Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Ultra PC oppressed queer studies majors process “It Gets Better” to death

Since I pointed out the It Gets Better project (visit It Gets Better on YouTube and Facebook) a couple weeks ago, there have been tons of videos made and uploaded to the project, from all kinds of people telling their stories about growing up gay (or growing up straight but perceived as gay) and telling gay kids facing bullying today that life does get better.

Trevor Project logo You’d think that most people would approve of the message being put out to bullied queer kids contemplating suicide by the It Gets Better project—a message that there is hope, that life gets better if only they can hang in there, that there are resources available now to them (a great resource mentioned by many It Gets Better videographers is the Trevor Project).

Well, a lot of people do approve of the message, but some people do not. One person in particular, a cis (if you’re born female and identify as female, you’re “cisgender” or “cis”, as opposed to transgender or trans) lesbian who goes by the moniker “femmephane” when blogging, posted a lengthy criticism of It Gets Better. Apparently stories from me and other “classist, privileged, gay folk” are of no value to kids facing anti-gay bullying, at least according to femmephane. Dan’s and his husband Terry’s story of having met in a bar makes femmephane want to “vomit” (gay bars are bad because they’re “codified queer-space, restricted to 21+, w/ alcohol”). And gay men who can afford to go to Paris should shut up and let others talk.

Femmephane’s not alone in her disapproval of Dan Savage and/or It Gets Better. One woman “cannot separate her feelings about Dan Savage” and his “history of virulent fat hatred, misogyny, disablism, and classism” “from the [It Gets Better] campaign itself.” Another woman thinks It Gets Better is just something “dismissive” that people “talk[ing] over” suicidal teens’ heads say to make themselves (the grownups, not the teens) feel better without actually helping any “live LGBTQI [gotta use that PC acronym when you’re talking about queers] children.”

Watch this diverse group of kids from Youth Pride Chorus testify that “It Gets Better”
These critics seem not to care that there are people from many backgrounds who like the message of the It Gets Better project, including a diverse group of queer kids from New York City’s Youth Pride Chorus. Don’t like what overly-privileged European American cis gay men have to say? Don’t like grown ups talking over the heads of LGBTQI youth? Well, look a little further. One criticism you cannot fairly make about the It Gets Better project is that its videos do not come from a widely diverse group of people.

A criticism of It Gets Better that is valid, however, is that It Gets Better is not enough. There’s more we can do now about anti-gay and other kinds of bullying. Make It Better Project Dan Savage addresses that in a followup SLOG post, pointing out that “there’s nothing about this project that prevents people from doing more.” And there’s another project recently launched to do just that, the “Make It Better Project, ” a project that “gives youth the tools they need to make their schools better now.” These folks are collecting stories on YouTube too, but they’re also encouraging kids to start Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools now, encouraging people to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act and organizing a Week of Action (going on right now) from October 5–11.

So compare and contrast, folks. On the one side you’ve got Dan Savage and the It Gets Better folk trying to reach out to suicidal teens and tell them life’s worth living and the Make It Better Folk and GLSEN and the ACLU working to make life better now for queer and other kids. On the other side you’ve got people using a bunch of rhetoric from their queer studies classes and complaining that overly-privileged European American cis gay men (and Jesus Christ, if lesbian African American transwomen get to self identify and choose their own labels, then God damn it, I get to call myself just a white queer if I want to) should just shut up.

Well, number one, good luck trying to shut us up, and number two, give some money to It Gets Better Now after you’ve ranted. I just did.

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

A message for queer kids: It gets better.

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you may recall a post I wrote a couple years ago—“Go [away], Skyhawks!”—in which I shared a few memories of my high school years, explaining how they weren’t the best years of my life and that I thus didn’t care to participate in my 25th high school reunion. (Interestingly, despite my telling Skyhawks to go away, searches for “Fairborn High School” and even “Fairborn High School class of 1984” are among those bringing people most frequently to my website.) It probably won’t surprise you (although it would have in fact surprised my teenaged self) that I’m not alone in feeling that way. Lots of queers do not look back fondly on high school.

In fact, quite a few queer teens right now aren’t having great high school experiences. Despite all the gains queers have made, despite the fact that queer teens are portrayed on such great shows such as Glee, there are still queer teens who are being bullied in school, who feel alone. Some feel so alone that they think the only way out is to kill themselves, which is what 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Indiana, did earlier this month, hanging himself rather than continuing to put up with being bullied for being different.

Was Billy Lucas queer? It’s impossible to know for certain, but he did get called “gay,” according to schoolmates of his (see this Fox 59 news report), and probably using ruder words like “faggot” Cocksucker! Does it offend you to see the word “cocksucker” here? Well it should offend you more that kids in schools across the country are shouting “cocksucker” at their queer schoolmates. and “homo” and “cocksucker” and many other words that newspapers won’t print.

How do I know what words Billy Lucas got called? Because I got called those words myself growing up (long before I ever sucked a cock or admitted to anyone that I wanted to). Bigots and bullies haven’t gotten more creative over the years.

And, again, though I didn’t realize it then, I wasn’t the only one. The Fox 59 news story about Billy Lucas’s suicide and bullying quotes a former student from his high school who also got called names and who got beaten up and whose “awful memories of high school came rushing back when he heard about Billy’s suicide.” This former student is only 21 and refused to be identified, but there are plenty of us who’ve since come out and will testify openly to our shitty treatment.


Someone else who’s willing to testify to the shitty treatment queer kids have faced and continue to face is Dan Savage, editorial director of The Stranger, Seattle’s independent weekly newspaper, and more famous as the foul-mouthed author of the long-running sex advice column “Savage Love.” Savage posted on The Stranger’s blog about Billy Lucas’s suicide, and now he’s sharing some of his own horror stories, how his being “really different” made school bad, how he got “picked on a lot, even by teachers too,” how he got beat up (read this New York Times story for details).

But Savage wants to do more than just talk about how bad school has been and how bad school is for so many queer kids. He wants to reach out to queer kids who are currently being bullied and who may currently be contemplating suicide with a message:
It gets better.

Savage realized that we queers who’ve survived may not be able to stop the current crop of Here’s a message from me to Candi Cushman of Focus on the Family: Fuck you! asshole bullies from making life miserable for their queer classmates (or to keep asshole organizations such as Focus on the Family from supporting anti-gay bullies), but we do have the power to let the younger queers following up behind us know that they’re not alone, that life does get better if only they can hang on long enough.

And one way to get that message out there is through a tool we didn’t have as kids, namely YouTube. Savage has created a YouTube Channel called “It Gets Better,” and
Watch Dan Savage and his husband Terry
he’s managed to convince his publicity-shy (and cute) husband Terry to appear in the channel’s first video, in which Dan and Terry talk not only about their difficult experiences growing up queer but also and more importantly about how great their lives have been since high school. Since that first video, many more have been added, and more are coming.

Will I do a video? Probably not. I’ve done my part by highlighting this campaign, by being openly gay, and by talking about gay issues on this blog, including some of my experiences in school. That Skyhawks post I mentioned at the start of this post wasn’t all negative—I point out in it that “my life since high school has been much, much better,” and it’s true, my life has been good. It would have been better if I’d gotten this message as a teenager.

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Seven years ago
I had a letter
in Savage Love
Exactly seven years ago today Dan Savage told me I was an idiot. I'd sent Dan an e-mail on February 17, 2000, asking a question about my closeted live-in boyfriend, and Dan saved it for a special "Closet Cases" column. Well, my relationship ended in flames, and I was an idiot, but I never thought to write Dan to tell him he was right. I figure he wouldn't have been surprised.
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