Comments of the Week: A Debate Over Dan Savage's "It Gets Better"

Last week we praised Dan Savage’s YouTube campaign “It Gets Better” to encourage and support gay teens, which sparked a indirect debate between this site and Femmephane:

Angelika Says:
October 10th, 2010 at 8:05 pm e

as much as I agree on the importance of non-bullying and a truly sex-positive life-perspective, I have been feeling “queer” about this campaign.
if you don’t mind please reconsider these arguments, better summarized than I could ever do as a non-english-speaker (and non-American).


thank you from Germany !

non-bloggess and avid reader of your blog.

Dannie Says:
October 10th, 2010 at 9:22 pm e

1. The main goal of this is to prevent teen suicide. Part of preventing suicide is convincing teens that there is, in fact, a reason to keep living. Committing suicide is -not- a good response to bullying, and saying living life to your fullest potential is better than killing yourself does not make me ageist nor does it mean that I am putting guilt on people who do commit suicide.
2. It helps to see adult role models who aren’t assholes. In a multiplicity of ways. Also, it’s kinda hard to hold listening, psych sessions on a video blog.
3. Neither of these men denounced their religions. At all. I failed to see how it condemned religion in any way, other than stating the facts.
4. Why shouldn’t kids who are being bullied for their sexuality be able to dream about going to Paris and having a kid? It seems classist to me to think that these ideals should only be allotted to already wealthy children.
5. Yeah, the bar scene was cheesy, but it was candid. It just goes to show that, as dorky as one may be, love–not just sexual flings or violence–can be found in fun ways. And, hello, would you condemn a straight couple for getting together in a bar?
6. There is nothing demeaning to suffering youth in providing a beacon. Most of the time, it does get better after high-school–as far as bullying goes. Not always, clearly. But it does not do any harm to point out that high school is hard enough for straight people, not to mention gay, and that as we grow up we grow into bigger agents of our own happiness. How can you ever even find out if it will get better for you if you kill yourself first?
7. Kids won’t talk about their problems if they think no one is listening. Period. By showing that they know the suffering, and that they have overcome it, and that they clearly care, these two men are showing that there are people out there–including themselves–who will listen. This is a way to start the conversation.
8. What would -you- do? I ask this honestly. If this response is not good enough for you, what is? I bet it’s been done before.
9. There is nothing wrong with encouraging kids to come out to their families. (Though they didn’t even do that. They just said what happened when they chose to come out, and gave kids hope.) Yes, it can be dangerous; I’ve seen this firsthand. I’ve also seen, despite the pain of being kicked out and denied kinship, the sort of wholeness and hope it gives to someone who has fully and openly acknowledged a part of their identity. Also,how can any healing being if no one says anything? Staying quiet is no guarantee to safety, either.
10. Is everything they say positively going to happen after graduation? No. But, does it help to have a light, even if it is a wavering one, at the end of a long and painful tunnel? YES. I fail to see what is wrong with giving hope based in fact via personal experience to kids who are considering killing themselves for lack of it.

Em & Lo Says:
October 11th, 2010 at 1:43 am e

Nicely done, Dannie, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves! One more point we will add: The blogger in question seems to have completely missed the main point of the video project, which is to encourage everyone who wants to submit, to submit. If that’s not the very essence of “listening,” then we don’t know what is! And just starting a national conversation like this is the best way to let people know that they can be heard.

Apparently, we’re not the only ones who took issue with Femmephane taking issue, as evidenced by the site’s follow-up posts (which addressed the critics as well as the many [shock!] supporters): “Dear Friends,” “FAQ of Savage Dissent” and “Fierce is” — all worth checking out.