You ought to read “It Gets Better”

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the It Gets Better Project, the LGBT-oriented anti-bullying campaign launched by progressive sex columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller. But have you read the book?

I’m reading it at the moment, and although I’m not gay and I’m certainly no teenager, I have to admit that I’m quite impressed with the book, its message and its execution. Savage and Miller have tapped into a wide range of encouraging voices, from ordinary people in the LGBT community to celebrities and politicians, including Barack Obama himself. Each of the book’s many contributors reaches out to young readers, shares his or her own experiences, and emphasizes the simple but important fact that “it gets better.”

In addition, the book and the project as a whole are actually pretty fascinating examples of the potential to organize for change in the age of new media. If you’re like me, and you’re really into that sort of thing, then you’ll want to read this book as a case study.

“The culture used to offer this deal to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” Savage writes in his introduction. “You’re ours to torture until you’re eighteen. You will be bullied and tormented at school, at home, at church – until you’re eighteen. Then, you can do what you want. You can come out, you can move away, and maybe, if the damage we’ve done to you isn’t too severe, you can recover and build a life for yourself.

“There’s just one thing you can’t do after you turn eighteen: You can’t talk to the kids we’re still torturing, the LGBT teenagers being assaulted emotionally, physically, and spiritually in the same cities, schools, and churches you escaped from. And, if you do attempt to talk to the kids we’re still torturing, we’ll impugn your motives, we’ll accuse you of being a pedophile or pederast, we’ll claim you’re trying to recruit children into ‘the gay lifestyle.’”

The It Gets Better Project as a whole is the result of using new media to reject that deal and reach out to young people. “We weren’t waiting for anyone’s permission anymore,” Savage writes. “We found our voices.” The results, as the book illustrates, are very compelling indeed.

Posted in You Ought to Read