I contributed my voice to the "It Gets Better" project.
I know there's some guff coming toward this project from all comers - both inside and outside the community - but I think it's a worthy cause if for nothing else than creating an easily searchable, public repository of LGBT people talking frankly about the lives they live. Not the negative issues, or the headline-worthy discrimination we face in our lives - just a flat-out affirmation of "I made it, and you can too."
Are there still problems in this world for LGBT people? Absolutely! Are there some cynical remarks that could be made about celebrities just now realizing that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender kids are bullied to suicide daily? Sure, if you want to go that route. I'm not here to throw stones, though.
Just because we don't have a perfect world doesn't mean we can ignore the needs of people trying to make do in an imperfect world. No matter how loud we scream, or how much we work toward change, the fact remains that our community has to find a way to live happy, productive lives in a culture that tries to take that away from us. I love being active for LGBT rights - especially in the transgender realm - but that doesn't mean I'm not a human being who wants for friends, family, and happiness. In the shuffle of indignation toward the people in power and the identification of our world as a hotbed of anti-gay bigotry, we often forget to mention that our lives are still worth living. This is a serious error on the part of our community, as far as I see it.
We have a duty to pay forward the favors that were paid to us during our own coming-out processes. The people we met who pointed us to resources, the chosen family we gained when our blood relatives tossed us out the door, the helping hand of a matron who's been there and seen that and knows friendly places to call. These resources, networks, and bonds are often hidden under the woodwork of the LGBT community - one that has been trained to hide lest they face the wrath of decency groups, anti-gay policies, and potential violence in places where we "don't belong." Growing into our societal roles as proud, self-reliant LGBT people requires us to find a path into this secret community and network, oftentimes without the help of others. This process is never easy.
Besides, we can't lie to ourselves. The door into LGBT community isn't likely to land us all in Care-a-Lot. Being LGBT is a hardening experience, often fraught with bullying, ostracization, and rejection from members of family and social communities. Even with the tight-knit bonds of a vibrant community we still bear the scars of tribulations we survived. The key word here is "survived" - we may have been cut deep, but with the help of a community that says "hold on and things will get better" we managed to heal our wounds, becoming stronger in the process. We cannot find this lifesaving community if we do not know it exists. We cannot survive if we cannot see the scars of others healed over, the happiness they hold apparent in their gentle smiles, intense eyes.
Perfect or no, this project will save lives. That alone puts "It Gets Better" out of the purview of critique from me. The fact that this optimistic activism has become a ubiquitous phenomenon also makes it one of the most impactful events I've seen in the LGBT movement in the past few years - so much so that even Conservative Christian denominations are mulling the question of anti-gay bullying in their churches, their communities, and their lives. Theological sins are one thing, but seeing both the bottom-line effects of their words and the pain their words cause in the lives of their neighbors is hard to ignore.
"It Gets Better" isn't about pointing fingers. It's about flipping the normal script to encourage empowerment. Given the choice between throwing stones and building up lives, I'll take the shovel every time.