LGBT activists Dan Savage (center left) and Terry Miller (center right) marry at Seattle city hall with Mayor Mike McGinn (far left) in attendance. Savage and Miller founded the It Gets Better Project to reach out to LGBT youth.

Picture source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dan_Savage_marriage_

at_City_Hall_with_Mike_McGinn.jpg

It Gets Better Project

Activists Dan Savage and Terry Miller began the It Gets Better Project (www.itgetsbetter.org)

in response to the suicide of Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old boy who had been bullied because he was perceived to be gay (Montgomery, 2010). Of Lucas’s death, Savage said,

I was really heartbroken and had the reaction that so many gay adults have when we hear these stories, is I wish I could have talked to that kid for five minutes and been able to tell him that it gets better.

But I would never get permission to talk to these kids or an invitation to talk to high school or middle schools. And it occurred to me that I was waiting for permission that I didn't need any more because of YouTube and Twitter and Facebook, and I could record a video with my husband. We could talk about having survived bullying and our lives now and offer these kids hope.

(Kelly, 2010)

Savage went much further than creating a single video, beginning a website where LGBTQQIA adults and allies can upload videos describing how their lives have gotten better. Anyone can search and watch the ever-growing database of videos, which now tops 50,000. The site also contains a get-help link, including phone numbers for youth who are considering suicide or need other help. Among resources listed on the site is the Trevor Project, the U.S.’s only 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people. The Trevor Project can be reached at: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

Inspired by the It Gets Better Project, researchers recently completed a multi-year study of LGBTQ youth and found that while being the victim of bullying and other abuse was linked to psychological distress, both distress and victimization decreased as the adolescents grew up (Seaman, 2015). Yes, they confirmed, it does get better.

While there has been much support for the It Gets Better Project, some have also criticized the project, saying it may actually create more suicides and more depression, particularly among the minority of gay teens who are fragile and susceptible to messages about gay youth suicide (Some say gay teens not at higher risk, 2011). Rather than the “it gets better message,” which suggests gay teens should “just survive … adolescence . . . the message should be that your life can be good right now,” said Ritch Savin-Williams, a professor at Cornell University’s Sex and Gender Lab (Some say, p. 8). Ultimately, Savin-Williams seemed to be saying we need to be careful not to pathologize gay adolescence and that we should focus on the fact that “most gay youth … . say 90 percent are actually doing quite well. They are not depressed. They are not anxious. They’re not attempting suicide. They're really quite ordinary adolescents” (Siegel, 2010).

References

Kelly, M. L. (2010, October 12). Dan Savage’s Message to Gay Youth: ‘It Gets Better.’ NPR All
Things Considered. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130519806

Montgomery, J. (2010, September 30). Dan Savage Explains Why He Started ‘It Gets Better
Project.’ Retrieved from http://www.mtv.com/news/1649114/dan-savage-explains-why-he-started-it-gets-better-project/

Seaman, A. (2015, January 28). LGBTQ Youth Study Reveals That It Really ‘Does Get Better’
Over Time. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/29/lgbtq-youth-study-_n_6566350.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Some say gay teens not at higher risk for suicide. (2011). Contemporary Sexuality, 45(2), 8.

Siegel, R. (2010, October 21). A Look at the Lives of Gay Teens. NPR: All Things Considered.
Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130732158