mentioned demographic, I don't think it would be genuine for him to try to represent people of color, for example, because that isn't who he is. He can only speak to his own experience, which is indeed saving the lives of those who will identify with him.

2) Some people hate Dan Savage because he has said things that are sexist and trans-phobic. Therefor, no matter what he does, those who feel this way about him are gonna hate it. This hatred might be valid, but if he did nothing in response to the recent gay teen suicides, he'd be criticized for doing nothing. He can't do anything right, from this point of view. While it isn't wrong to expect him to not bully members of the LGBT community, and expect him to not be a hypocrite, it doesn't mean that this one act of good should be criticized specifically.

I've noticed that a great number of critics of the It Gets Better Project are complaining about it from their computers, and not actually following their own advice. It's easy to say something sucks, but the question is always: "What are you gonna do about it?"

The great thing is that unlike the do-nothing criticizers, several extensions of the video have been made by those who saw the need for more. To me, that's the amazing part of how this project has snowballed. More and more voices have been represented and many underrespresented members of the queer community, like Kate Bornstein, have made their own videos or some even started new projects like "Make It Better," which is inspiring because it saw the problems with the IGB project and did something about it; created immediate tools for action! This is yet another positive ripple effect, even if unintended, of what Dan Savage started. (How rude that I keep excluding his bf just because he isn't famous... oops! He's a beefcake though, right?)

So even if you hate on Dan Savage, and what he's said and done (I do, for the record, hate some of the things he's said and done, though don't hate him as a person entirely) he at least started this ginormous ripple that in and of itself isn't going to solve the issue of bullying and suicide prevention, but is a form of activism that has been effective. The visiblity of IGB in the mainstream world — something that haters deem "annoying" at best — has become a dialouge that reaches those who barely notice any LGBT struggle outside of gay marriage and DADT. For example, my sister, a mother of three living in the suburbs of Detroit, was prompted by seeing the IGB project (I think Ellen's video) to have a big talk with her middle-school sons, my nephews, about what they can do as popular jocks to prevent bullying. She thought to do this herself before I had a chance to make a visit and do it myself.

Can you imagine how annoying this would have been as a comment?



Comments [5]

M.J. Corey's picture

It Gets Better is a great

It Gets Better is a great project with great intentions. The resulting ripple effect seems to be making a real difference. Thanks for writing this! 

Erika Davis's picture

I'm feelin' you

I completely agree with everything!  I think the beauty of the IGB Project and the MIB project is the fact that it does reach so many LGBTQ youth.  When I made my video (and it's not a shout out but go and watch it...I'd totally link it here like a fancy pants internet person but I'm not a fancy pants internet person) I said, "I'm not here to tell you that it gets better because sometimes, it doesn't"  The fact is, the IGB Project and the MIB project reaches people who might not otherwise get the opportunity to see another Queer face.  Is their face reflected in the Dan Savage original video, maybe not but if you watch ALL OF THEM, you're sure to see a face that looks a little bit like yours.

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com

KJ's picture

100%

Agree.

And way rad for your sister to talk to her kids about how they can be allies. I think as a community we sometimes get mad at people with privilege in a way that makes us forget what we want is for them to give up that privilege.

Being an ally--showing solidarity with any community you are not an identifiable member of--risks both undermining the privilege you accrue by not being identifiable, and rejection by a suspicious or critical community.

Queer community can be a family of destination for so many different people that we've gotta find ways to critique privilege without shutting anyone's project down. And, we've gotta remember no project is ever pure--and to show a little humility even in our critique.

Julia Watson's picture

This post deserves one of

This post deserves one of those Awards for Reasonableness that John Stewart gave out this weekend.

Grace Moon's picture

.

word.

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