The It Gets Better Project: Lives Saved Through Story Telling

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 § 3

Stories are a pretty big deal in our culture. We see them told on television shows, in movies, on the pages of novels, through websites, and in tons of other places as well.

One reason why people tell stories is to share their experiences. Similar experiences can connect and bind people together. Stories can show people that they’re not alone in their struggles.

Dan Savage (of the popular advice column, Savage Love) aims to do just that with his new project.

Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better Project” in response to the suicide of the Indiana teenager, Billy Lucas. Billy hanged himself after being constantly bullied in school due to his supposed sexual orientation. Savage’s project is meant to be a voice of hope to LGBT youth through stories which show how life improves. Queer* adults are invited to post their own videos, sharing their own stories. Below is Savage’s introductory video, along with his husband, Terry.

Billy’s suicide was not an isolated incident. Suicides in the LGBT community are a rampant problem, one that is especially obvious now due to heavy news coverage.

Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, recently jumped off the George Washington bridge, a few days after his roommate broadcasted him having sex with a man online.

Asher Brown and Seth Walsh have also committed suicide in the past few weeks, both due to homophobic bullying.

Queer teens committing suicide is nothing new. One third of all teenagers who attempt suicide are gay. More than half of harassed transgender teens have attempted suicide. There has not been an uptick in queer youth committing suicide, there has simply been an uptick in news coverage.

Which is what makes Dan Savage’s project all the more important. In a few weeks, news coverage of queer youth suicides will likely die down. But the over 1,000 voices recorded will not. These voices tell the stories of LGBT adults, many who live successful, fulfilling lives with people who love them. These stories show queer teens an alternative to their seemingly never ending torment. A light at the end of the tunnel, a pat on the back, a voice saying that it’s going to be okay.

These stories will remain online, reminders to all the queer youth out there that life does get better, and will hopefully prevent some viewers from ending their stories tragically early.

Whether you’re queer or straight, I urge you to check out the videos and share them your loved ones. Stories aren’t just to share common experiences, they’re also for learning about different people, lives and struggles. And that’s knowledge that everyone could use a bit more of.

And if you’re a queer adult (or an ally), and haven’t yet, please, add your voice.

I’ll leave you with a belated happy National Coming Out Day, and a video that I found particularly moving.

*On this blog, queer will be used as an adjective that encompasses the lgbt community as a whole. If there are any  additional terms I use on this blog that are unclear, please let me know so I can clarify. This blog is meant to be inclusive and understandable to all.

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§ 3 Response to “The It Gets Better Project: Lives Saved Through Story Telling”

  • Kate Kadleck says:

    Kyle,

    I loved your post! As always, I enjoyed hearing your perspective and appreciated the numerous links you provided, as I'm admittedly uninformed. I hadn't heard of the It Gets Better Project, but after learning about its purpose, I'm so glad that it exists. I especially love that you explored the power of storytelling in an unconventional way. Can't wait to read more!

  • Kate says:

    Kyle,
    This post was fantastic! I had seen one It Gets Better video and found it really inspirational, but I had no idea that there was a whole movement behind it. It's a great idea, and you provided a perspective on it was really interesting. Like Kate, I also loved how you explored the concept of storytelling, and I think your blog provides a really important story. Looking forward to next week's post!

    P.S. Did you see Hillary Clinton's video? She talks about the power of stories.-- Kate H

  • emilygw says:

    Kyle!
    As always, your post was well-written and inspiring. When I first heard about the It Gets Better Campaign, it sounded fantastic but I was confused as to how it would be effective in our country today. However, your post does a great job explaining the campaign and portraying the benefits of story-telling. I had never seen one of the videos before and they are great! I can see the benefits and support system they provide to people who are struggling with their sexuality. No matter if you're straight or gay, anti-gay bullying is not okay and these videos are just one of the ways our society as a whole can support gays. Stories are very powerful and this project has put them into effective, 21st century modes of communication, based on technology. Thanks for sharing! -Emily W

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