It gets better

21 10 2010

by AngryPanda

This is not the first time something so horrible happens. In fact I think it happens more regularly than anyone wants to admit. And worse there are thousands more who suffer through the same, and while they don’t end up killing themselves they still suffer just as much.

You would expect Ellen DeGeneres to care and speak about these things. What you probably didn’t expect are the hundreds of others who did too. All as past of the project called “It gets better“, which tries to bring hope to young people who just don’t know better yet. The project was started as a reaction to the suicide of 15 year old Billy Lucas in Indiana who killed himself after relentless teasing and bullying in school. Dan Savage wrote:

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.

But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay — or from ever coming out — by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

He made a video, telling his story and how hard it was for him. It ends with a simple but true and powerful message: It gets better.

Hundreds of others followed with their own messages, starting one of the largest and certainly the most moving landslide reactions I have ever seen. A foreign minister, a priest, some guy who clearly never spoke into a camera before but really tries, a pop star who dropped her act for once,  an Australian with a really cool beard and too many others for me to even begin to skim the surface. So far my personal favorite would be from Joel Madden who is really short and to the point:

There’s a heavy focus on gays but the project speaks to all youth’s who like outsiders, estranged from their own community. There’s also some criticism about it having set its goals too low. That it should strife to fight the causes of the problem instead of just telling kids to hang in there. Those critics are barking up the wrong tree. The problem is not the few people who do something. The problem is the mass of people responsible for this who do nothing. A few videos can’t change the world. Parents and teachers would have to do that. The very same people who allow this horror to happen every day. But they don’t. And while we can hope that this will someday change it is still important to do something now, even if is just to light a beacon of hope.  Hope is a powerful force and while I don’t think the fact that puberty is a horrible time for many can be changed by it,  it can at least give them the strength to pull through so they get to enjoy the better life afterwards. I don’t even own a webcam or know how to edit a video but right now is the first time I feel bad about that because I feel like I should contribute something. But hey I have some readers here so I write this. Today might be the first time something you read here is worth your time.

I remembered an old post from Jenny the Bloggess about the same thing and that one has been stuck in my head for along while. You can read the original in the link but for convenience I will copy it here. I think in this case she’s caring about the message and not site clicks.

I believe that people have the right to say and do what they want.  Even if what they say and do makes me sick to my stomach.  I know people who are intolerant or homophobic or full of fear or hate.  And some of them I love in spite of it.  I can’t help it.  But I still have to say something even if it hurts them to read it.

You are wrong.

Our differences are what make us strong, what makes us unique and special.  Fighting intolerance about mental illness, or race, or lifestyle or whatever labeled “flaw” we are saddled with makes us strong.  And today instead of using my strength to say how much I hate every single person that thought that this horrible act of cruelty was in any way acceptable to do to a human being I’m using it to do something so much harder.  I’m using it to say that I still love you.  And that I hope for change.  And that I know that I am imperfect and I am changing and that I hope you can too.  Because I don’t want to live in a world where so many people send me emails of desperation and despair because they think that a girl on the internet they’ve never met is the only one who could ever understand them.  These people?  The ones emailing me who feel that their life is worthless?  They are your children.  They are the people we see every day.  They are the men and women who will one day care for us when we’re old and feeble and can’t stand up for ourselves anymore.

They. are. us.

Please, try a little harder.  Because instead of screaming in fury I’m going to try to change my own behavior and instead just say what we’re all really saying underneath our angry shouts…I love you, and I want you to love me.

A special note to every single person reading this who thinks that they are alone or different or forever broken…you are not.  You are part of a special tribe that you just haven’t found yet and we need you.  All the best people are broken.  Keep fighting until you find your place.  It does exist.  I promise.

At the end you see that the message is the same: It gets better. I mostly used quotes from other people here since I’m really no good at saying nice things but here’s the thing. It is all true. From the moment you get out of school onward things do get better. School and parents are the closest thing western society have to institutionalized torture. The rest of your life will be significantly better. There will be people you love and people who love you and most importantly you won’t be forced to live in a pond with a bunch of half-filled piranhas anymore.

I guess my personal message to this is a little less love-filled than the rest of the things you can hear about this. Because here’s another truth: The people who treat you like shit right now are assholes. It is ok to be angry. Yes even and especially if they are your parents. But one day soon, in what feels like an eternity for you but what is only a moment compared to the rest of your life you get to make your own way. You get to move out of that place, away from small-minded bigot idiots. Like one of the guys in the vids said, you can go to the by area or New York. Or wherever else depending which country you are in. Things will be better there, they really will. Spend all day on the internet to make it through, it helps. It’s a luxury some of us didn’t have and it can help you to contact people you can talk to and who can and want to help you right now. And the most important thing is that you will no longer be forced to spend time with people who harass you. There is no more school to force you. And your family will have to learn the hard lesson of either accepting you or not seeing you on christmas. Believe me, I tell you from personal experience that works wonders. You get to find friends who care for you, people who are so different from the scum you have to deal with right now that you will believe you are still dreaming half the time.

Maybe it will be a bit late and you will have turned into a hate-filled potato like me but even then you will find that you are happier than ever before. It really does get better.

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