Okay, truth time. Have you been able to watch a single one of the “It Gets Better” video testimonials without getting just a titch teary-eyed?
If you haven’t heard of the It Gets Better movement, it was propelled by the recent suicides of several gay North American teenagers. These promising young people chose to take their own lives rather than struggle with the torture of being bullied.
Anyone who has survived this kind of abuse knows exactly how it feels to be targeted when you’re just an adolescent. Not only do these bullies drag you through a special kind of hell just about every single day, but you’re also suffering from age-related hormonal changes that toy with your emotional stability. Plus you have practically zero life experience. You don’t actually know, or believe, that anything could ever change. In the here and now, you’re unhappy and desperate. You might feel like there’s only one way out.
Yet in the wake of this horrific string of deaths, something amazing has happened. Incredibly caring people, led in part by American writer Dan Savage, have stepped forward to save lives. Men and women, gay and straight, are taking the time to share their own stories of being bullied in their youth, of feeling different, of knowing with absolute conviction that they’re entirely alone. And they’re spreading the message to gay teens and other bullied young people everywhere that it gets better. Hang in there, they tell browbeaten youth of today. This is nothing but a temporary setback. A wonderful world is waiting for you.
The long list of video contributors includes a cluster of Google employees, celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Adam Lambert, Chris Colfer and Neil Patrick Harris, and hordes of ordinary people. U.S. President Barack Obama is there too, saying: “You are not alone… Don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself.”
When I was a teen, I felt like an oddball. Just like so many who came before, and so many who will come after. In the classroom I was brainy, and in the gym I was afraid of the ball. Right there went my bid for prom-queen status. Plus I had the misfortune of spending most of my underage years with a close relative who tormented me mercilessly. And by mercilessly I mean without mercy. In retrospect these experiences were such a tiny miserable fraction of my overall life, in which I’m unbelievably fortunate and gratified and happy. But those years loom huge when you’re mired in the muck of them.
I added my name to the list of supporters on the It Gets Better Project website. Because I wish someone had said those three words to me, back when. Because I want to say those three words to someone else, or a lot of someone elses. And because I want to bear-hug everyone who, by participating in this project with a pledge, with a video, with a painful personal story, is doing the most awesome good deed for a despairing young person somewhere.
And now, because no one should go through their whole day teary-eyed, I invite you to take in some Grover doing his Old Spice bit. Until next time…