The “It Gets Better Project”

On September 21, 2010, the “It Gets Better Project” was launched by gay activist and journalist Dan Savage in response to the suicide of gay teenager Billy Lucas, and other queer teens who took their lives because of bullying revolving around their sexual orientation. Savage posted a video with husband Terry Miller sharing their stories of life as LGBT teens, stating “I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.”  The intention of the video was to prevent suicide among LGBT youth by providing a sense of hope for the future. By hearing about the lives of gay adults who lived through these difficult times, the youth could see that it really does get better.

The “It Gets Better Project” is an excellent representation of the empowerment that LGBT supporters can have in the community. By promoting change through personal accounts of success, it shows that we are all human and that if we band together, we can make it to tomorrow. No one truly knows if things will get better in the future, but the one thing that keeps them going is the hope that it will. “If every day is terrible, and worse than the day that came before it, the only thing to do is to hold out for the “better” one.” (Doyle, 2010) This project exemplifies the strength that queer people have; they have made it and they are flourishing.

Although the “It Gets Better Project” was acclaimed strongly for bringing forth a strong message of hope for the day, some queer activists criticized the campaign stating that it diminished the struggles that some have. One argument states that although we are promoting change, we are not providing an avenue for those who are under privileged to get help. Youth with depression are not going to “get better” if they do not have access to proper mental health care. Another criticism posits that “It Gets Better Project” caters to the privileged white gay man. Diana Cage states that although the concept o the movement is beautiful and inspirational, it does not help you if you are a gay member of color, or transgendered. The argument continued on stating that life doesn’t necessarily get better, but you become stronger. You learn to block out negativity, you learn to love yourself, you learn to survive.

it-gets-better1This project fits well in to the context of the history unit because this archive is timeless. As time will pass, the message started by Savage will continue on. A message of hope and a better tomorrow. Although critics have had arguments against the project, I like to that the project does more good than harm. When I look at this page, I feel a sense of joy. It gives me inspiration and meaning, and I think that this is what each piece in the history unit was intended to do. Each provided us with a sense of hope. My favorite piece from the unit was “One Today” by Richard Blanco. It parallels the “It Gets Better Project” by forming a sense of unity; a sense of belonging.

“…of one country
— all of us —
facing the stars
hope —
a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together…”
Savage’s message exemplifies where we are currently at with LGBT issues. There were movements concerning free sex practices, feminism, and of course the AIDS epidemic. One of the goals of today is to cease the bullying brought against the LGBT community. Campaign’s such as the one brought forth by Savage exemplify just that, sending a message of hope that tomorrow will be better.
Dan Savage and Terry Miller

 

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”: The gay anthem of the century

The Wizard of Oz tells the story of a young girl, Dorothy, who is whisked away from her drab, boring, black and white town to the elaborate and extravagant land of Oz. In her anthem, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, Dorothy sings about wanting more than the life she has and asks “If happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow why, oh, why can’t I?”

What was thought to be a song of a young girl dreaming for a bigger life became an anthem for an entire community looking for someone to guide their way out of the shadows. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” became “an anthem of pain for homosexuals who perceived themselves as belonging to a despised minority.” (Brantley, 1994) Gay men everywhere began identifying with not only the song, but Dorothy herself, calling themselves “Friends of Dorothy.” Dorothy accepted people for being different hence her friendships with the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man. And following her character from the film, Judy in real life accepted people who were different. Judy Garland, the woman who played Dorothy, became an idol for the gay community. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Judy Garland became the ultimate gay icon. She was relatable, she was human, and most of all she was camp. Camp, as defined by Babuscio, are the “elements in a person, situation, or activity that express, or are created by, a gay sensibility.” Camp was in every essence Garland. She was larger than life, over the top, and extravagant. Towards the end of her career, Judy began to fall apart, the drugs and alcohol become too much. But after all of that, her fans still loved her. In some way, her falling apart and displaying her struggles to the entire showed how human she was and that she knew how it felt to be the victim. To this day, Judy Garland is not an example of camp, Judy Garland is camp.

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Judy Garland died on June 22, 1969, one week prior to the riots at Stonewall. Some state that there is a common factor between the two; that Garland’s death lead to high emotions and rage but no truth behind that facts have ever been proven. For those who believe this to be true, Garland’s death leading to Stonewall riots shows a critical turning point in the gay rights movement.

Stonewall

After Garland’s death, her legacy continued on through her song that started it all, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The community continued identifying with the song and making their own renditions to keep it alive.

The song gives them power. Identifying with something bigger than themselves. After all, isn’t that what Judy was? She was bigger than life!

I think all of this, identifying with the song and “Friends of Judy” exemplifies a sense of world-making, a notion brought forth by Berlant & Warner (1998). To them, world-making is more than what is just evident in the public. It’s what you make of intimacies; it highlight that inventiveness of the queer world, as well as the fragility of it. World-making is building a community where you feel at home, and in an essence Judy gave that to the gay community. She showed that it’s okay to be human and makes mistakes. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” continues to be an anthem for the gay community, and I believe it always will. It will always be a sense of hope. Judy will be a sense of hope.

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On a final side note, I believe that it is not a coincidence that the flag for the gay community happens to be a rainbow flag. Even Gilbert Baker, the creator of the LGBT flag, gives some credit to Judy. No matter what, Judy will always be “over the rainbow.” (corny I know, but I couldn’t not put it.)

Intersexion

“The first question any new parent asks… “Is it a boy or a girl?”

But what happens when doctors cannot answer that question?

1 baby in 2,000 is born with genitalia that is so ambiguous that no one can tell if the child is male or female.”

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As New Zealand’s first “out” intersex person, Mani “Bruce” Mitchell was determined to bring positive attention to those who identified as intersex, a variation in sex characteristics which currently encompasses over 30 prenatal conditions. With the assistance of award winning filmmaker Grant Lahood, “Intersexion” was created, now an award winning documentary that acknowledges intersex as a condition that is part of people, not what defines them. This heart wrenching documentary, which you can watch here,  inserts us in to the personal stories of people and how they have faced the tale of adversity. Many stories revolve around the secrecy and interventions suggested by medical professionals as set out by Dr. John Money, who thought that nurture could shape gender which we now know to be false. Other stories exude happiness, stemming from the parent’s choice of not taking the doctors advice and simply loving their child as they are; a person. “Intersex” provides us with a plethora of emotions, introducing us to the condition of intersex, a term that is not uncommon but simply unheard of because the public is still uncomfortable discussing it.

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Queer culture because is exemplified in the film by showing the lives of those who are living outside of the heteronormative and gender binary world. Judith Butler stated that gender performativity is at the root of this problem due to the repetition of gender roles and the expectation of the heteronormative life narrative. Those who don’t fill the molds of those expectations are considered queer; they are straying from the norm. This encompasses exactly what intersex people exemplify; a group of people proud to be away from the norm. Proud to be representing their people, their family, their condition.

Les Feinberg stated that “each person should have the right to choose between pink or blue…” At birth, most intersex infants are not even given a choice of sex, let alone gender. For this reason, “Intersex” is a strong contender for both the gender and sex categories. We live in a world where society dictates and drives the moving force towards “normal.” Why is that? We give doctors the power to decide if our infant is male or female. But what if they child is neither? Can’t we just look at the child and be glad that it is healthy and alive? People are so used to routine, to pattern, to comfort, that when something deviates from that role, catastrophe happens. People are unsure what to do. This film is stupendous in plentiful ways, but I adore that it gives people an introduction in to the lives of intersex people to show that they truly are just people who want to known for their intelligence, love, and integrity not just their condition.

On a lighter note, Germany became the first country to have “intersex” as a category on the birth certificate. Hida Viloria, an intersex woman who told her story in Intersexion, was interviewed with other activists about their response. Slowly, but surely, intersex is gaining a voice.

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“I hope this documentary will show everyone that the ‘shame and secrecy’ model hasn’t worked – and that intersex children can grow up to make informed choices about their own bodies.”- Mani Mitchell.