The 'It Gets Better' Campaign: Promising a Falsehood

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The true power of social media never ceases to amaze me, like a crushing force a new campaign hash-tags its way around the internet in the matter of hours - a feat which would have previously taken months to reach the same level of interest the 'It Gets Better' campaign met within a week of Dan Savage and Terry Miller's debut video. Within the first week of the campaigns inception two hundred videos had been uploaded to the YouTube channel and exploding with the intense media coverage from there - all promising the LGBT youth of the world that life will undeniably get better for them.

This affirmative and bold statement was born in response to the number of suicides by teenagers who, either, were or suspected of being gay and bullied mercilessly daily because of it. The movement caught on like wildfire and, for a while, there did not seem to be one famous person, gay or straight, who had not made a video to share with the youth of the world - everywhere you turned someone was assuring you it would get better. The promise of a life's betterment after surviving high school, almost like a prize; you are allowed a good life now you have survived four years of self-esteem crippling bullying. We all watched as the worldly and wise gays/lesbians of the world promised 'it would get better' punctuating their own plighted adolescent story.

But does it - does it actually get better? Not one person stated the ignorance you faced in high school would actually be righted or receive an apology for the years of torture endured, instead an assumption of a change in geography and new circle of friends before this new better life begun. And here in lies the crux of the problem with this seemingly affirmative message to the teen LGBT community, life will not get better where you are but instead, you will need to seek one out. Nothing will really be righted or change but you will have graduated from high school and no longer need to deal with it or the people anymore, while they go off unscathed unaware of their ignorance and the true depth of the damage they inflicted.

So, assuming one can afford to move away from their small town or away from their homophobic parents, we can say the rest of the world is more accepting liberal minded place and ignorance is simply for the religious zelots and republican pundits, right? Well, let's examine the evidence, the government in Uganda attempted to pass a 'kill the gays' bill which would make homosexuality an offense punishable by death - a movement begun in some part by touring American Evangelical ministers - but, as it stands currently, homosexuality is illegal. But that is Uganda and we live in North America, we are safe from blatant human rights violations. This is true, instead we are expected to deal with a governmental system which protects the rights of people who run websites, such as, godhatesfags.com whom hold signs reading 'fags doom nations' at the funerals of soldiers killed in battle, suspected homosexuals, known homosexuals and any other public forum they see appropriate to spread their message of hate and intolerance.

Instead of having your head shoved into a locker door on the way to your next class, you have the religious rights hypocritical affirmations of love shoved down your throat as they condemn you in the same breath. Although, you have now surrounded yourself with a circle of friends who are accepting and supportive, this in now way means life gets better for homosexuals on a whole - the only person you have managed to help is yourself. It is the equivalent of sitting in a loud room while wearing earplugs, the noise is still there but you have made sure you are unable to hear it. Shouldn't we be trying to rid the world of homophobia on a global scale, instead of simply focusing internally - I am just as selfish as the next homosexual and was incredibly relieved to have graduated high school but I've also taken note of the world around me. It may have come a long way from the Stonewall riots of 1969 and the gay rights movement has excelled in the last twenty or so years but how can we promise 'it gets better' when there are still parents who send their gay teenagers to conversion therapy, throw them out of their homes and force them to live on the street, or close our eyes to the bullying of the LGBT youth in school. Is an empty promise all we can offer these teenagers?

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The frightening truth is we have no way of knowing if their life will get better after high school, some cannot afford to move away from their oppressive communities or live in a place where homosexuality is considered an illegal act. How can we promise these teens with a straight face when many of countries influential politicians, pundits and mouth pieces believe, whole-heartedly, homosexuality can be prayed away. When books titled 'You Don't Have to be Gay' are still passed out to questioning teenagers by parents, religious leaders and teachers in some parts of the United States - how can we promise anything will get better when homosexuality is still considered a product of indoctrination, by some.

Perhaps there should be a gay agenda distributed to the public, instead of a governmental take-over as many seem to assume the gays want - we demand the equal treatment for all members of the LGBT community. We demand a world where a queer teenager is not expected to 'hold on' and 'keep living' the four years of high school before they are rewarded with a better life, but instead are seen as just another angsty teenager. We do away with groups who spread discourse to our cause of equality and the riddance of homophobia and ignorance. Suddenly future generations of gays and lesbians will not have to suffer the torture of groups, such as, Focus on the Family, Exodus International or the Westboro Baptist Church.

This would eliminate the need to promise the gay youth of the world anything, there would be no need to bargain with them to keep living. I am hoping to see a world like this but cannot foresee such a drastic change in public opinion - instead my glass has begun looking half-empty and the world slightly darker as the storm clouds of intolerance head closer to shore. It would seem our fight for basic civil rights worldwide is long from being over and believing any different would beg the question: what world do you live in?

I was faced with blatant homophobia a week or so ago on this very site, while participating in the forum section. It's proven to be everywhere - I'm not sure why I was so shocked - laying just below social acceptability, television and politicians have proved this innumerably. Instead of fully-formed LGBT main characters on our favourite television shows we are given mildly insulting caricatures of aspects of gay lifestyles or using gay characters as embodiments of social movements; very much like Kurt Hummel - of televisions intensely popular 'Glee' - in the second season became the embodiment of the 'It Gets Better' project. His character seemed reduced to being built on a foundational understanding he was nothing more than a gay teen and would be amount to nothing more.

And, sadly, this is how it should be, right? Perhaps instead of 'It Gets Better' as the name of the campaign it should be renamed 'It Gets Better, sort of' because it would seem this is all we should be offering. I would not want to make such a weighted promise to broken gay teenager looking for a little hope, would you?

Do you believe in the 'It Gets Better' campaign?

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Comments 5 comments

Marie-AnneLeClerc 5 years ago

Hello Janikon I'm not sure I believe in the 'It Gets Better' Campaign as I don't see 'Much' change at All going on in this World. So sadly true... Nearly 2012 and "It doesn't get better." It would appear that issues abound as much as they did in the early 'dark ages.' -Thanks for voicing yourself, a well written article. Cheers!


SeamlessDestiny03 profile image

SeamlessDestiny03 4 years ago from Chi-city

Wow! This article has absolutely opened up my mind. I suppose I took the mainstream approach and just held on to the hopes that yes, these teens could make a better life for themselves once they his the magic 18. However, after reading, you are absolutely right. My school life was fantastic, home life not so much. To this day my mother is still very un-accepting and hurt by my "choices." When my girlfriend of 3 years cheated on me and I wanted to throw her out, I ran to her asking for help and she blatantly ignored me both emotionally and financially. I did, however, move out at magic 18 to another state and reside in the Gayborhood, if you will. But no, it has not gotten better at home despite my mother and I getting closer. And thank you for reminding me of those residing in other countries; my heart goes out to them. I hope some day we can put this (and all, really) intolerance and discrimination to rest. Such n insignificant issue to fight over, anyway.


Marsei profile image

Marsei 4 years ago from New Orleans

Hi, there.

I just finished reading this hub. I worked with the NoAIDS Taskforce here in New Orleans in the '80s and early '90s. I was a "buddy" to five men with AIDS. Three of those men were banished by their families. It was a sad/happy time for me: sad because of watching so much pain, physical and mental, and happy because I felt I was contributing.

AS far as the getting better question, it has gotten better for my family member. However, that family member is living in another country and working in academia. I think both things have contributed a lot to things getting better.

I believe parents should play a much more active role in stopping the hatefulness and bullying in our schools. Chldren who hear hate rhetoric at home are much more likely to use it themselves and much more likely to act on it. I was visiting a friend recently and was saddened to hear her chldren use the "fag" in a degrading way over and over again without any prompting from either parent.

It also made me sad to know that someone insulted you on hubpages. I can't help but wonder how limited a person's life must be if they're that preoccupied with how someone else lives their life.

I had a spiritual teacher in the '80s and asked him once about this issue. His answer was: We've chosen growth.

He a few years later at 48 from complications of AIDS. I didn't like his answer, don't think it is necessarily correct but it is an answer.

You write well and I hope you will continue.

I was bullied ruthlessly in school because I was skinny beyond belief, had frizzy blond hair and my grandfather was the country doctor in my area. I know how it feels.

marsei


janikon profile image

janikon 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario Author

@seamlessdestiny03 I'm really sorry things have not improved with your family, but it's nice to hear you and your mother are getting on better. I think it's dangerous to promise teenagers a 'better life' when there really is no concrete proof - beyond a shadow of a doubt - it will actually get better. I think the sentiment is a beautiful one but one which will hurt doubly, if it doesn't happen. Thanks for the kind words!


janikon profile image

janikon 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario Author

@Marsei Thanks for the wonderful compliment! I'm sorry you were bullied in high school but I agree that parents should play a more active role in stopping bullying in schools. I think they leave too much control in the hands of the administration, especially - it seems - when their children are in high school, perhaps for fear of making it worse.

I'm happy your family members living situation has gotten better and I'm sorry for the loss of your friends, I pray for the end to AIDS, as well.

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