Since launching last year, the "It Gets Better" campaign has become an Internet sensation, and it's made positive self-acceptance and standing up against bullying the cool thing to do. Of course, that doesn't mean it's got a monopoly on positive LGBT-themed message videos. A few other smaller campaigns have launched, piggybacking off of the "It Gets Better" success.
One of these is the Straight But Not Narrow campaign, which made its first appearance online in February 2011. The project has shifted its focus audience away from LGBT youth and has instead sought to reach out to young straight people. The campaign features several videos of young, straight actors speaking out about why they support LGBT rights. The tagline of the earliest videos is that the video participants are just "guys talking to guys about guys who like guys."
"We wanted to come at the bullying issue from a different angle," André Pochon, project manager of SBNN, told The Bilerico Project about the campaign. "To be realistic and honest, we wanted to see where this problem was coming from. It's coming, primarily, from young, straight people. This campaign shows the people who are usually causing the issues - young, straight boys - who are ready to help and stand up for [LGBT youth]."
But Straight But Not Narrow is not viewed as an alternative to "It Gets Better." Rather, by putting forth straight allies speaking openly about their support for LGBT people, the SBNN team is looking to complement IGB. SBNN's videos are intentionally lighter and sometimes funny, focused on making the bullying issue a non-issue entirely.
"Hopefully, the combination of those messages will make a real impact," Pochon said.
SBNN has debuted videos from Glee hunk Cory Monteith, The Kids Are All Right (and up-and-coming Hunger Games) star Josh Hutcherson, and Avan Jogia, a relatively low-profile actor who founded the campaign. Jogia took his idea to Pochon and Heather Wilk, who co-own Cause Creative Marketing. Pochon himself is a member of the LGBT community, but all other participants in the project, he said, are straight, echoing the campaign's mission.
Now, the project is catching on, and while the SBNN is still soliciting video contributions from actors and other young stars, increasingly the entertainment figures are finding SBNN. One young actress, Erin Sanders of Nickelodeon's Big Time Rush, contacted SBNN after her fans on Twitter encouraged her to join the campaign.
"It's been a really easy sell to people," Pochon said. "They've been quick to get on board and start supporting the project."
Girls Talking to Girls About Girls Who Like Girls
While the project began as a male-focused initiative thus far, SBNN will be branching out to girls soon. While the project will still be featuring men in videos - like two stars of HBO's Game of Thrones - girls will be increasingly incorporated. Zelda Williams - Robin Williams' daughter - and Sanders will be some of the first girls to participate in the video component of SBNN.
It's a calculated move by SBNN to better achieve their mission.
"The young, straight guy may sometimes be harder to change the mindset of," Pochon said. But the reality is that there are girls facing the same things. We don't want to ever not include all of the youth who are having challenges and facing this. The real message of Straight But Not Narrow is trying to encourage youth to be whoever they are - no matter what they are. Whether you're straight or gay or something in between, that's the basic message that we're always going to be trying to get across."
SBNN will also seek to solicit support from other young celebrities who aren't in the acting industry - athletes, musicians, and otherwise.
"The young actors that we have are awesome, and they're pretty much up for anything, but they may not be getting to all of the types of guys out there. We want to make sure that we can reach all kinds of different groups."
Taking It Offline
So far SBNN has remained largely an online, PSA-focused initiative. But Pochon said that the ultimate goal is to move beyond cyberspace and start interacting with members of the youth community in person.
The team is gearing up this fall for the new school year. They hope to host assemblies, speak with students from across the country, and further personalize the concept of being "Straight But Not Narrow."
SBNN sells merchandise, but as a self-funded endeavor, Pochon and Wilk aren't turning a profit. Still, they say that their costs are confined to shooting expenses and, potentially, travel fees.
Pochon said that hearing from young people who have been impacted by the project is a significant motivator.
He said: "It's encouraging how many young people make it a point to step forward and tell us how it's really helped them and their sets of friends."
It's always terrific to see support for the LGBT community from straight people. We like straight dudes who like dudes who like other dudes, too.