You’ve probably heard by now that columnist Dan Savage has started something called “It Gets Better,” a video campaign in which queer adults share their stories with troubled teens about how life can get better if they can get through these difficult years. The campaign has been getting a lot of attention, and recently it has also faced some criticism.
Critics say that the campaign is geared towards privileged youth who, like Savage, will someday have the option of fleeing to a place like San Francisco to achieve a life of acceptance and privilege only middle aged well-to-do white gay men can dream of. They call the message ageist, racist and classist in its short-sightedness, its failure to point out that it doesn’t get better for everyone, as many deal with the pain of oppression their entire lives. Some also argue that saying “It Gets Better” blames the victim, telling queer youth it’s up to them to be strong enough to tough it out and get through it.
Of course, the message that teens should simply wait it out is not the most encouraging thing for a young person living in the moment. I certainly believe that young people struggling right now can grow up to thrive beyond their wildest dreams, but I also support the alternative “Make It Better” project that aims to give young folks the tools they need to become active and make things better now, rather than waiting for the world to change. I don’t think any over-arching message is perfect, because not every solution is right for everyone, but I think any message that can give some sense of hope is worth spreading right now.