Sorry for the miserable start. But there’s not really a way to make that less saddening to hear, and there shouldn’t be.
The first was likely driven to it by bullying that was at least partly homophobic. The second jumped off a bridge to his death after his roommate secretly turned on his webcam and broadcast him in an intimate encounter with another boy.
Much of society is doing pretty well in getting over any problem with gay people, but for some this is clearly still a huge deal. It’s not just the fact of the bullying, but also that these two teenagers – and doubtless many others – still feel unbearably insecure and ashamed about the things they find themselves feeling.
Nobody deserves to put themselves through that for something so natural and ubiquitous. And this is about some people who are doing something about it.
I don’t know a lot about Dan Savage. Almost the only time I’ve encountered him at all has been when the inimitable Greta Christina has been smacking him down for being utterly wrong. But I guess he sometimes gets it right, and I have to like him for his current campaign.
It’s called the It Gets Better Project. It’s about hammering home the message, particularly to young people being made to feel like shit about being gay, that things will get better. That it’s really not as hopeless a situation as it may sometimes seem, and that there’s no need for all the shame and guilt you might think you’re obliged to feel for being the person you are.
If you’re a GLBT adult who’s suffered hate and discrimination around issues of sexuality before, you can upload a video of yourself talking about your experiences, and make sure we get plenty of conversation happening out there to encourage and support people who need it.
It’s really quite heart-warming to watch. These videos are full of people who are completely sincere in their understanding and their compassion, because they have gone through exactly what so many despondent teenagers are still going through today.
Their stories aren’t ones I can relate to directly, but there are common threads I can identify. Being taunted with slurs about their sexuality long before they’ve actually settled on any kind of sexual identity, for instance, is something that comes up a lot, and this is exactly the kind of thing that’s making some kids feel alienated and hopeless. But it’s also what everyone is talking about in these videos. It’s happened to all these people before, and they probably felt alone and lost in the world at the time; and because they didn’t give up, now they get to be happy, and accepted, and loved.
One thing that stood out in Dan’s own video is that he’s not just talking about eventually getting away from the people making your life miserable. There’s also a good chance many of them will come around. His own conservative Catholic family didn’t want anything to do with any of his same-sex romantic partners to begin with, but before she passed away his mother accepted his new boyfriend as part of the family.
Your life needn’t all be an endless tale of rejection and heartbreak. It gets better.
There are dozens of videos here, maybe hundreds, and more being uploaded all the time. I know it’s not my call to make, but my best effort at getting into the mind of a young person feeling hated and worthless makes me suspect that having access to a site like this – to be able to watch person after person describing how they moved on from this terrible situation, to a happier life with acceptance from themselves and from others – would be of huge comfort for many, in a time when compassion is hard to come by.
It might not be perfect. My initial reaction to simply hearing the name of the project was one of slight skepticism, as I remembered how little help the advice about “it’ll get better someday” had sometimes seemed when I wasn’t much enjoying being a teenager. And some people have made the point that unfair childhood taunting is not exclusive to gay kids, which is obviously true.
But look at these videos. Look at the compassion and concern and caring for other human beings that’s going on here. Look at the utterly non-judgmental positivity and hope. This is all about love. It can’t possibly be wrong.
Hat-tip to the Blag Hag for first alerting me to this.
Oh, a P.S. – she also highlighted the maliciousness and cruelty that some Christian groups are heaping onto these suicidal teenagers with ugly delight. It’s what Jesus would have wanted.
As ever, every single Christian I know will absolutely be on the side of compassion and basic human decency. If there are any Christian organisations publicly supporting the project in any way, I’d like to hear about it.