what’s going on?

September 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized

Thanks to the folks on here who have already linked to Dan Savage’s YouTube channel “It Gets Better.” Dan started this a week or two ago, in response to news of a gay teenager who hanged himself in Indiana earlier this month. Dan says in this recent Savage Love column, “I wish I could’ve talked to this kid for five minutes.” Then he realized that there is a way for LGBT adults to talk to the kids whose lives are being made miserable by the people at their schools. YouTube. He’s inviting people to send in videos telling LGBT kids who are being harrassed that life gets better, so they should stick around for it.

I know this stuff goes on all the time, but it seems unusually bad lately, with today’s news about the Rutgers student who killed himself. There’s also this story about bullies breaking a boy’s arm, and this story about a man telling a 14 year old girl with a rainbow flag to move to a country where they will hang people like her.

Anyhow, the videos people are sending in are very moving. I hope kids are watching. It seems to me like an unusually brilliant use of the web.

76 Responses to “what’s going on?”

  1. are comments working? something odd was happening.

  2. Kate L says:

    Testing… testing.

  3. Renee S. says:

    I posted this on the last post, but it’s more appropriate here:

    Just when we think it’s getting better. Brought to you by our Assistant Attorney General here in Michigan:


  4. ready2agitate says:

    what’s going on indeed… my heart is aching. It feels like Matthew Sheppard all over again.

    Our country is swerving Right since Obama became POTUS. All I can say (for now) is: get out and vote on Nov. 2nd, sisters and brothers. Feh.

    (oh, and this: yahoo Maggie Jochild!!!)

  5. Kate L says:

    Yes, what Renne S said! And what Ready2Agitate said! And Hi, Maggie! Glad you are feeling better!

  6. Renee S. says:

    Be a part of Herstory. Bitch and Billie Jo Cavallaro are trying to make a documentary about Ferron. They need backers and donations.


    here’s a teaser:

    [Freed from spam-filter limbo. –Mentor]

  7. shadocat says:

    If I were a teen now, I doubt that I would make it. From the age of about 11 to the age of 16, I was bullied by a group of older, bigger girls who insisted I was “queer” (probably the reason I retreated so deeply into the closet, not to emerge until many years later). I was beaten and tormented nearly every day, but I can only imagine what hell those kids are going through in this technological age.

  8. Brooke says:

    Alison, you should make a video!

  9. Acilius says:

    Hugs to you, Shadocat.

  10. ksbel6 says:

    I do realize that the bullies have more access to kids through technology, but there are actually more resources for kids today because of the internet too. When I was figuring out I was transsexual, there was one book on the subject at the UMKC research library and it was published in like 1978 or something. I had absolutely no idea what I was going through, but I certainly knew I did not feel gay.

    Also, many schools have GSA which help cut that stuff down. I just think for the first time it is being made clear that kids are committing suicide because of perceived sexual orientation/gender issues. And I do think that is a good thing (that we know why they killed themselves), but at the same time one has to wonder how many kids are being saved.

    I hope that came across as it was intended.

  11. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    I never felt suicidal, but I was shunned in high school, and it felt like hell. Fortunately, I dropped out of high school and went to college, and made supportive friends that I have to this day, not to mention the DTWOF folks on FB. Don’t be afraid to be weird, everybody. It gets better.

  12. hairball_of_hope says:

    High school sucked, but junior high was worse (the ritual hazings associated with puberty *plus* LGBT issues made for a hellish three years). At least I was out to friends in HS, and had GFs.

    The world of the 1970s seemed to be filled with promise. Such a better place for LGBT and feminists than the preceding decades. The DSM-III had just come out, I was hanging out with the dykes at the Women’s Coffeehouse, cruising gay clubs with my pal Peter, reading Majority Report et alia, and I could not wait to get the hell out of Dodge and live away from home at college. Oh to be young again, and full of hope…

    I wonder if any mainstream media have picked up on the “It Gets Better” video project in the wake of these two highly-publicized LGBT suicides. That might be the best public service they could do, as they capitalize (ka-ching!) on the misfortunes of Tyler Clementi and his family.

    (… goes back to looking for her Majority Report T-shirt …)

  13. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Therry and St. Jerome (#11)

    A dear friend gave me a sticker which reads, “I’m not weird, I’m gifted.”

    Sure wish I’d had that retort handy when I was young.

    (… goes back to reveling in her weirdly ways …)

  14. Olivia says:

    I watched the first video and I hope the youngsters follow suit. It does get better and I might be wrong but aren’t more and more people, young and older, coming out in these times?

    Unfortunately, with the help of my husband, which is no more!, I put my son and daughter into a christian school. (not my idea) There was this one young girl that stood out to me as I was realizing who I was too. Married but gay.
    Now that we’re all grown up, my daughter politely said to me that this particular girl was a lesbian.
    You know, I said to her that I knew it all along. Poor thing! She didn’t fit in for so long and to have had to wear long skirts and dresses for 12 years must have been so demeaning to her. Fortunately, I ran into this child in a local grocery store. We talked for hours on end. I acknowledged her and she did the same for me. She went through hell as a teenager but she held out and she persevered in the end as did I.
    It does get better…it really does. I suppose we have to go through the hell to know this.

  15. Mark says:

    My heart aches for Tyler and the others who took their own lives thinking that there was no way out. I have been in that postion myself and I understand what it’s like. I hope that others like them will understand that it will get better and that there are a great deal of people who care about them and it would be great if we could connect to those kids and help them out.

  16. Ian says:

    Seen in a Methodist chapel: “Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light.”

    I was ok at primary and junior school (ages 5-11). I seemed to be fine there. But Secondary school (ages 11 to 16) was a nightmare. I was ok until 2nd year when I knew I was definitely pegged as the weird kid. The main school bully seemed to think I was ok so I never got that kind of trouble from him. But wankers in my English class made comments about being a transvestite (we were doing Shakespeare at the time) which the English teacher did nothing about. Because of course, transvestites are gay. Doh! Ironically this came from two metalhead twins who had long curly black hair. Then after that there were just lots of snide comments and stupid things about being gay. I ‘coped’ by playing truant most of the time. I had one teacher ask me once if there was a problem. Of course I said no. I just wanted to bide my time and get the hell out of there.

  17. ksbel6 says:

    Our Homecoming was last night, which included a parade (for those of you who do not know there is a school ritual in the US where schools declare a Homecoming football game and then all the alumni are supposed to come home to help cheer on the team, it is followed by a dance). At the parade our GSA club walked. A male adult along the parade route yelled out to the club, “I will make all of you jump off a bridge.” It was pretty scary. The GSA has been in the parade now for 4 years and no one has ever said anything before. So, yeah, there’s definitely a shift going on. Lots of angry, hateful people, many of whom do not have jobs and they just find someone to yell at.

  18. Eva says:

    Have you all seen this yet?


    It’s a clip from the Ellen DeGeneres Show with her own tearful version of It Gets Better. Don’t know if the main stream media is picking up on it, but Ellen’s pretty mainstream now a days, yes?

  19. Kate L says:

    (ksbel6 #17) The man who shouted about making people jump off a bridge must have known about the case a few years ago where a man forced a woman to jump to her death off a bridge after a minor traffic accident. Meanwhile, the folk against adding LGBT to the local human rights ordinance had their lawyers send a brief to our local human rights and services board. In it, the antis say that sexual orientation and gender identity are unlike other protected categories in that sexual orioentation and gender identity are “changeable”. The other protected categories include religious preference and military service. The brief from the antis goes on to say that there is no evidence of descrimination against LGBT people, and that transsexuality is a “serious mental disorder” that requires psychiatric counseling. Those of us on the other side are organizing a petition drive in favor of adding LGBT to the local human rights ordinance.

  20. Kate L says:

    In looking up if I should write “antis” or “anti’s”, I came across posted notes for a class in women’s suffrage. The posting mentioned that belief in “the special role of families in sustaining civilization” was used to argue against women getting the vote. Isn’t that same arguement (arguement?) being used today against gay marriage?

  21. Kate L, it is the same argument and same root — which is why I believe lesbian/gay/bi/trans oppression is simply a degree of sexism or male supremacy. The drive to keep maleness sacrosanct and “in charge” is one of the three prongs of the patriarchy, and all kinds of right-wing zealotry (being opposed to birth control, being opposed to decent public education, being opposed to any religion that isn’t Christian conservative) can be traced to it. As well as to the other two prong — white supremacy and rule of the economic elites — they often overlap.

    And yes, it does seen contradictory that they would oppose the idea of a chosen sexual preference while protecting religious preference, until you remember they would also be happy with outlawing all other forms of religion and punishing religious freedom. They are not American by our definition, they would rather have a theocracy. The fundies also believe that non-white skin is the mark of Cain and is therefore a punishment from god, not to be interfered with by human laws — racial oppression is divinely ordained and also the “natural order”, along with that man on top thing.

  22. Kate L says:

    (Maggie #21) Thanks, sister! This is the kind of thing that I might have found out about years ago, if I had just followed my heart to the Bay Area!

  23. Jessica Bessica says:

    @ 17&19 I think he was (abhorrently) referring to this:


  24. Kate L says:

    I didn’t know that was how the Rutgers student killed himself. Here in Smallville today, we are collecting signatures to support adding LGBT to the local human rights ordinance (several hundred signatures so far). And, on October 11th, there will be a campus service in remembrance of the recent teen LGBT suicides.

    I’m taking a break, right now. Having a lunch of a strawberry italian soday and a mushroom and brie cheese grilled sandwich. While connected to the wifi through my tablet-sized portable computational device. Why, I feel just like Janeway working through a late lunch in Neelix’s galley!

  25. Ian says:

    Didn’t this kind of backlash happen after the Mathew Shephard incident? When that hit the headlines there were hateful people who went out of their way to mock that event as well.

    That’s actually pretty impressive that a GSA has marched in a homecoming (thanks for the clarification) and not had any remarks up until now.

  26. drawmedy says:

    One of the things I am battling is feeling overwhelming anger at the kids who are perpetrating this abuse. Levels of anger that border on hate are always dangerous, and I’m trying to counteract by meditating on what is going on for these kids on the other end. No one who inflicts that much pain on another person is happy or at peace with themselves. Seems not impossible that many of the bullies are acting because of their own inability to deal with the stress of expectations around what it means to be a “man,” a “boy,” and “girl,” etc… these systems of oppression damage the oppressors as well as the oppressed.

  27. Ellen Orleans says:

    At first I was thrilled with the “It Gets Better” effort. Then I started thinking that if I were stuck in a deep pit with three snarling dogs and someone walked by and yelled down to me, “Hey, only six more months in the pit. Afterward, it gets better!” I would not be comforted.

    What can we do to make bullied students lives better next week, not next year? Not two or five years down the line? I’d love to hear survival strategies from current high school and middle school students.

  28. Duncan says:

    Ellen, I agree with you. I think “It Gets Better” is well intentioned, but will it really help? Thanks for having that reaction and telling us about here, it helps me crystallize my own thoughts. In Jennifer Terry’s great book An American Obsession she mentions that the belief that they are “born gay” may actually make suicidal gay kids even more miserable; some feel that it’s a death sentence, not an excuse.

    I’m not sure what ‘we’ can do to make bullied students’ lives better now, at least in a general, global sense. The most obvious answer is to support kids’ own efforts to defend themselves. Physical self-defense classes used to be part of the women’s movement, and should still be; and it wouldn’t hurt to have them for gay people, and for everybody. You can’t know in advance who’ll need them, so everyone should have access to them. The trouble with Dan Savage’s well-intentioned project is that once again, well-intentioned people are trying to rescue the persecuted in a well-intentioned but patronizing way. They can’t do it. Only the persecuted can rescue themselves, and not in a touchy-feely, culture-of-therapy way, but with skin. (To borrow a metaphor from Granny Weatherwax.) What others can do is help take on any bullies or bigots they encounter. There should be no Safe Space for bigotry.

    Yes, any project to help kids defend themselves will meet from opposition from adults. Such adults can best be fought by other adults. I’ve noticed, though, that any slapdown of bigotry will be met with clucking disapproval, not only from straights by from gay people who claim that Love is the answer. But Love is the problem: Christian love that seeks to protect young people from the clutches of evil homosexuality. (That’s what “Christian love” means.) Frankly, I don’t care if “the oppressors” are also damaged by “these systems of oppression” — the most pressing business is to restrain them from hurting other people in the meantime. That can be done without forgetting that they are people too, but they must be stopped. That “commodore” who shoved a young girl in a parade, for example, is clearly lying when he denies he did it. (His remark about the rainbow flag being somehow a desecration of the US flag also needs to be challenged, but with so many queerfolk jumping on the patriotism bandwagon it’s not surprising that he wasn’t.) He should be charged with assault and battery first and foremost. The law isn’t the only tool that can be used in such cases, but it should be used where it applies.

    Self-defense for young queerlings should begin by preparing them to expect hostility and to recognize that it is the hostile who are in the wrong, not them. Audre Lorde said something about that in “Man Child,” her great essay about raising black children, especially boys, in a racist society: “Black children of lesbian couples have an advantage because they learn, very early, that oppression comes in many different forms, none of which have anything to do with their own worth.” We live in a diverse society, there will always be conflict, and we need to learn and help other learn how to deal with conflict constructively, not to try to extirpate conflict altogether — which will never work anyway.

    Sorry for running on so long; I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post about this issue. Still thinking it through.

    [Freed from spam-filter limbo. –Mentor]

  29. ksbel6 says:

    Really, the majority of the problem in the educational system in the US is that the administrators are mostly white males, many of whom went through the coaching into administration path as teachers. They are the very worst at allowing this type of abuse to occur under the guise of “it will make them tough if they get called a sissy,fag, homo because they are not athletic.” As those guys retire, the system will change and get better at not allowing bullying. But those guys were/are bullies, so they do not see it as a problem. We are lucky, our building principal fully supports all efforts at preventing bullying…including GLBT and the special education population (those kids have it very rough also). However, the previous principal did not support it, and he of course is now superintendent. It was not until we had a gay student with a lawyer parent that we were allowed to start GSA. And even then only after administrators had numerous talks with the department of education lawyers. The club had a backlash (from students) the first two years, and since then it has been smooth sailing (until the comment at the parade, first attack by an adult). And it has made a tremendous difference in the way our students speak in the halls. classrooms, etc. at school. Outside of school I have no idea. But in school, they are much better than they used to be. Now if I could only get them to stop using the word rape to mean “one sports team beat another sports team by lots of points, goals, runs, etc.” That just drives me crazy.

  30. freyakat says:

    For any NYC folks who are so inclined, there will be a candlelight vigil for the recent victims of LGBT bullying: 9 PM tonight Sunday 3 October in
    Washington Square Park.

    I think that with issues as socially complex as how to deal with bullying, how to learn to understand who you are and how to live that safely in your life, there are so many different and non-mutually-exclusive approaches. At the same time that I would want to tell a young person
    (and anyone else actually) that things will change
    — which they will, and sometimes for the better and sometimes not… — and that therefore there is hope even if things seem unbearable now; at the same time I would want to try to think of ways to help make things better right now.

    There are anti-bullying measures being worked on at local and state levels throughout the country.
    There’s Dan Savage’s project, which came from the heart in the best sense, although yes to me it feels maybe classist and perhaps a bit simplistic, I don’t know. I think it tells Dan’s
    experience, which is what he’s trying to do, it says ‘here’s how my life has gone’. (On the other hand for example, he and his partner have a kid, and as a relatively old-time lesbian feminist I bristle at the thought that people watching the video could think that one of the necessary fulfillments to being lesbian/gay is to be able in this enlightened society to have children…but this is indeed what Dan chose to do, to adopt a kid.)

    I think hope is what can keep us going through rough times, and I think that there are many different ways in which we can try to keep hope alive, for ourselves and for others.

    There seems to be a vicious streak that runs throughout human history, and I think that’s a part of who we are, unfortunately. We need to always be vigilant, and to be hopeful in the knowledge that we can work against that viciousness whenever we see it.

  31. khatgrrl says:

    We all must remember that Dan Savage is trying to make a positive impact with his video. I think that the best way to help kids is simply for them to be able to see us. They need to know that they are not alone, that they have allies.

    My wife is a high school teacher and the adviser to the GSA. The kids know that they can come to her and that she won’t put up with bullying or name calling. There are other teachers in the building who also create safe zones for the kids.

    The teen years are difficult even without the added stress of discovering your sexuality. For them to realize that there are other people like them is a great thing. For them to have LGBT neighbors, teachers, doctors, cartoonists, etc, gives them the role models they so desperately need. I know that I felt alone and thought that I was the ONLY person to have these thoughts.

    I think that it is incredibly important for us not to attack each other and focus on the real offenders. We can disagree with Savage’s approach, but he is at the very least trying to make a difference. We are not all going to have the same experiences, but if he helps just one child, he has succeeded. In-fighting never helps a cause.

  32. HGD says:

    Have you all seen Kate Bornstein’s “It Gets Better” video? It’s really lovely.

  33. jessez #30, the essay you linked to is amazing, really crystallized some thought for me. The American mantra “Things always get better and if they don’t it’s your fault” smacks every group targeted for oppression, but I relate to it especially as a crip and as a survivor of lesbian girlhood. How do we survive and thrive when “it” does NOT get better? I want to quote from femmephane’s post here:

    “It has been my experience that people are ashamed to help the folks they see as destitute. They are willing to let someone crash on their sofa for a night if they know that they have a back-up bed, somewhere else. They are happy to provide dinner, so long as they know you would be eating even without their generosity. It seems that if you’ve never been homeless or lost or hungry, if you don’t know what that feels like, is too embarrassing to give things to people who might die without them– it is humiliating to hand someone the only food they’ve had all week.

    “No one is skittish about giving things up so that others can live comfortably. But they are unspeakably afraid of giving away something so someone can merely live. Campaigns like this exacerbate these realities by dehumanizing the people they address, turning them into a depressing mass, ready to be farmed for beautiful tragedies, and transformed into class-passing, successful adults.

    “How about instead of hope: change. Even if it’s really small change. Even if it doesn’t inspire anyone and no one is grateful and no one even notices. How about doing the kind of work that makes differences in peoples lives without holding them responsible—without turning them into an icon of suffering or of hope, without using their story for a soundbyte, without using their life as your proof of goodness, or of how the world is so liberal, or how it’s great to be gay. I mean money. I mean listening. I mean time. I mean giving people space that we respect and don’t enter. I mean listening to needs and finding ways to fill them.”

  34. Ginjoint says:

    I have to wonder if some of the backlash to Savage’s site is because Savage is involved – he’s a controversial figure in GLBT circles. Although he’s irked me a few times in the past, generally I appreciate the cut-the-shit advice he gives.

    So maybe that’s why I don’t see such harm in this project. Ellen and Duncan make excellent points, but I don’t see why we can’t have Savage’s site as well as things that help queer kids now. Yo, there’s no size limit to the internet. Speaking for myself, I would’ve appreciated hearing these stories as a lesbian teen back in the ’80s. Savage isn’t trying to solve all the suffering queer teens experience with just this one tack, fer chrissakes. This is meant, I think, just to assuage a bit of hopelessness. What’s the harm in that?

    Well, the writer at the link that Jessez posted sure managed to find some. (Jessez, please don’t think this is an attack on you. It is not. I just very much disagree with the angles that writer took.) Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and mellowing out more, but I just can’t handle the infighting ksbel alluded to – I just want to walk away when I see it in action. Savage did not put any limits on whether only rich queers can post, or only famous queers, or only queers whose lives as adults are completely untouched by prejudice. He’s trying to do a bit of good here, for a bit of the queer population.

  35. Ginjoint says:

    Also: whoo, I disagree with Jochild! And I’m thrilled about the changes in your life. I’m not on Facebook, and I had no idea. Day-um, you’re strong.

    Andi: I’m so, so sorry about your home and books. I wish there was a way for me to fix it. {{hug}}

    Kate L: Congrats on coming out, you brave soldier you!

    Last but certainly not least: Happy Birthday, Alison! (What? Better late than never.)

  36. Ginjoint, not to deflate your valor, but I’m not sure we disagree. I do support the reaching out that Dan Savage and others are doing, I just don’t think it’s nearly enough to make and/or pass around videos. Asking kids to live for the day when they can maybe have some liberty (which I definitely did) will work for some but not all. So yes, let’s address it all. As Duncan said, that means standing up to other adults, and as femmephane said, that means making change which takes us into zones of deep discomfort.

    This is not aimed at you, Ginjoint, but a real question for all of us: When radicals and reformers point out that a start on change is an incomplete or moderate response, we are always told to appreciate what IS being done and focus on the positive.

    Sometimes this reining in is coming from those who do oppose radical approaches, who are constitutionally moderate. Sometimes it comes from those invested in the status quo. I include among this number those who have not done the emotional work of sorting out their juvenile, culturally reinforced need for “credit for good intentions” and instead assumed a mature recognition that good intentions belong to even those doing terrible things — recovery means awarding merit for behavior, not intention. And sometimes it comes from those among us who understand very well the destructive nature of internalized oppression, how we cannibalize our own leadership. Tricky distinctions to make, but important to intelligent listening.

    However, the Right not only does not counsel moderation for its extremists, it rewards them. More and more. So we have a theoretically (mythically) moderate President who never misses an opportunity to ridicule and bash his base, who constantly seeks appeasement of those who advocate his assassication in the name of “bipartisanship”, while fascism overruns the media and public discourse to such an extent that, let’s be honest, young people see no viable future for themselves and choose to die.

    I mean, some days I feel profound despair myself. If you could see me as I am at this moment, many of you would fucking freak. It’s hard out here for a gimp, especially a fat poor dyke gimp who refuses (as best she can) to trade in white privilege.

    So what I ask of progressives, especially the tragically sold-out and sidetracked “queer community” (another myth), is that we strive to present a complicated and utterly inclusive analysis. It is my most effective antidote to despair, those not-so-glib voices which are seldom heard in the corridors of power. I mean, I haven’t made a video saying “It gets better” because I would not look like the spiffy, Etheridge-s version of “See how good it can get” on camera. “Hey, kids, you too can become bedbound, hungry, and isolated, with no hope of a lover or even a home if strangers stop sending you money.” Yes, the truth is deeper than that: I actually do consider myself to have a good life, full of luck and love and influence. I have art and vision, I have friends to due for, and I have hope which has nothing to do with trips tp Paris or getting married ot being allowed to go kill others in the service of American imperialism. But that doesn’t translate to Youtube.

    I want us to use every approach we can, whatever works for US that day, and I will risk being called divisive to keep pointing out who is absent or who might feel silenced if I myself fall silent. And if I’m being counterrevolutionnary, I pray those who know me best will tell me to shut the fuck up and deal with my “issues” now, take a chill pill and come back on a better day.

  37. Kate L says:

    (Ginjoint #36) Thanks! However, I was just taking my dog for a walk by city park, As we crossed the street, a red pick-up truck driven by a man in a baseball cap nearly ran us both down. I saw his eyes. They were on us as he made the turn.

    Things are going to start happening to me, now!”
    -Steve Martin

  38. hairball_of_hope says:


    Welcome back, I guess you’ve come out from hiding under the bed, now that the regular baseball season is over. No joy in Mudville here, the Mets are on par with the Cubs, and the Yankees have managed to lose so many games at the end of the season, they blew first place and now are the wildcard winner.

    @Maggie, Ellen, Duncan, ksbel6, Ginjoint, et al.

    I’ve been reading all these comments about the “It Gets Better” project, and I think if I were in HS right now, I would feel a bit like Ellen describes, at the bottom of a pit with someone hollering at me that it’ll be over in another six months, two years, whatever. And having been there (metaphorically, of course) that would feel both hopeless and hopeful at the same time. Hopeless because my immediate situation would continue to be miserable for a good long while, but hopeful because there would actually be an end in sight, and I would eventually be free from my tormentors and the crappy situation.

    Way back in the 1970s, the end in sight for me was going away to college. I hung in and hung on until I got the hell out of there. I’ll bet for Tyler Clementi, it was likely the same. Who knows what buttons that streaming webcam video pushed in his life?

    Perhaps he had used all his inner resolve and psychic endurance to finally get away from home after eighteen years of social misery, making the assumption (as I did in my youth) that the tortures and travails of the prior eighteen years were over, and everything from now on was going to be great and hunky-dory.

    Perhaps this one incident shattered his illusion that the future would not have mean and cruel and bullying people in it, that he would no longer be a target.

    No video in the world could have helped him at that point.

    I don’t think videos or books or positive portrayals of LGBT in mass media are going to reach every LGBT person who needs a self-worth boost. But they will reach some LGBT folks (and not just HS kids), and that’s all that really matters. If the project reaches just one person, changes her/his outlook on life, then it’s a worthwhile endeavor, in my book.

    I think back to the first time I read “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and there was an entire chapter devoted to lesbians. Wow. So matter of fact and out there, out and proud and in your face lesbians. And not just white lesbians of privilege. Black, Latina, working class. That made a major impression on me in my mid-teens as I counted down the years to freedom.

    I suppose the Savage project videos could have that effect on some teens today, especially if there’s a representative sample of the LGBT world. We’re not all white and rich and fabulous, and the videos ought to reflect that reality. We still have problems, still have bills to pay, sometimes the LGBT issues are major in our lives, sometimes they are non-issues.

    Ok, maybe we *are* all fabulous. Especially in this little corner of the interwebs. Thank you AB for hosting this conglomeration of interesting and thoughtful folks.

    (… goes back to her little corner of the universe …)

  39. hairball_of_hope says:

    @ksbel6 (#17)

    Did no one speak up when that guy yelled at the kids in the GSA? Where were the adults? Where were the school professionals? Did no one tell him he was out of line?

    Silence would definitely be scary.

  40. meg says:

    Is Savage’s project *the* answer? No, not by a long shot…

    When I was 13 I tried to kill myself – it seemed the only possible out from what were intolerable situations, both at home and in the world. And for me, having known several people that *had* killed themselves, suicide *was* an option. An exit.

    Minors have no power – they *can’t* leave – and they can’t really see beyond the moment, they can’t trust that it will get better, that things will change.

    I agree that telling our youth that things will magically get better immediately upon graduation raises false hopes – often they *don’t*. And if you’re expecting them to, then you really have to wonder about why they haven’t. And then you’re back in the box, looking for the exit.

    But as *part* of the solution, I see Savage’s project as a Good Thing. Just knowing that there are other oddballs – whether you’re GLBT or not – and that they have survived, they have lives that they love, despite their difficulties (past and present)- that *is* valuable.

    Can it be part of the answer? Whyever not?

    and this is one of my favorites, of the few I’ve seen… because it’s not all roses and happy ever after. It’s life.


  41. ksbel6 says:

    There were a three adults there (with approximately ten students), all teachers including the sponsor of the club. So, the students were certainly not alone and did not have to “really” feel threatened, they were quite safe marching along in the parade. However, they did hear the comment and it did make the teachers marching along VERY angry. They felt the best response was to just keep marching along though. And, I agree. It was one jerk on a fairly long parade route.

  42. hairball_of_hope says:

    @ksbel6 (#42)

    I was thinking of the spectators around the jerk… did they say nothing to him?

  43. shadocat says:

    meg-great video

  44. Kate L says:

    (hairball # 39) back when I was a graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington, I was watching my home team, the Royals, play the Yankees in yet another playoff for the right to play the Dodgers in the World Series. The Yankees won, of course. A man ran down the hallway in our (coed) dorm, shouting his evident pleasure in the outcome of the American League playoffs. I looked out my dorm room door at him and said, “Wait ’till next year!”. Really, I did say that! And, in next year’s American League playoffs, the Yankees beat the Royals, again…

    Did you know that Bloomington, Indiana, will be the girlhood home of one Kathryn Janeway? Interesting, how my life seems to revolve around someone who won’t be born for several centuries. And never will be, if that new Star Trek movie timeline gets established in a sequel. Anyway, earlier today, I was looking for a YouTube clip of Janeway saying very determinely, “I don’t like bullies and I don’t like threats”. I thought that would sum up my feelings about homophobic bullies. But here’s the Janeway clip that I found instead…

  45. j.b.t. says:

    Meg, great post.

    I think the criticism that the It Gets Better project is metro-centric and anti-religious is ridiculous. And I’m not sorry for saying that. (I’m trying to stop always apologizing for saying what I believe, even if it might offend someone.)

    For one thing, cities *are* generally a lot more progressive than rural areas. I live in MN, where like many states, the cities vote blue and the rural areas vote red. In MPLS we have openly gay state representatives. In the rural areas we have Michelle Bachman.

    I have a group of (straight) friends who communally bought land in rural MN, hoping to be part of the “community” there. They are surrounded by right wing nuts who call them “communists.” One of my friends wrote an editorial in the town newspaper suggesting that prayer in schools violates our separation of church and state mandate. The “community” put posters up with his picture that said “stop the anti-christian zealot.” Imagine how they would treat a gay kid. I agree with Gets Better – get the hell out of that kind of place. Move to MPLS.

    And while I’m sure lovely, progressive religious people do exist in rural America, I’m pretty sure they’re in a very small minority.

    Telling gay youth that may live in places where they are surrounded by hate that they can escape to the city is HELPFUL. Maybe not 100% of them will actually be able to leave, but let’s not sacrifice the majority who can.

    With friends like Jessez’s blogger, who needs enemies?


  46. Kate L says:

    I may be going before the city commission again on Tuesday night, this time to support keeping gender identity and expression in the proposed revised city human rights ordinance. After coming out before a previous city commission meeting televised on local access cable, this will be anticlimatic (sp? isn’t “anticlimatic” a global warming denier?). My own family doesn’t talk to me anymore, not even my sister, who I shared a room with until I was 10 years old. So… off i go. Once more into the breach, dear friends.

  47. Ellen Orleans says:

    Here’s the link to Kate Bornstein’s video in the “It Gets Better” series.

    I found hers more intimately aimed at the viewer than Dan’s, which seemed to be more about him and his family. He’s living an American fairy tale: first he wins fame writing an edgy, shocking sex column, then continues to win fame as middle American Dad and family man. He’s good at marketing himself.

    In thinking about this some more, I think Dan’s original intention was very specific. He wanted to prevent suicides that resulted from from the belief that life would never improve, therefore suicide was the only option.

    That’s a different goal than coming up with strategies for improving a wide range of queer kids’ lives. Both are legitimate, though I still think, that for all his efforts, he might have paused for a moment to consider what would help queer teens in the here and now.

  48. Ginjoint says:

    Kate, WTF with your family?! Do they think you’re somehow tarnishing their good name or something?

    Yes, HoH, the Cubs…*sigh* Another season, another broken heart.

    I’d like to weigh in more on the video topic, but…I joined a gym, and I need to get over there before work. I’d like to lose some weight and get in better shape. More later.

  49. ksbel6 says:

    @43: No, but many of them were clearly shocked. And the group was marching, so it couldn’t stick around.

    As for the small town bashing, seriously, quit it. I live in a town of 17,500. And in exactly the same way that one should not assume anything about all people, one should not assume things about the attitudes of small towns. The majority in this particular town vote democrat and are quite liberal. The parade jerk is in the minority. Remember that Iowa has legalized gay marriage and I’m quite positive that some of you would consider Des Moines a small town and it is the biggest city in that state. Iowa almost always votes democrats into office. Kansas City is a big city, and I hate being there. I feel less safe and secure in that city than just about anywhere. I get more evil stares there when I come out of the restroom, etc.

    The fact is, it is important to find somewhere to live that you feel safe. If that is in a small town, so be it. If that is in a city, so be it.

  50. Ian says:

    Off topic (when are we on?), but saw this today – a few samples from an auction of feminist postcards. Probably NSFW (Not Safe For Work if you didn’t know).

  51. Andrew B says:

    I’d like to explicitly make a point that several commenters, including GJ and meg, have implicitly reminded us of. Savage’s project is not identical with his video. He established a channel and made an open call for contributions. This seems worth saying because some critics, including femmephane, criticize his video but appear to think that they are criticizing the project.

    Maggie, you should contribute a video to the project. Seriously. You could describe how even a person in a seemingly hopeless situation can dig her heels in and fight and come away with a better result than she was going to be given. Some kids who can’t imagine themselves going snowboarding in Paris, or whatever the hell it was, would take heart from that.

  52. Kate L says:

    (Ginjoint #49) They do think that! I may not be the first L______ of my kind, though. One of my father’s aunt was a suffregette; for years, we had her porcelean tea service, with its little violet flowers, on display in the family china cabinet. Turns out those violet flowers were a signal to those of us of a certain persuasion, back in the early days of the 20th century! I never knew her, though. She died before I was a born.

  53. Kate L says:

    No, I’m not making the secret lesbian tea service thing up! Remember, suffregette times were before the advent of the toaster oven…

  54. Anonymous says:

    Look to Brazil for some encouragement re: women in politics. People not only vote in Brazil,they pay a small fine if they do not. And they overwhelmingly support leftist candidates. Imagine your choices for president as being between a male social democrat economist,a Green Party female activist,and an economist who’s the daughter of Bulgarian and Brazilian leftists. The latter,who’s in Lula’s cabinet,is the favored candidate; there will be a run-off October 30.

  55. Feminista says:

    56.Trying again to see if this will link in orange.

    [Feminista (and others): Please see the example below the “Leave a Reply” text-field below for help in including a Link in a message. –Mentor]

  56. Mentor says:

    [Just a reminder for those in the neighborhood, that AB is giving the “Dartmouth College Stonewall Lecture” at 4:30pm on 5Oct.

    [Click here] or see the “Events” page. –Mentor]

  57. ready2agitate says:

    Interruption for some wry pre-mid-term election humor, courtesy of Roy Zimmerman (whom I first met via this blog):


  58. Dane says:

    I’m thrilled to have been beaten to both links I wanted to post here: Jessez’s (#30) link, and Kate Bornstein’s video. She opens it by saying “sometimes, it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse.” And yeah, she plugs her book, but for the love of G!d, her book is a list of alternatives to suicide.

    One thing that came out of this for me: I finally got back in touch with the GSA I founded eight years ago and told them I’d like to form an alumni chapter of the club. This week, I’ve been scouring facebook, searching for queers from my high school (90% of whom came out after graduating – my high school was *not* friendly). The half-dozen of us that have come forward are talking about giving the current students our contact info, committing a certain number of “office hours” each month for students who need advice or a listening ear. Someone’s already offered to teach the kids how to write press releases and get media attention when the administration fucks something up. The big idea: to connect queer kids with the world beyond our high school and small towns. To not just promise that it gets better, but to start helping kids empower themselves to make it better. Now.

    I so hope it works. Any other ideas on what half a dozen scattered queers could do for some high school kids to show support?

  59. Kate L says:

    Every time I hear GSA, I first think, “Geological Society of America”, founded in 1888 and headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. Those GSA kids were reporting on subduction zone volcanism in the latest GSA newsletter!

  60. Ellen Orleans says:

    Dane — you’re interactive, student first approach is exactly the kind of thing that makes sense to me. Congratulations on your thoughtfulness and innovation.

  61. Ellen Orleans says:

    I feel compelled to note that I do know the difference between “you’re” and “your” (incorrectly used in the email above) and to acknowledge that I dashed it off quickly before heading to work.

  62. judybusy says:

    Kate, best wishes for the ordinance! Also, so sorry to hear about your family members. My dad is the same. Sometimes I think jeez, it’s not like I’m a total loser, mooching off you or some criminal. I hope you have good friends and other family members who love and appreciate you!

    Waaaay back to Renee #6: thanks for posting about Ferron. She was really important in my coming out and loooong incubation period before making my dream reality!

  63. Kate L says:

    Thanks, judybusy and others!

    I’ve got to believe it’s getting better.
    So much better, all the time.
    I’ve got to admit, it’s getting better.
    So much better, all the time.

    – The Beatles, Getting Better, from the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

  64. postdoc says:

    Kate L,
    How do you know about the meaning of the tea service? Is the meaning of the china pattern documented in a book somewhere? I’m really intrigued!

  65. Kate L says:

    postdoc (#66)

    Some things I’ve known about so long, they are just part of my lesbianic world view. I tried to find justification for my attributing such significance to a tea service by turning to our modern oracle, the world wiide web, but I found no confirmation there. Could it have been a secret sign amongs wimmin in the American midwest of the early 20th century? Possibly.

  66. Kate L says:

    I’ve just now returned from the local city commission meeting. During public comments, a young gay man who is a student senator at (Moo U) told the commissioners about the unanimous passage by the student senate of a resolution supporting the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the city human rights ordinance.

    If I didn’t look so butch with my new, short hair, I could have just cried! 🙂

  67. Ian says:

    Over here, Kate L, I believe signet rings worn on the little finger were meant to be a ‘secret sign’ for lesbians.

  68. Fester Bestertester says:

    Tony Soprano is a lesbian?

  69. Marj says:

    Ian, true or not, I’ve been doing that for years. Except I got bored with signet rings, so I have all sorts…

  70. Living400lbs says:

    I liked Marianne Kirby’s It Gets Different. She compares growing up to leveling up in D&D or other roleplaying games – you gain more abilities, more tools.

  71. ready2agitate says:

    Hey Living400lbs – I met your blog on this blog – love it!!!

  72. bean says:

    i survived high school: where’s my trip to paris? (don’t really need the snowboard, though)

  73. Anonymous says:

    I’m totally not paying attention to what this thread conversation is actually about, I just wanted to point you all in the direction of this post from Seattle’s “The Stranger” in which it is posited that someone should devise a unit of measurement called a Bechdel to rate how awesome a female character is.