Jason Tseng

Does It Really Get Better?: A Conscientious Critique

Filed By Jason Tseng | October 03, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Dan Savage, gay youth, It Gets Better, LGBT community, teen suicide

Dan Savage recently launched the It Gets Better Project, a youtube testimonial campaign designed to remind queer teens that it gets better after high school. Savage and those joining the project attempt to address the uptick or at least an alarming concentration of teen suicides over their actual or perceived sexuality by reminding queer youth that high school ends and the bullying stops; you'll move to an urban gay enclave, meet the man of your dreams, and have a wonderful, sparkly, magical life. Maybe even get married, because, you know that's what all the other gays are doing.

Cheer_Bear.jpgI want to get one thing clear right out of the bat:

I think that the It Gets Better Project at its core is a good idea. Queer teens need to hear from their peers and their forebears that there is indeed hope. That life is indeed worthwhile and that high school is not, in fact, the end of the world.

What I question is this seeming meta-narrative that many in the gay mainstream are pushing: Get out of high school; flee your biggoted small town and move to an urban gay enclave; join the gay community as a card carrying member of the League of Fashionable Culture Generators; Enlightened, Accepting Queers versus Ignorant, Biggoted Straights; Urban versus Rural; Us versus Them.

It's this kind of self-congratulatory back-patting that the gay community is so want to do that I question: the notion that the gay community has it all figured out; that gay folk are so morally, culturally, and politically superior to the backwater, cousin-marrying, neanderthals of small town America; that once you leave high school and become a full member of the gay community, you will be accepted with open arms and you too will get to go out dancing every night and gossip about your latest fling over mimosas at Sunday brunch.

I fear that the way in which people are presenting the gay narrative to these impressionable teens is this sense that their lives will inevitably improve. That's just not true. They can get better, definitely. But we have to be real and transparent about the gay community and its problems.

It sure is easy for Dan Savage to talk about how wonderful his life turned out, because hey... it kind of did. Lucrative book and advice column deals under his belt, a legion of faithful fans, and a wicked hot husband, to boot. Am I criticizing Dan for his charmed life? Absolutely not. Congratulations are in order. He achieved the highly unlikely. I'm genuinely really, really happy for him. He deserves it. We all deserve a great life.

But the fact of the matter is that not everyone gets it. Yes, that's right... even if you're gay and have endured all kinds of unspeakable wrongs, the magical vending machine in the sky called karma doesn't actually keep a running balance of good things owed to you. You have to fight for it. Things don't always work out. They can, but you have to fight for it. You have to know what you want and be willing to fight tooth and nail for it.

For example, I had a typically unfortunate gay experience growing up. I was teased through middle and high school for being gay. I angsted over the conflict between my faith and my sexuality. I was terrified of what my conservative Christian family would do if they discovered my queerness. I suppressed my sexuality, my emotions, my struggles. I contemplated suicide, or rather I contemplated the possibility of never being born (because suicide was a sin... see how screwed up I was?). And part of what brought me out of my self-imposed death spiral and helped me come out was, in fact, Dan Savage and his advice columns. Or at least him and the promise of urban gay nirvana I was promised through shows like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

I kept telling myself that mantra which Dan is now preaching: It Gets Better. It Gets Better. Did it get better? Yes and no. My college experience was actually probably worse than high school, at least on the homophobia front. In high school I only got the teasing, name calling, and rumors behind my back; but college brought me in intimate familiarity with harassment, threats to life, physical violence, same-sex rape and institutional dispassion for my situation.

And so I reasoned that of course college didn't bring the gay nirvana I was promised. I went to a small liberal arts college in the South. What could I expect? So my spare time and summers were spent interning at queer organizations, becoming deeply involved in queer politics at school, etc. I majored in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, I interned with the Human Rights Campaign-- I was building my life towards that gay promise... but only to find that the gay community is not perfect and has its own problems.

The gay community's problems surrounding race and gender became abundantly evident to me as queer men of color, especially feminine queer men of color get pushed to the fringes of gay life. I was shocked by the openly racist comments that were slung by gay activists against the African American community over a perceived bias which allegedly led to the passage of Proposition 8 (this has been disproved, just for the record). Even today, in the aftermath of Tyler Clementi's tragic death, I have been shocked by anti-Asian and anti-South-Asian comments and insinuations on how Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei's Asian background could have contributed to the tragic circumstances. I've documented on Bilerico my very personal struggle with the gay community, its sexual racism, and its effects both personally and sociologically.

The gay promise failed me. I went from being ostracized by my straight classmates in high school to being ostracized by many white gay men in an urban gay enclave.

Cry me a river, Amy Tan.

And what has given me hope? I came to find a queer Asian community service organization that allowed me to find a safe space to commune with, network, befriend, and organize with other queer Asian men. It has become clear to me that the gay promise which Dan Savage espouses only applies to some people. And that if it doesn't apply to you, you have to make your own space.

So what are the takeaways from all this?

Yes, the It Gets Better Project is a great thing. We need to be reaching out to queer youth to instill in them a sense of hope and knowledge that "there is a place for us," to quote Dan Savage's West Side Story reference. But we also have to be aware and critical of the very real problems and deficiencies the current gay community has in its inability to make that gay promise accessible to everyone who falls under the rainbow banner.

So does it get better?

It can.


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I think the point of Dan's effort is that it "can" get better and that is partly their individual responsibility. I don't think the gay community is organized sufficiently to make any "promises" about a better life - just like any other community.

Young people dealing with their sexuality is difficult. Over the course of a few years many come to the realization that there isn't anything "wrong" with them and they have nothing to hide. If that requires dumping their family (and church), then good for them. If a 15 year-old can hear from an 18 year old the message that "it gets better" that IS helpful. That's about "hope," not promise.

As a community we do need to create "safe houses" for LGBT youth and provide them the opportunity to run a way from bigotry. That effort is underway. In the near future we will create the ability for teens to escape bigotry and bullying and find protection and support from their community. That will save lives.

drownedlotuses | October 3, 2010 11:42 PM

I find your concept of safe houses in the "community" interesting... What are these safe houses that you speak of? I can assure you that these spaces that you may be imagining are not always as welcoming as you make them out to be...and your f*u attitude to those who are "in the way" is probably far from any compassionate attitude that any young lgbtq person needs to deal with the problems they may face. Some of us (most of us?) are not granted the automatic privileges that you seem to have enjoyed... Of course, I may be wrong and you just haven't found a way to express your anger in a more productive way?

Comments that start of like this "I think the point of [insert subject matter here] is ..." really frustrate me.

The author, in this case Jason, wrote a thorough critique which had to be approved by an editorial team. I imagine he's considered what the point of the project is and all sorts of other possibilities outside of his "point of view."

Perhaps he doesn't misunderstand the point of the project and need your clarification, perhaps he just disagrees.

While I fully support the intent of the effort, I think we also have to consider the messenger here. It was just a few weeks ago that Dan Savage enthusiastically insisted on Countdown that the only two items left on the LGBT agenda were DADT and marriage. This guy is clearly even more entrapped inside an impenetrable bubble when it comes to the reality of LGBT lives than even the Obama Administration and the Congressional Democratic Party leadership (and that's saying something). The only difference is that Savage's bubble is decorated with rainbows and pixie dust while the Obama and the Dems don't bother with such obvious pretense. Neither have any windows which look out upon the world as it actually is for most of us.

hey rebecca,

many friends have asked me for a clip of dan saying this. I've been looking and haven't been able to find the clip. I was hoping you might have some insight?

I've been trying to find the video myself, but I've had no luck so far. I did, however, determine that he made the comments on the May 27th edition of the show, and MSNBC does have the transcript posted.

Here's the relevant snip:

OLBERMANN: Is there something you think specifically about gays
serving in the military that these people don‘t like? Or is it, as you‘re
suggesting, this is like a timeline in which wherever they encounter the
gay, these bizarre straight people, presumably straight people—who knows
have to overreact just because this is the latest battlefield, no pun intended?

SAVAGE: First, that‘s a really great point. Who knows whose lifting these people‘s luggage, these folks who are so paranoid—
(CROSS TALK)
SAVAGE: I‘d like to see what‘s going on in their heads. I think they‘re projecting, some of them. Whenever they‘re on the verge of losing, they trot out these desperate nightmare scenarios. And they really on the verge of losing the last two final issues when it comes to gay rights, which is service in the military and marriage.

Jason Tseng captured some of my gravest concerns about the "It Gets Better" campaign. As someone who studies rural queer and questioning youth experience, I worry that Dan Savage's good intentions effectively tell youth to bide their time and, when able, move on to places where you know it's better.

The rural youth I work with (www.queercountry.org/) cannot or do not want to move to other places. They have no social or economic opportunities to make leaving their small towns a viable option. And many have deep commitments to their family and local communities that take precedence over the call of gay urban enclaves (who've done nothing for them but tell them to leave the abyss of their small town and drop their families).

Rural and other marginalized queer youth should not have to fend for themselves, suck it up, and, ultimately, take whatever happens to them. We should be coming up with strategies and political priorities that address LGBTQ needs no matter where queer folks live and that account for other alliances and inequalities that matter in their lives (and this is why addressing Jason's critique of the racism and gender inequalities in the gay community is so central to us being able to make anything better for those living beyond the Castro, Christopher Street, or Boy's Town).

For young people whose lives won't get better because they face structural violence and injustice, *we* have to do better. Check out the great work being done by the GSANetwork on this front. They're sending a clear message that we (very broad we) must actively make it better for all young people if we hope to see it get better for queer youth. They also make it clear that youth are plenty able to make a difference now. There's no reason to wait. I only hope adult allies follow their lead. Check out the "Make It Better" campaign at: http://makeitbetterproject.org/

" I worry that Dan Savage's good intentions effectively tell youth to bide their time and, when able, move on to places where you know it's better."

I don't think this campaign is about "biding your time" or even "waiting" to move elsewhere - it's about surviving until you are better equipped to deal with the religious-bigotry and bullying. That doesn't necessarily mean moving to an urban area. For a fourteen or fifteen year old with nobody to turn to, suicide unfortunately makes some sense. If they know "it gets better" it gives them hope. Real hope. Surviving is better than suicide.

As a community we haven't figured out how to deal with religious-based bigotry and bullying, why would we think a teenager could?

It had to happen sooner or later...Andrew, for once we are in complete agreement.

As a suicide attempt survivor, albeit later in life than teens, I know that suicide begins to seem like a viable option when you don't believe your life has any value even to yourself and you can't envision a better future for yourself.

Queer kids, and queer adults as well, need to understand that there is hope, but at the same time it's foolish and even dangerous to sugarcoat the reality they face every day. We can't simply tell these kids that things will get better, we have to acknowledge that things are rougher for us than for straights and they likely will continue to be for a while yet, but that this reality is not a reason to seek to escape it by ending their lives but rather a reason to fight like hell to change it for the better.

I saved my own life by making the choice to fight back and reject the message sent by our society and our government that we and our rights and freedoms are less important and less worthy than straights.

It's also a reason for those of us who are adults and have lived through it ourselves to insist that our government leaders and our fellow citizens unite with us to create a country that welcomes us as full citizens and equals and rejects the bigotries and other indignities and devaluations others would saddle us with.

If we, as a country and as a society, fail in this then the blood of these kids is on our hands.

Well, I'm glad you're still here. I appreciate your thoughts and I think they are helpful for others. I hope your message (and many others) reach the innocent children.

Brian Murphy | October 3, 2010 1:23 PM

I've spent a lot of time looking at videos from the "It Gets Better" project and I don't see a specific promise the LGBTQ community is making about how life will be. I also don't get the sense of a "bill of goods" that LGBTQ kids are being sold that rainbows and unicorns will appear once they make it past some arbitrary moment in their lives.

I do get a sense of what is possible if LGBTQ kids hang in there until they get control of their own lives and can make their own decisions. As with all things in life, we are each responsible for what we do with the challenges and the time that is given to us. "It gets better (and it can get great)" is a modest message to build on.

The "It Gets Better" Project isn't a monolithic effort with a defined promise, it's an evolving community project saying that a better life, and even a great life, is possible and told through many voices, with many different experiences. I saw videos echoing your own experience about college and after, that things can still be hard, and how and why kids should hang in there.

We can't let the ache of present and past pains blind us to the goal of this project. The whole point is to give kids hope at a time when it's hard to see or feel it. To do that we have to talk about our lives and struggles, as so many already have, but also about the strength we've found and how they can find it too.

There is a solution to your discomfort. Make and submit your own message to give LGBTQ kids the hope, strength and will to make it into their future. Add your voice to the multitude. Encourage those with stories that haven't been told yet to tell theirs.

Your voice is part of the message too.

Oh Brian Murphy, fancy seeing you around these parts!

I'm in pretty much complete agreement with this. I've watched a number of these videos myself, and I don't see any blanket promises or golden cities on the horizon being offered. I see a variety of experiences being related, with the theme underlying all that eventually, these kids will take control of their own lives and they won't have to deal with this any more. And they're coming from all sorts of people, men and women of all colors, from all kinds of backgrounds.

I fear that the way in which people are presenting the gay narrative to these impressionable teens is this sense that their lives will inevitably improve. That's just not true. They can get better, definitely. But we have to be real and transparent about the gay community and its problems. (My emphasis)

Do you see the self-contradiction here? And frankly, when you're making a video that is an attempt to stop a gay teen from committing suicide, that's not the place to be dealing with "the gay community and its problems." (What on earth made you think that it was?) These videos are in part, at least, a way of letting these kids know there is a community, that they're not alone. I think that's much more important here than throwing the community's internal politics into the mix.

Nice try, but misdirected, I think.

"These videos are in part, at least, a way of letting these kids know there is a community, that they're not alone. I think that's much more important here than throwing the community's internal politics into the mix."

Hunter,

I think the point that Jason is making - and it's an excellent one - is that the gay community is not a "community" for everyone. For many, especially youth of colour, poorer youth, gender-non-conforming youth, trans youth, and other demographics that the "community" at large ignores, the way out is to reformulate their notion of community. In that sense, yes, absolutely, the internal politics of the "community" - the entity that defines itself as such to the world - absolutely has to be interrogated.

Hunter,

Projects like this are dangerous because they give the false hope of some sort of unified gay community, which is laughable at best. Do you really believe in this "gay community"?

What young folks REALLY need is a video project, where people talk about all the terrible things that they have heard come from a gay. If I had had this younger, maybe I would not have to have dealt with so many years of gay men refusing to use my chosen name or gender pronoun, because I would have known to just avoid them like the plague.

"The gay promise failed me. I went from being ostracized by my straight classmates in high school to being ostracized by many white gay men in an urban gay enclave."

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

I submitted a post that was similar to this, but I am not sure if it will be approved. But, if you are interested, it can be found here.

http://thissouthernfaggot.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/wait-does-it-get-better/#comments

First, my comment was intended as a reply to Brian Murphy, with whom I agree on this. Somehow I got switched over to a new comment window as I was logging on. Sorry if there was any confusion about my opening comment.

Second, I'm calling for some perspective. We're talking here about crisis intervention: "It Gets Better" is about giving kids who are being pushed to the limit something to hang on to. In response to Yasmin Nair's comment that "...the internal politics of the "community" - the entity that defines itself as such to the world - absolutely has to be interrogated," has it occurred to you that this project is not the place for that? The impulse to haul out all the dirty laundry is not going to serve any useful purpose here and would most likely prove quite damaging to the whole thrust of the project.

And for the "false hope" claimed by This Southern Faggot -- excuse me? I've watched a number of these videos, and none of them make the claim of a "unified gay community" and none of them promise that things are going to be perfect. What they do say is that there is life after high school and there are places these kids can belong -- just hang on long enough to get there.

Lets try a little empathy here -- not for us, but for these kids. Try looking at it from their viewpoint, and leave out the identity politics.

Nice article. Some of it is my doing (not getting out more), but I've realized that the Sunday brunch with mimosas is probably going never going to happen to me as a gay South Asian. But still, life is much better than in high school, so it does get better - certainly enough not to contemplate suicide anymore.

I'm sorry to hear about your college experience. More needs to be done to educate young people that not all gay men are harmless, friendly queens - they can be just as mean and dangerous as straight men.

It's not hard to have a Mimosa at brunch ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. Somehow you find an excuse to complain?

Take your friends to brunch - I'll pay.

Paige Listerud | October 3, 2010 3:37 PM

I think the critical point missing in the "It Gets Better" message is that ONCE YOU ARE AN ADULT, high school teen,you will have more freedom to direct your life than you do now. You will have a stronger say in what you choose to believe, who you hang with, what information you can gather about yourself and the LGBTQ community, and where you will spend your money and time. For the first time in your life, you will really be stepping out from under your family's wings and directing your life in the direction you want to go.

And you will need what Hemingway called a shock-proof shit detector. Not everything your family taught you about love and relationships and human sexuality was true; not everything the mainstream lesbian and gay community tells you about sexuality and gender is true. Particularly if you are bi and trans, you're going to need your SPSD to guide you through all the bad advice you can get from both the straight and the gay sides.

If there's a message about surviving our culture's fear and hatred of fluid sexuality and gender, it's that you become better at sorting out the bullshit from the real thing. You become better at defending yourself psychologically and physically against people who look down on you. You become better at gathering around you the people who really are your friends. You become stronger at demanding what it is that you really need to succeed.

Plus, even if Mom and Dad homophobically reject you when you first come out--years of openness can melt away their opposition. Continue on with your life and they will see the child they raised to adulthood who is a decent, caring person who brings great things to the world. They might also stop listening to the clergy who told them that queer is evil and that your queerness is all their fault.

"Plus, even if Mom and Dad homophobically reject you when you first come out--years of openness can melt away their opposition."

Fu*k em. People need to grow up - even parents. If a parent can't understand their own child because of religious-bigotry, they need to take care of themselves and find real, authentic people that will understand them and appreciate them. To that end, wasting time on parents is bad advice. Children shouldn't give their parents permission to be stupid or waste any time trying to persuade them.

I really don't know which videos you watched in the project, if in fact you watched any at all, but I didn't see any promises of rainbows and puppies.

I don't really know what to say about this seeming loathing of the gay community.

I'm a rural dyke. Never lived in the city and I never wanted to. I don't like cities. So I don't live in them. But I don't project all that onto the urban gay community...it's just not for me, so I choose not to live there.

As someone who grew up in a smallish town, it was being in the school itself that was hard, not the town. It was being trapped in classroom with bullies that was so stressful. Once I graduated and was no longer required to share the same space with the people who bullied me, it did get better. I had other problems sure, but it was still easier to deal with them after high school, 'cause those classrooms sucked the freaking life out of me.

Us poor rural queer folk aren't monolithic either. The gay community was there for me when I was a kid. Has it eroded in the last 15 years? I went back and checked, and the same LGBT youth group I went to is still there. And all data I've seen, the number of LGBT youth groups and SGAs have grown exponentially.

Where I live now, where my girlfriend grew up, there's now an SGA where there wasn't before. Everyone's experience is unique, and I don't want to dismiss anyone's experience. But show me the data the gay community is failing. And I'm not talking about social cliques 'cause I never gave a damn about those.

gregorybrown | October 4, 2010 11:40 AM

I've always been put off by the representations of gay,beautiful urban men living in fabulous places doing extremely interesting things. That was the case too long in novels and movies. I wanted to know about gay farmers and factory workers and guys who lived in small towns and coped well enough to be happy. Though it doesn't fit exactly, I've always preferred PARTING GLANCES to LONGTIME COMPANION. For many teens, having some more relatable examples of survival is vital. And maybe, for some, staying home to be the town Queer is an honorable status if they can find the support and internal strength to turn that scarlet Q into a guiding beacon and merciless spotlight.

DaveinNorthridge | October 4, 2010 1:05 AM

I'd like to know what you thought of the "It gets better" videos left by Asians, Jason. As for your essay, I'm not sure whether I should read it as sincere or as parody. Maybe there is no such thing as a gay community, but when somebody wants to do something they think will help people, shouldn't they be encouraged to do so?

Okay, I'm a privileged white man. I've been out since 1971 (I'm 60) and I didn't have any major complaints growing up because I had smart and funny to hide behind. I am, however, tired of "victim" postings like this one, especially from someone who thought the characters in Will and Grace represented real people instead of cartoon characters being played by real people.

What would you suggest we do about the suicide rate among gay men, Jason? Or do you think we should let things stay the way they are?

Bah, who's complaining? Go be happy, don't worry about me. All I'm saying is even persecuted subcultures have their own standards for fitting in. Don't take it personal.

The title of the video is not "It Gets Perfect" nor "It Gets Fabulous." It's "It Gets Better."
And it does get better, having little to do with "the Gay community" or "urban vs. rural (my own high school torment was suffered in suburban New York). It gets better because one discovers there's a much bigger world out there than the confines of the torture chamber that was high school. I suspect that this is true as well for non-gay as well as gay high school pariahs. I say hooray for Dan Savage for bringing this point home.

The most common response to critiques such as these that I've been reading is "Well something is better than nothing!" or "If we tell them about the 'gay community's' problems, that won't give them hope and then they'll kill themselves!" I disagree.


I'm not sure even I would have believed any of these videos. And I'm a gender-conforming white upper-middle class male. Most of these videos, especially the original video, are all about it getting better. I'm with This Southern Faggot when they say it might not get better, you might have to MAKE it better. Young people know that, we're insulting them by not telling them the truth. Why don't we share what we did to make it better?


When people say "It'll get better" often the message which is received is "I don't really believe or understand how bad it is for you" or "Poor you but I'm not going to do anything to help you."


Just wait, it's gets better and then you can have a hot husband, go skiing with your family, and walk your baby son around Paris... that's not in the future for lots of queer folks.


There's a way to provide young queer folks with hope, encouragement, and resources without relying on the false promises of the American dream to do so. Let's see more of that!

Brian, thank you thank you thank you for your comment. Thank you for checking and owning your privilege. This is a perfect example of how white/cis/privileged folk can and should engage in these conversations in a meaningful way without being dismissive of people's experiences. way to be.

Jason, seriously, you're dismissive.

Tyler Clementi was white. All his white cis privilege did not save him, nor made it easier for him apparently, because now he's dead.

You're alive, and that's a privilege. So own your privilege. Tyler Clementi is getting buried with his.

Dismissive of whom, exactly? I must have missed the part where Jason wrote that Clementi deservedto die because he was a white/cis/privileged guy? Or what, exactly, is this comment supposed to mean?

Seriously, people, is anyone even reading either the blog or responses?

By the way Yasmin, I am fairly certain that saying someone is being dismissive is completely different from saying someone said he deserved it. I don't know what game you're playing.

Again: Is anyone actually reading?? What does this even mean?

I don't know how I feel about this piece. I think the truth is that things get substantially better after high school. I got death threats all the time when I was in high school and I would say that the moment I was done with high school things got a lot better. I can't speak for people who live in less urban areas but I've spent most of my life in Milwaukee, WI, and now live in Chicago. I think that these IT GETS BETTER videos are cheesy but I don't disagree with the practical point: Things will get better. On a daily basis you will be the victim of less abuse. You will have more control over your life and may move somewhere where people are more tolerant. You will learn to cope with whatever awful people you have to deal with in your life, whether they be your family or otherwise. Most of the time your parents will come around and support you, even if they tell you every day you need to find a nice wife to settle down with.

Also, I think that the Us vs. Them stuff in the article here is a little off. Whether or not cosmopolitan areas in the north and west are gay paradises, they are much safer and more tolerant than small towns and the South.

What's really important, and what the author of this piece even indicates in his final act, is that we find ways to cope as we get out into the world and mature. There are safe havens and nurturing places and I think a kid in distress needs to know more about that than about whether everything that glitters is really gold.

I'm not sure I buy this either. Queer folks suffer from violence in urban areas too. In New York City (where I've lived for the past three years), queer and trans* folks are routinely assaulted and murdered.

I have experienced more anti-gay harassment in NYC than anywhere else in my life.

I appreciate Jason's attempt to engage a dialogue about good work that is possibly being done by "IT GETS BETTER," but to challenge the assumption that all of it is good/helpful.

We can disagree on it's merits and critique its efforts. That's how we can make work like this better.

And by all means defend/define all that this project is doing right. That is worth mentioning as well.

It's just odd to me that people can be so dismissive AND angry at anything that offers a different view from what is conventionally accepted. This sort of reactionary behavior is just really destructive... and frankly, pathetic.

Let's engage with each other, but let's also really try to listen to one another, please.

DaveinNorthridge | October 4, 2010 9:52 PM

Why do you think I wasn't listening, Ray? Were this a conversation in a bar, I would have said exactly what I posted. It does us no good to play the victim card, period, and I'm not saying this in any sort of assimilationist sense.

drownedlotuses | October 5, 2010 12:48 PM

The author doesn't play the victim card. He actively sought out a safe space for himself to flourish, and tells us that it "can" get better. Read carefully please.

Thanks for the great article, Jason.

I think your article was a measured, interesting critique of the It Gets Better Project. I think Dan is doing a good thing, but I think it's important for us to note the issues that you mention.

Here's to hoping that things, in fact, do get better in the queer community and the human community as a whole.

My experience as been similar, however I chose to respect myself and to live out of that respect as a gay man. As for encountering bigotry by those who are not of the same ethnicity, one must live proudly of one's personhood, no matter the locale or circumstances.

hahahachu thefluisonyou | October 4, 2010 4:08 PM

jason, thanks for the article, i agree with you immensely. Like yourself, i'm also a young gaysian. I've had thoughts of suicide from time to time. I watched some of the vids, especially the Dan&hisbleachedblondboyfiend's video. They're touching & compforting & well intentioned, but it does give this illusion that there's a gay shagri-la waiting for you after high-school in s.f/n.y/L.A and everyone is gonna hug you upon arrival. I see why the project is important, but we have to be honest about this purely proverbial "gay community" of ours. The threat of physical violence may not be as great coming from within this "community," but from my experience, emotional/psychic violence (rejection, exclusions, lonelyness, labeling, forced assimilations) are prevalent and can just be as dangerous. The veneer of "we have it much better now than before" denies our own present, rotten aspects of ourselves we refused to look at. If we want it to really "get better", we shouldn't only look at the "bigotted world yonder" as our outside enemy but also as a part of ourselves that we need to confront.

Compared to high school years, life gets better not because high school ends or because there is a wonderful "gay community" to plug into, life gets better because, if you embrace adulthood fully, you will learn that no one can take care of you better than you can --- you do it better than your parents did, you can do it better than the government can (if you choose to), and you can do it better than any spouse or lover that you might find. The quality or lack thereof of the "gay community" is not the issue, and you must not let yourself make it the issue.

And, usually, if there continue to be bullies in your life, you can eliminate them, minimize them one way or other, or just ignore them.

But never completely --- there will always be NOM's and AFA's in our political world, and every big city will continue to have some cops that hate queers --- but as a full adult you at least have the option of bullying them back, in a much better sense than you had in high school.

(Disclosure notice: Hey, I'm in my mid-50's and I still have dependency issues --- but at least I've figured out, I think, what a healthy adult is supposed to look like --- and thus, do as I say, not as I do.)

"There's a way to provide young queer folks with hope, encouragement, and resources without relying on the false promises of the American dream to do so. Let's see more of that!"

Brian, this zero-sum-game type of thinking drives me crazy. Can't one do both? Can't one show Dan Savage's video AND have an outreach support group for gay youth at your high school at the very same time?! That's what we do in my high school support group.

"This is a perfect example of how white/cis/privileged folk can and should engage in these conversations in a meaningful way without being dismissive of people's experiences. way to be."

Jason, as you luxuriate in your virtuous world of un-privilege, are you not aware that privilege is a continuum? Where do you imagine you stand, as an Asian-American of your station in life, when compared to the gay students at my school? They are 95% black, overwhelmingly Haitian and other Caribbean immigrants, many with incredibly challenging economic and family situations. You want to hazard a guess as to how they'd see a person like you? Hint: to them, you'd be the elite of the elite. Also, is there anything more dismissive than the expression "white/cis/privileged"? Is it helpful to respond to being sterotyped and dismissed by being even more stereotyping and dismissive in return?

"Brian, this zero-sum-game type of thinking drives me crazy. Can't one do both? Can't one show Dan Savage's video AND have an outreach support group for gay youth at your high school at the very same time?! That's what we do in my high school support group."

You could rephrase and turn it around: can't one do both - critique Savage AND acknowledge that some of these videos might be helpful, which this blog was careful to do?

I don't know what you mean as an Asian-American of his station of life, unless you're also buying into the stereotype that every Asian-American male is a rich technogeek. Even if Jason is such an Asian-American male (and I have reason to doubt it), how does this invalidate the critique? Does this mean that ONLY poor Black people - or your students - have a right to critique Dan Savage and other white gay males for their privilege? Really, is this the kind of shallow public discourse we've fallen into?

To say that there are some people who are "white/cis/privileged" is to articulate the fact that, yes, there are some people who are such - and Jason's pretty clear that THOSE are the people who need to check their privilege. How is this him declaring that all white people are such? To then turn that around and insist it is a stereotype is to betray one's own sense of culpability.

What Yasmin said: this isn't a zero-sum game, rather just the opposite. We're not stuck with Savage's version of "It Gets Better" or nothing at all. We can add to it and that's what lots of folks are doing (here's one example: http://neo-prodigy.livejournal.com/865403.html).

And I am white, cisgender, and pretty privileged. It's not dismissive, it's just a reality.

@ Yasmin "can't one do both - critique Savage AND acknowledge that some of these videos might be helpful, which this blog was careful to do?"

Yes, one can, but why? Why critique Savage? He did something he feels is positive. You're not completely pleased with his video? Fine, make your own that's more to your liking and release it. Jason should do the same. High school support groups can use all the materials they can get. Take a trip. Visit my high school and speak. Bring Jason. Do something constructive and practical instead of nit-picking someone else's contribution on a gay-interest blog that relatively few people read, least of all high school students.

"I don't know what you mean as an Asian-American of his station of life..." I mean that he's an Asian male living an independent life who feels free to write a column on a gay-interest blog. Is that clear enough? Do you have any idea how esoteric and remote that appears to the kids I teach?

"...how does this invalidate the critique? Does this mean that ONLY poor Black people - or your students - have a right to critique Dan Savage and other white gay males for their privilege?"

No, you missed the point entirely. It means that anyone's need to critique based on the "other's" supposed privilege is often self-deluding and might best be avoided altogether. The point is that the Black and Latino kids in our group don't critique Dan Savage at all. They think he's cool. YOU critique Dan Savage. Think about that.

This whole discussion reminds me of the parable of the blindfolded people touching different parts of the elephant and describing what they feel, all of them totally at odds. You focus on privilege, so you see the video and see privilege. I see it as a man who was suicidal as a teenager because I dreaded never having children, but who is now the father of an 11 year old. I watch the video and I see two men who were tormented as teens and thought they had no future who fell in love and got married and had a kid. They happen to be white and well-off, but if the video were made in the community of gay parents in my area, they could just as well be Black, Latino, Asian or one of a number of other ethnicities, some well-off, some not well-off at all. Sounds good to me!

Savage is not some private citizen quietly making a video that suddenly got a lot of hits on youtube. He's a gay man with a considerable amount of influence in both the straight and gay worlds. Which is to say -it's perfectly proper to publicly critique the politics of such a public figure - just as it is PERFECTLY PROPER to critique any politician for his or her political campaigns (and I'm sure you're aware that Savage is not popular in either the trans or people of colour communities). Critiquing public figures goes on all the time here. Public figures bring about public consequences, which is why we watch them more closely.

As for your comment "The point is that the Black and Latino kids in our group don't critique Dan Savage at all. They think he's cool. YOU critique Dan Savage. Think about that." That's the most condescending statement you could make. Lots of people, especially young straight (and your students might also be queer) people, think Savage is pretty cool - mostly because of his frank talk around sex. Heck, even I think that his column on sex does a decent job and has at least brought about some kind of public conversation around the same. But he should stick to the column, because he puts his foot in his mouth every time he takes on any part of gay politics or culture.

Your students might think differently of Savage if they actually met someone who discussed his views on, say, people of colour and Prop 8 or transgender issues. And they probably will, once they start reading more widely than the material given to them by their gay teacher.

That being said, this constant jockeying for authenticity via your students is not an effective argumentative strategy. You show me your Black and Latino kids? I see yours and raise you MINE. See? Useless. Your students, no matter how great and complex they are, don't represent the entirety of young Black and Latino experience, and it's insulting to them to suggest that.

I'll agree with your point about people seeing different things - but that's not the point of the blog here. This happens every time a POC raises a critique that involves being critical of the dominant worldview - instantly, that critique is reduced to being nothing more than a personal attack (in this case, poor Dan Savage). Followed by a jostling for oppression olympics or an invoking of greater authenticity via comments like "MY students who are Black and Latino" or "MY neighborhood, where everyone is authentically POC, would have no problem identifying with this or, the one I'm sure someone will raise, inevitably: "My boyfriends have all been Black and none of THEM had a problem with Savage etc."

Jason's work is a critique, not a personal attack. But the comments here are refusing to engage it in the spirit of a critique and, instead, personalising everything in an explicit or implicit effort to defuse the force of the critique.

Clearly, that tactic is not working.

"and I'm sure you're aware that Savage is not popular in either the trans or people of colour communities)." You criticize me for jockeying for authority by using my students as an example (yes, they're queer, by the way), and then you do the same thing. Does the "people of color community" have an official spokesperson so that you know what they all feel about Dan Savage? How many of these millions have you personally spoken with? Utterly irritating acronyms and expressions such as "POC's" and "white/cis/privileged" are essentially disrespectful to people in both supposed groups. As GrrrlRomeo so cogently said, these "categories" are made up of "... actual people with unique individual experiences."

"categories" are made up of "... actual people with unique individual experiences."

Yes, and none of us can claim to speak to each and every single one of them. My point here is simple: this is a critique - it's not a person by person run-through to make sure every individual's life is accounted for. This is not a group of people sitting in a basement and sharing their life experiences. It's a blog post and public discourse has different demands.

As for Savage's politics, they've been the subject of wide-ranging critiques in the queer blogosphere, and they are part of the point, as we've all said here numerous times.

But go right ahead, keep making this about some personal vendetta about Savage and keep pretending that terms like POC and cisgender/white/privileged are irrelevant. The politics of that are shining through.

You won, Eli. There. Jason is wrong. All white gay men like Dan Savage are always right. No piddling POC should dare critique his politics unless they have spoken to EVERY OTHER PERSON OF COLOUR TO VERIFY THE TRUTH OF THEIR EXPERIENCE. And they should double-check with you and your students to make ABSOLUTELY SURE.

And, of course, you can continue to ignore the fact that Jason's critique extends far beyond matters of race.

There. Take that back to your students and my best to them. I'm sure, with your guidance, they will travel the world over to record all SIX BILLION experiences before daring to write a single paper about anything. Textbooks? History? Learned opinion? Pshaw. Who needs that when we've got authentic experiences to inform us?

@ Yasmin Is this the blog equivalent of performance art? The sneering, the upper-case letters (internet screaming), the contempt, the sarcasm, the drama? Worst of all, the apparently deliberate miscontruing of what I've said and especially of what I haven't said. And to earn this, all I've done is challenge your orthodoxies and that, apparently, is enough. Your anger is not required to defend Jason and his critique, since Jason writes intelligently and artfully and has no need of your defence. You clearly have your own agenda.

I never said or even remotely implied that all white men like Dan Savage are always right. I said that I liked his video and thought it was positive. I find it hard to believe that your total misrepresentation of this point is innocent.

I never expressed or remotely implied a contempt for textbooks, history or learned opinion, or remotely implied that my life experience somehow trumps those things. All of this is completely (and not innocently) of your own invention, exposing a desire of yours to make ideological sense out of a person expressing views like mine and then to dismiss him. Unless you're implying that your attachment to ethnic jargon represents learned opinion, and then,yes, I take exception.

I do not remotely believe that the work I do makes my opinion the least bit more "authentic" (quotes yours) than that of any of the dozens of others who've commented here. But I have spent every day of the last 26 years of my professional life working with high school students, 20 of those as a support person for gay kids (a tough thing for a kid to be in an inner-city school), and that is worth something. You've already sneered at my experience, so I don't expect you to admit that, but it is nonetheless.

You again misrepresent my opinion about terms such as POC's and white/cis/privileged. I don't find them irrelevant and never said so. I find them obnoxious and condescending. "People of Color" is useful only so far as describing those people in a majority-white society who aren't ("non-white" was the term in the unpleasant not too long ago). They are all subjected to some degree to the prejudice and ignorance of the larger white society. After that, the commonality crumbles. East Asians will experience prejudice, but not the religious prejudice experienced by some South Asians, which itself is different from the experience of young Black men, who have people cross the street when they're walking down it and shopkeepers follow them in stores. And often the shopkeepers following them are other "POC's". Even that is a different experience from what the Sioux jokingly refer to as being pulled over for DWI, Driving While Indian. On the positive side of things, how can the immensely rich and varied cultural heritages of all the minority peoples of America be tossed into a bin called "POC's"? Has anyone who uses the term freely and authoritatively actually tried to ascertain whether the tens of millions of people being thus described, outside of a small number of progressive theorists, even like the term or care to be referred to that way? Perhaps they would find it presumptuous and even nonsensical? Yes, Yasmin, I'm asking you. A few decades back, well-meaning white people decided to start calling Indians Native Americans, which seemed like a much more respectful term. Except that it turned out that a huge number of Indians hated the term and preferred to call themselves Indians, a fact that Sherman Alexie often jokes about in his books and movies (Sherman Alexie is an Indian writer who sometimes writes about gay Indians). You see, the well-meaning white people didn't bother to find out enough about Indians to know this.

And now I'll take the superior advice of Hunter way at the top of the coment thread, who urged that we not air our dirty laundry but think about the kids instead. He's right, and so I'll shut the hell up (really!), and hope that this week is a better week in American for gay kids than last week was.

"Has anyone who uses the term freely and authoritatively actually tried to ascertain whether the tens of millions of people being thus described, outside of a small number of progressive theorists, even like the term or care to be referred to that way?"

No, Eli, you're right, you're so absolutely right. Soooooo sorry. While we were daring to formulate such terms within our communities and yes, shock, even academic discourses (dirty words, I know, how DARE we be analytic and apply scholarly terms) we neglected to track down the TENS OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE thus described and ask their permission.

And I cannot thank you enough for explaining the nuances of racial and ethnic identification and prejudice. I sit at your feet, eager to learn, like the wee, tremulous, student that I am. Of course, my lived reality or years of study count for nothing - I'm so grateful you are here to enlighten me. Sherman Alexie? Never heard of him before until this very minute. I'm so glad I heard about this multiple-award-winning, published-literally-everywhere, world-famous writer and public intellectual from you, oh great enlightened one. I shall now seek out all his work and come back to be tested by you.

Am I being sarcastic? Hell, yes. Angry? No. You provide me too much amusement; you're exactly a case study of everything Jason and the rest of us have been writing about.

Heck, I already told you: You win. See? You're the (presumably) white man who's always right. Please forgive my presumptiousness in daring to question your thoughtful analysis and kind insistence that I contact all POCs to make sure they're okay with the terms I use to describe them.

Dude, seriously. You don't get it do you? Luckily, your words here provide startling clarity into your racial politics (regardless of whether you are white or actually a POC or some combination thereof) and have amply proven my points.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention this? You WIN! Now go ahead and provide another or many other long, solipsistic, arrogant diatribes to prove that you can put this little ignorant woman of colour in her place (that would be me) - or reveal that you are actually the descendant of a Sioux warrior and therefore can speak with complete authority about all POC experience, mine included, or whatever. You know you want to.

Either that or your friends (or your nom de plumes) will arise to your defense. I think the rest of us are done here. Thanks for proving our points so bloody brilliantly. And, oh, yes, nice touch about Jason being so much more artful than me etc. You know, AFTER having been so dismissive about his original post because he wasn't as authentic as your students etc. for all the world to see (the thing about comment threads? Comments remain as a record of your words). Divide and conquer is how we, cough, POCs like to refer to that strategy. Epic fail is another way to describe it.

You. Win.


[quote]I must have missed the part where Jason wrote that Clementi deserved to die because he was a white/cis/privileged guy?[/quote]

White/cis is a category with actual people with unique individual experiences.

I must've missed the part where I said Jason said Clementi deserved to die. I'm pretty certain I didn't say that so don't put words in my mouth. The fact is, he still killed himself so maybe all that white cis privilege isn't all it's cracked up to be.

[quote]It's this kind of self-congratulatory back-patting that the gay community is so want to do that I question: the notion that the gay community has it all figured out; that gay folk are so morally, culturally, and politically superior to the backwater, cousin-marrying, neanderthals of small town America; that once you leave high school and become a full member of the gay community, you will be accepted with open arms and you too will get to go out dancing every night and gossip about your latest fling over mimosas at Sunday brunch.[/quote]

WHAT IS THIS? This is a stereotype. And maybe the problem is naive people believing this stereotype.

The gay community is broken because most of the people that make it up are fucked up. Jason had a bad time in college after high school and I didn't even go to college. I ended up working three jobs and sleeping in my car after high school.

I am not shocked that some gay people are racist just as I am not shocked that some Black or Asian people are homophobic. I never had any illusions that gay people were somehow better than anyone else. The notion that minorities are automatically going to be less biased towards other minorities because they've "been there" is simply false. I don't think anyone has really ever made that claim. People just assume that one minority will be empathetic towards other minorities because they're both minorities, but that has never been the case.

The It Gets Better Project is a crowd sourcing project. That means anyone, Asian, Black, rural, trans, anyone can contribute to it. If ya don't relate to Dan's story, then you just submit your own. That's what I don't understand about this critique...I don't get the point of it when in fact the project is not limited to only white cis gay men. That is just one view out of the 400+ videos. This is the change. This is LGBT people unfiltered by any organization.

The main reason it gets better is that you get stronger. But is that a privilege? I don't know what it is. Maybe being less susceptible to mental illness? My Uncle hanged himself when I was 20. I was a dyke in poverty, and he was a straight, white man with depression.

There's more than white cis privilege. Like my Internet connection that got disconnected this morning and I had to beg to make a payment. But I've still got it, and a lot of people don't so they're totally cut off from even an online community.

"the notion that the gay community has it all figured out..." - a notion is not a stereotype, it's a notion, a prevalent idea, that's all Jason is pointing out. He's not creating a stereotype of his own.

"The gay community is broken because most of the people that make it up are fucked up." - I think that's exactly what Jason is saying as well.

As for making his own videos, I think he's already said that he sees the good this project can do. But the fact that we should critique Dan Savage does not invalidate the entire project or its possible potential. The fact that people are getting into such a huff about others critiquing Dan Savage says a lot about the inability to see the critique as a critique.

No one is calling for an oppression olympics here. Rather than turn this into a festival of personal stories (we're all queers here, presumably, and such an event would never end - it's fair to say that we've all endured a great deal to get to this day), why not simply accept, as someone pointed out above, that Jason and others simply disagree with the politics of Savage's personal video and are concerned that those not overdetermine the entire project?

There are already some interesting videos out of this that don't follow Savage's line - fine, yes, but that doesn't wipe out the need for Jason's critique.

It gets better, it just doesn't get perfect. But when you are out of school and on your own, you can get involved with lgbt activism, to help make things better. When you are bullied in school, it is so overwhelming that such involvement seems/is impossible.

"The need for Jason's critique?" Precisely what does his pissy whining bring to the party?

Dan Savage saw something tragic, looked for a way to hopefully help and potentially avoid tragedy.

What exactly has Jason done, except whine about how poorly he has been treated by the LGBT community which, if his "essay" is any example of his own outlook, is NO surprise.

So Jason, what is YOUR solution to the crisis? Or do you prefer stand on the sideline and throw bricks at those trying to help?

"What exactly has Jason done, except whine about how poorly he has been treated by the LGBT community which, if his "essay" is any example of his own outlook, is NO surprise."

First, it's a critique. And, second, he's not required to have his resume vetted by you, "OtherJeff," who can't even provide his real name or occupation. Third, if you can prove that his supposedly NOT doing anything, however you define that, somehow makes his critique invalid, go ahead. But you can't, and you won't - for the simple reason that ad hominem attacks are inherently ineffectual.

Come up with better arguments or just, hell, come up with some arguments, or not at all.

Joseph Peterson | October 5, 2010 1:13 AM

Jason,
I like several other readers have found your post problematic for several reasons but I acknowledge that it is a well-thought out post and one that is personally emotionally charged and so deserves a response that is the same. First I’ll outline my own intersections of privilege and oppression to state my own position and then will challenge several of your conclusions.

I am a white, cisgendered, gay man. I come from a lower class background growing up in a trailer park then blue-collar area of Greeley, CO a midsized town mainly employed by a call center and a meat packing plant. I’m a first generation college student going to school only 45 minutes away from home. I agree with your conclusions on the sexism, racism, transphobia and biphobia of the queer community and believe in often addressing these issues. This conclusion, especially on Project Bilerico is not that controversial, but whether Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project promotes these same structural forces is.

First, you open with the claim the message of the videos appear to be, “reminding queer youth that high school ends and the bullying stops; you'll move to an urban gay enclave, meet the man of your dreams, and have a wonderful, sparkly, magical life. Maybe even get married, because, you know that's what all the other gays are doing.” To address this I believe we should begin with Savage’s own words on the purpose of this project. “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.”

This at its core is not promising anything that you implied. It only implies that things get better. Like you yourself made the point of saying, “I fear that the way in which people are presenting the gay narrative to these impressionable teens is this sense that their lives will inevitably improve. That's just not true. They can get better, definitely. But we have to be real and transparent about the gay community and its problems.” This as Hunter pointed out, is a contradiction. At the project stated goals said, those engaged in the project are saying it gets better, not perfect. Dan and Terry in their video alluded to the fact that life is messy, but again in Dan’s own words, “we talk mostly about all the meaningful things in our lives now—our families, our friends (gay and straight), the places we've gone and things we've experienced—that we would've missed out on if we'd killed ourselves then.”

This project is to tell queer stories to queer youth. Using technology, we’re able to provide oral histories of our community. Dan and Terry, like you said are amazingly privileged, but they are telling their story. It’s no more ridiculous for a queer kid to hear this story then a kid of color to hear the story of Oprah. Or a young girl to hear the story of Hilary Clinton. Few of us will be able to live this life but the stories are powerful.

I feel I have to address the end part of your quote I used above, “But we have to be real and transparent about the gay community and its problems.” We do, and I (like several of the other dissenters) encourage you to submit a video openly telling your story and the way your life is now. However as basic public speaking classes teach, audience adaptation is key. This project’s stated audience is queer youth thinking about suicide, so whether open hostility to the community they belong to by nature of their self or forced identification is appropriate is fully up to you. I don't believe so, but people of conscience often disagree. I will agree that to many, some of these stories may ring hollow. Perhaps, the messier examination of a life that is good and awful at the same time will ring more authentic to them. This may be a powerful strategic choice then.

“It has become clear to me that the gay promise which Dan Savage espouses only applies to some people. And that if it doesn't apply to you, you have to make your own space.” This I agree is a point that is undoubtedly true. Dan’s piece again invites the possibilities to discuss and tell the stories of intersectionalities of identities. “I'd like to add submissions from other gay and lesbian adults—singles and couples, with kids or without, established in careers or just starting out, urban and rural, of all races and religious backgrounds.” Here is where we can critique Dan for his exclusion of bisexuals and transgenders from our community. However, the main thrust is still an invitation of our community and all the diversity we contain to submit their own personal stories. Mine will include my white male cis privilege. My story however will also include growing up with my semi-truck driver father, and his gruff unyielding love for me. My story has to include the days of playing in the trailer park and of free and reduced lunches. Stories are complex and great mediums.

Dan told his, I’m working on mine, and many others in our community (white persons and persons of color) are telling theirs. You ended your piece with,”Yes, the It Gets Better Project is a great thing. We need to be reaching out to queer youth to instill in them a sense of hope and knowledge that "there is a place for us," to quote Dan Savage's West Side Story reference. But we also have to be aware and critical of the very real problems and deficiencies the current gay community has in its inability to make that gay promise accessible to everyone who falls under the rainbow banner.” I agree, but also feel there is a time and place for this. Dan ended his piece with, “They need to know that it gets better. Submit a video. Give them hope.” I say some stories will meet both goals, others maybe only one. The important thing about this project is to give them hope.

I apologize about the length, I felt it was the only way to appropriately address your points.

drownedlotuses | October 5, 2010 1:24 PM

Joesph, the troubling part of your critique is this one sentence: "However as basic public speaking classes teach, audience adaptation is key." I don't really know where to begin about how this problematizes everything else you have stated about the "community" being open to all voices if everyone has to "adapt" to this "audience." Therein lies the problem that Jason has noted in his piece...

Joseph Peterson | October 6, 2010 11:12 PM

The audience of this particular campaign is queer teens struggling to accept themselves, being bullied in school, and/or contemplating suicide. Do I even need to go into how this particular audience is going to have different needs than say if you were talking to me, a proud queer activist? The audience needs are going to be different then an aging LGBTQ population too. It's the purpose of the campaign and the audience its directed at that the rhetoric needs to be adapted to. The statement you draw attention to still stands.

I'm still not disputing our community has its problems, it does. We should address them. The question is, is this the right forum to address them?

Maybe Jason and Dan are saying the same thing. It *does* get better when you surround yourself with supportive people. For Dan, that may be the "League of Fashionable Culture Generators; Enlightened, Accepting Queers". It just took Jason a bit longer to find the queer Asian community service section.

We all make the mistake from time to time of assuming we live in a one size fits all world. It certainly would be easier at times. It seems we only get hypercritical about the details when it is our pants that don't fit.

I just find it ironic that Dan Savage is the man to do this project and to claim he means for it to reach all LGBTQ teens... all except the bisexual ones he doesn't really believe in, of course.

In some of the press I have read on this (that seem to be quoting a press release I suppose) they say the initiative is aimed at "gay, lesbian and transgender" teens. But no mention of bi teens, except as the B extrapolated from LGBT when it is thrown in later as a synonum for 'gay'.

I think this is not a nitpick but really touches on a key point in what Jason Tseng is saying: the 'community' is not going to be 'better' for everyone in the same way. Bi people get it but good from the gay communities in a lot ways -- Savage himself claims we just need to "date each other" and basically just fuck off.

I just wonder what it must be like for a bi teen to watch some of those videos and, God forbid!, come across the media statements I have seen that omit "bisexual" from the list of those who are to be helped by this campaign.... if they did read those, they sure would not feel that their torment and anxieties will one day 'get better' if right now they cannot even be named as human beings worthy of being helped today!

Anyway... that's my two cents.

I think there's a lot of good in the post and a lot of great responses once the initial, knee-jerk, "OMG someone is discussing race/racism CANT DEAL CANT DEAL CANT DEAL" comments are scrolled past.

And I'm late to the party so I'll just add that I'm particularly troubled by the "You get to grow up and leave your terrible home town behind" message, and not because it isn't true but because there are lots of people who do that. Michelle Marzullo posted about that a while ago, about how lots of us construct our own little bubble after we leave high school so that we don't have to face those who would dehumanize us.

There's a book out on the subject called Stayin' Alive (forget the author) that I've been wanting to get my hands on, about how the narrative changed in the 70's. Before a hero was someone who saved the small town and the small people who lived in it, afterwards a hero was someone who left the small town and small people behind and made it big themselves. That seems to be the message of a lot of these videos - leave the rubes behind and you'll be "better."

And we end up leaving a lot of our people behind when we do that too. We're just now noticing after the recent spat of teen suicides - it gets better, maybe, but what are we doing to make sure that it's never that bad in the first place for the next generation?

Dan Savage posted something on the Slog (the blog of The Stranger, the weekly rag in Seattle I miss so dearly) that wasn't in response to this post, but to some emails he's received "from angry people insisting that telling kids it gets better someday isn't good enough" (Savage's italics). Here's the link: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2010/10/04/it-gets-better-a-programming-note

I think the response he gives can be adequately applied to this post: He's directing the It Gets Better Project at kids who are desperate and who feel they have nobody to turn to and no way out except by killing themselves.

I think Jason makes some very good points, particularly about the continued homophobia in college and racism in the gay community.

But to be honest, a "critique" of something that's designed to give a 13-year-old kid a tiny glimmer of hope that might convince him to take dad's revolver out of their mouths strikes me as sort of like when Tom Coburn criticized TV broadcast of "Schindler's List" because of the nudity.

Obviously, things don't get better for everybody. They don't get better if your parents throw you out at the age of 15 after catching you with another boy, and you have to sell yourself to survive, only to wind up with HIV and a meth addiction. But I think the whole point is that they CAN get better, and very frequently do; but considering that this is for kids who may be in a state of utter despair, perhaps a bit of puffery is necessary to at least give them some hope.

I think it's a brilliant idea.

Lots of queer PoC have posted. Genderqueers of all sorts. Millionaire, shop keep, unemployed.

It gets better---big picture--if you can hang on long enough to get connected to a community.

Not the entire queer community A commmunity.