Thursday, October 6, 2011

It Keeps Getting Worse

I won't post a link to the video, and I won't even mention the young man's name, but you know who I'm talking about: the teenager who, months after having posted his own video as part of the It Gets Better campaign, recently killed himself. His suicide, it is believed, was the end result of his having been bullied for being gay. This death, as heartbreaking as it is, points to the very reasons I've never cared for the It Gets Better campaign, and think it's a pointless feel-good exercise which makes it possible for people to spend ten minutes in front of a video camera, and then pat themselves on the back for all they've done in the name of gay rights.

The biggest problem I have with the campaign is that, well...its premise is a lie. For many homosexuals it never gets better. Living in a small town can suck, but living in a big city is no solution. Advising gay teens in Kansas to move to SF or NYC is ridiculous and illustrates an ignorance about what such a move would mean, financially, for most people. For most people in America, such a move would be impossible. And, even if they could make such a move, the truth is that hate crimes targeting homosexuals happen in SF and NYC, too. I've witnessed some really ugly homophobia in SF, and I've met people here who have been the victims of extreme anti-gay violence.

The fact is, for a lot of people, it just doesn't get better. A campaign that consists of people talking about how holding on and waiting until the future, because "it gets better" doesn't do a damned thing to address why it sucks to be young and gay, in the first place. It sucks because other people can be shitty. Not just other young people, but adults: teachers, clergy, neighbors, the parents of the kids who do all the bullying. Even the parents of the the young person who is gay. And, guess what? They don't care about any dumb campaign. They're not watching. They don't care that the gay kid from Glee has had his three minutes of talking about how it gets better. They can't stand that little fag any more than they can stand the little fag in their homeroom class, the little fag who lives next door, the little fag who is their own son.

The It Gets Better campaign is the Just Say No of the 21st century. Remember that? A bunch of anti-drug people talking about how saying no to drugs was AWESOME! You know who paid attention? People who were anti-drug. Do you believe, for even a minute, that some heroin addict not only watched as Nancy Reagan and Mr. T talked about how a drug-free life would be neat-o, but ran out to rehab to clean up his act? No? Me neither. Because it didn't happen. And, guess what? That asshole who gets in his pickup truck on friday nights, cruising around town, looking for fags to bash? Not only is he not having an epiphany about how awful it is to terrorize someone on account of who he or she is and how he or she loves...he's not getting on Youtube to find out what Judith Light or Liza Minelli has to say. Like Honey Badger, that asshole with his pickup truck really doesn't give a shit.

This poor kid, who ended his life...he made his own It Gets Better video. Like everyone who's made such a video, he meant well. In it, he talked about how terrifically awesome his friends were when he decided to come out as gay (he'd previously identified as bi.) At the risk of seeming crass and insensitive, this needs to be said: They were his friends. They were SUPPOSED to be terrifically awesome. That's a friend's job. It wasn't ever going to be his friends who were going to make life hell for him. His sad, hopeful It Gets Better video is a cautionary tale, and here are the Cliff's Notes: If you're a young gay person, don't go thinking things will get better just because someone says so in a video. Moving to SF or NYC is not a panacea. Your getting older won't make people suddenly treat you with common decency. The world is often a cold, hard place. Toughen up. Get some emotional armor. Learn to fight. Sharpen your mind and learn to cut others down with wit and logic. Read about the drag queens of Stonewall. Find quality people, and surround yourself with them. Remember what George Herman said: Living well is the best revenge. It won't just get better. You have to make it better, in your own small way, within your own, small life.

© 2012 Lana M. Nieves
Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves 


Ă„iti said...

Really good points eloquently stated.

Heidi said...

Lana, I am a little bit late to respond to this, but I couldn't stop myself from answering some of those well made points. I really thought that the It Gets Better campaign was a good thing. At least, it would've made a hell of a difference to me to even suggest say that things even might get better. They do get better. I think they do get better if you think of it in terms of self-hatred. In other words, maybe whoever thought of this had in mind the damage that the bullies and the nasty neighbors and teachers do inside our heads—things get better for most of us because we learn to stop letting them make us hate ourselves so much. Maybe the spirit of the campaign was that knowing things would get better would help kids in their own small ways make things better in their own heads.

However, that clearly shows that I never considered the gay bashing that takes place, even in SF and NY. I'm wearing the same blinders as the others, pink, poofy ones, hopefully. You are absolutely right, though I'm just not sure that the 2 viewpoints are mutually exclusive.