Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Getting Better

There’s a particular movement going on right now, fronted by the “It Gets Better Project,” which is an attempt to get young gay people not to kill themselves.

I agree with the spirit and intent of the campaign, and I understand why there is a need for it. I read a comment the other day that went something along the lines of, “Of course these old faggots like Dan Savage want young fags not to kill themselves. Who else if he going to fuck?” Sentiments like this are disturbingly common, and they stem from an overall attitude of hostility for homosexuality. This is basically why the gay rights movement exists.

I will try to tread lightly as I provide a little criticism of the “It Gets Better Project.”

And there needs to be criticism, because it’s not exactly the most well thought out campaign. For one thing, it’s based on a lie. I have talked to many gay people who are well past high school, and trust me: it gets worse.

Gay kids in high school don’t have to worry about losing their job and not making the mortgage because they got fired from their job for their sexual orientation. Gay kids aren’t generally at the age when gay marriage bans directly affect their lives. And it’s generally not gay high schoolers who are beaten and dragged behind pick-up trucks.

It just doesn’t get better by magic. The status quo is such that it does not get better just because you get past high school.

To me, the message needs to be: only you can make it better. There needs to be change enacted for it to ever get any better, not only when it comes to gay rights, but anything. Time does not improve the world naturally. Progress is not measured with a watch or a calendar, but in the decibel level of your voice. If you don’t speak out for change and publicly push for it, it ain’t gonna happen.

Which leads me to another criticism… I won’t name the kid, but this whole movement was because some gay guy jumped off a bridge when his roommate set up a webcam and broadcast some gay sexin’. This whole situation pissed me off, and not for any of the reasons given in the public debate.

For one thing, all the blame fell on the roommate with the webcam set up. Newsflash: it was the roommate’s room, too. It’s not like someone snuck into the kid’s room, invaded his personal space, installed a covert camera, and then broadcast it. It was his room, and he was kicked out by this guy who wanted to have sex with another guy.

As someone who lived in college dorms, I sympathize far more with the guy who was kicked out. I always made sure to schedule my sexual escapades around my roommate, and my roommate did the same. I always felt bad for (and gave a place to hang out and watch TV to) anyone who was in the situation of the “locked out” roommate.

So already I hate this kid for locking out his roommate. Strike one. Then, he goes and jumps off a bridge like a drama queen because people found out he was gay. Strike two. Then this kid’s family prosecuted (successfully) the roommate for doing nothing more than videotaping his own room. If it had been a security camera instead of a webcam, no one would have questioned it. Since it’s a “webcam” and the kid killed himself and was gay… that roommate is a monster.

Strike three, you’re out. Good riddance, I don’t miss you. I’m glad you did it, and I wish more people like you would jump off bridges. I hope the family dies in a firey car crash and that all vestiges of any DNA you had is wiped from the gene pool.

Why so much hostility? Well for one thing, it gives gay rights a bad name to attach itself to this incident. It’s a tacit admission that, “Hey, we idolize a guy who thought being gay was so awful that having other people know you’re gay is worth killing yourself over.” What the fuck kind of message is that? We shouldn’t be putting people on a pedestal for killing themselves after being outed. How does that make any sense?

Dan Savage is an icon of the gay culture, not a douche who took a flying leap off the George Washington when his homosexuality was made public. If Dan Savage wasn’t in some way associated with this whole “It Gets Better” thing, I would say it was hopeless. But Dan Savage can publicly say, “I’m gay,” and not want to die, and he fights tooth and nail for gay rights.

That is how it will get better, from gay activists who actually care about the gay community and who work to make it better for all, not from self-loathing cowards who aren’t worthy of even having me write their names. We should forget those types of people, the kind who run from their problems, the kind who give up, the quitters. They aren’t even worth a memory.

That is what we should be telling people. We should remind them that if you take the lazy way out, if you are too afraid to confront difficulty, we won’t honor you with anything, and we won’t even bother to remember you. I guarantee you that if that idea crosses the mind of someone looking over the ledge, it’s a whole lot more likely that they won’t jump than if they’re thinking, “I’ll be a hero for this…”


  1. I suspect the release of the video showing the kid "gay sexin'" was the last straw in the camel's back for the kid who threw himself off the bridge. This was probably a very troubled kid, a kid who was struggling with his sexual orientation, a kid who felt despair, and it only needed one more push to get him over the suicide hump.

    Quite honestly, if you've never walked in the Valley of Mental Shadow, you have no business calling anyone a coward. You are clueless as to how it feels to be in that place, how overwhelming the despair can be, how merciful death might seem. I've walked that Valley (with "simple" depression, no complications from sexual orientation!) and I can say there is no cowardice involved. Cowardice is fear, but people take their lives from Despair -- a much mightier opponent.

  2. Something tells me that if I were to ask the whole world to raise their hands if they have never thought of killing themselves, it would be a bunch of kids under 13 and a bunch of liars with their hands up. Something people need to realize in this "Boo-hoo, whoa is me" culture is that no one's life is easy. Suck it up and get something about it or shut up and kill yourself. It's very simple.

    I'm not sure why you think I don't realize that young man was troubled (it's plainly self-evident he was, though it's also my understanding there was no other overt psychological problems prior). I also think it's ridiculous for you to assume I've never been depressed. You're talking to an atheist who waited until I was in college to outright tell my mother about it to avoid any repercussions like being thrown out of the house.

    In fact, atheists are far more despised and underrepresented than gay people. There are more openly gay people in congress (like Barney Frank) than are openly atheists (currently, there are none). But I think it's rather petty to turn this into a "I'm more oppressed" contest, and I would just say there's a difference in how you and I think one should face adversity, and it's ignorant to just assume I haven't.

    Liberals need to abandon this bullshit notion that suicide is brave, as if surrender is courageous. This whole mindset helps explain why liberals keep failing time and again. This is a really good attitude to have if you want all the people you agree with to fail and then off themselves, but I think liberals need to stiffen their upper lip and just persevere, because it's obvious that conservatives aren't just going to hand progress over on a silver platter.

    Seriously, Karen, grow some ovaries and toughen up a little.

  3. Suicide isn't brave. That isn't what I said. As for thinking about killing oneself, probably everyone has done it. To actually DO it, however, takes an inordinate amount of SOMETHING. I believe that something is despair.

    You accuse me of not being tough, because I sympathize with someone who suffered too much, in his own mind, to live. Never will I give up that compassion. I will work to make the difficulties that drove that young man to suicide seem silly in some future retrospect. But I will not lose my compassion for those driven to despair.

    As for me, I fought the urge and lived. (And no, I wasn't 13; depression dogged me from childhood until my late 30's when it finally got so bad I sought treatment.) Life is better now, with the right medication, some counseling, a better (and older) outlook on life.

    It is you who need to grow up, and learn some compassion.

  4. I have compassion, which is why I don't want to see people killing themselves over something as frivolous as their sexual orientation. When I see someone like that go, I can't help but feel like my team lost one. But the responsible party in that case is the individual.

    Maybe if he hadn't jumped, he could have spent his life working to make sure homosexuality became more accepted. Instead, he's fish food and a horrible role model to others who are going through undue suffering at the hands of a culture that hates them.

    I can be compassionate, because I'm still here, as can you. That guy who jumped... he didn't help anyone, and his family sent someone who wasn't a criminal to jail. I don't have to pretend I respect the wrong course of action. I don't have to respect someone as a martyr just because they were gay. Matthew Shepard was a martyr, not the jumper.


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