With the rash of suicides linked to teens being bullied for their sexuality, there’s no doubt that “It Gets Better” stemmed from a really genuine place and was a sincerely intentioned project aimed at making a really positive difference. Nevertheless, I’ve very rapidly come to hate “It Gets Better” — and here’s why:
“It Gets Better” makes things worse for a myriad of reasons – not least of which because project founder Dan Savage isn’t necessarily the poster child for the anti-bullying movement. While a professed ally to the LGBT community, Savage has twice been “glitterbombed” for making transphobic remarks, been accused of racism for attacking African Americans who supported Proposition 8, and has the dubious distinction of validating the term GLH (Girl Love Handles) in a column in which he agreed that chubby girls in low-rise jeans were “revolting.” In spite of claiming to be against bullying, he’s guilty of it on a fairly frequent basis.
“It Gets Better” similarly loses credibility because of the speed in which every low-rent celebrity looking for attention jumped on the “It Gets Better” band wagon to milk the misery of LGBT teens for a little attention.
For example, the effectiveness of “It Gets Better” received a significant dent when douchebag Perez Hilton made his own “It Gets Better” video. Yes, Perez Hilton is gay, but he’s also the very definition of bully — quite similar to what LGBT teens have to put up with, because he makes a living trying to forcibly “out” celebrities and makes his own share of grossly transphobic comments — like accusing Kim Kardashian of looking like a “tranny.”
Likewise, I was disgusted when President Obama made an “It Gets Better” video. In spite of admiring our President, I feel he was, nevertheless, the man who filmed his video after just having told the nation he didn’t believe in same-sex marriage, even as he was dragging his feet unforgivably in the struggle to have “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” overturned. I’m not the only one who feels betrayed by a leader who promised LGBT kids “it gets better” while contributing to the perpetuation of an American society in which it arguably didn’t.
Don’t get me started on the litany of also-rans and wannabes who similarly jumped on the “It Gets Better” bandwagon; producing trite videos that seemed to be more about promoting themselves than really telling vulnerable kids that life “gets better” as they get older. Almost immediately the movement seemed to become more about earning liberal street cred than actually doing or saying anything constructive to end bullying.
I don’t just hate “It Gets Better” because of the hypocrisy the people behind it. I also hate the project because I believe it actually promotes a mindset that perpetuates inequality and bullying, rather than fighting against it.
It is a horrible travesty and a damning indictment of our society that LGBT teens are bullied to the point at which some of them commit suicide — but the truth is that they’re not the only ones. That’s why, while I admire the pathos behind “It Gets Better,” I simultaneously feel like it’s kind of a middle finger to every other kid who’s been picked on, bullied, mistreated and maligned growing up.
I got bullied myself, for the seemingly inconsequential fact that I had red hair growing up (which is, if anybody reads my Militant Ginger blog, finds is kind of a big deal in England.) It ran the full gamut — from simple name-calling to being punched, kicked, spat on; even having kids attempting to urinate on me at one point.
And I wasn’t the only one. Even when I was struggling to fit in at school, I observed other kids suffering horrible bullying and abuse as well.
There was the fat kid, who everybody would make fun of because he couldn’t keep up with the rest of the gym class. There was the poor kid whose parents sent him to school in dirty clothes that stank of sweat. And, yes, even back then there were the kids who today we might identify as LGBT.
There was the Amazonian girl who everybody murmured was a lesbian (and, when I friended her on Facebook years later, it turned out she was). Then there was the chubby blond boy with the effete voice who, our teacher suggested to me one day, “wasn’t quite right.” We were all bullied to some degree.
In fact, bullying was rampant in my school — and in schools like mine all across the country. The simple fact is, the important fact that seems to be forgotten in the “It’s Get Better” campaign: LGBT teens aren’t the only victims.
It’s not that we shouldn’t be telling kids it’s wrong to bully LGBT teens, but we should also be telling them that it’s wrong to bully anyone for any reason — regardless of their sexuality (or race, or gender, or hair color, or any of the other stupid reasons they get bullied).
“It Gets Better” is fundamentally flawed because it doesn’t go far enough in fighting bullying and it’s founders do not live up to the example they wish others to live by. Dan Savage has been accused of bullying and insensitivity toward the overweight, the transgendered, African Americans and even bisexuals. Perhaps it’s not surprising that he doesn’t get it; sadly, though, “It Gets Better” exists as an extension of his flawed mindset.
Savage might promise “it gets better” – but apparently not for everyone.