So, everyone’s been pretty stoked about Dan Savage’s new project It Gets Better. If you’re not aware, the project is a collection of video testimony from folks from the whole spectrum of queerdom and their allies. They are home made, heartfelt, utterly beautiful stories all brought with the simple message to queer kids: It Gets Better. If you’re being bullied now, feeling like no one will ever accept you, scared of your family, scared of your church, scared you’ll never find love, these people are all here to tell you that your life will improve and you have so much to live for.
It’s great, right? The perfect antidote to so much gay hatred that queer people hear every day. The only problem though is that telling someone you love and support them might get them to feel a little less hopeless in the short term, but what does it actually do to stop bullying?
I believe in the message of the project. I think if you can give enough hope to a gay kid who is suffering, it may be enough to keep them from killing themselves, which is a huge, HUGE deal. But, despite all the posi-vibes, I think it’s inaccurate to say that these videos are doing anything to actually alleviate the source of gay youth suffering – the fucking bullying.
It seems other people have been thinking the same thing, and one of those people is an awesome woman named Sarah Hoffman who writes a blog all about her experience as a mother of a gender non-conforming child. Take some time to give it a read if you have a minute, but particularly, this post on how to take action beyond words and actually make a meaningful difference to end bullying of queer youth.
She calls out schools in their role as the harbors of bullying and gives educators and parents real tools they can use to teach tolerance, respect, and humanity to children. It really isn’t that hard to teach compassion to a child. It’s an innate trait. Most children are in fact, too empathetic for their own good. They mirror the emotions and behaviors of the people who nurture them. A child does not wake up one day and decide to hate. It has to be taught to them. Intolerance has to be deeply ingrained through their exposure to hateful messaging from parents and family, churches, all manner of media, and other children (whose parents, families, churches and media taught it to them, etc).
I actually find this fact hopeful because it means hate can be unlearned. And furthermore, we can stop it from being taught in the first place. Sarah Hoffman has provided a comprehensive list of tools for parents and teachers to help make this transition possible. Even if a child is not receiving hateful messages from their teachers, their teachers can step up and provide messages of tolerance to counteract the negative ones they are assuredly hearing elsewhere.
This isn’t to say that all kids are haters, or exposed only to hateful messages, but as adults, we have learned how to filter out opinions and messages we don’t agree with as they swirl around us in the media driven milieu of our daily lives, kids do not have that filter. Everything sticks. Let’s try to get something good to stick while we can.
See you out there,
Liz + FB