Last Thursday, the White House released what is perhaps the most important submission to date for the It Gets Better Project. In a three-minute long video message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth — far too often the victims of unrelenting discrimination and harassment in their schools — President Obama conveys his support and encouragement to these young people. President Obama says:
You are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied, and there is a whole world waiting for you — filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are.
It is indeed a wonderful message, and the fact that it is coming from the President of the United States only serves to amplify the message to LGBT young people that life does indeed get better. There are countless people throughout the country who stand by you and love and support you for who you are.
The It Gets Better Project was started by Seattle writer, sex advice columnist, and activist Dan Savage last month following a devastating rash of suicides involving young LGBT people who had all been tormented and victimized in their schools simply because of who they were. The idea was simple enough: Videos featuring LGBT adults sharing their personal experiences and talking directly to LGBT youth to show them that life usually improves immensely for LGBT people as they get older. The message to these young people was as important as it was simple: "It gets better."
Since it was launched, there have been over 700 video submissions, including two from staff in the ACLU’s national offices in New York and Washington, DC, one from the ACLU of Northern California, and one from the ACLU of Illinois, as well as over 10 million video views. There are nearly 90,000 Facebook fans of the project, and it was announced on Friday that It Gets Better is going to be published in book form as a collection of essays from celebrities and ordinary people from across the country who want to share their stories. The book is slated to be published in March 2011, with proceeds benefiting organizations that help LGBT youth.
All of this demonstrates the amazing power of a simple idea to transform lives. It is great to have a president willing to unambiguously stand on the side of LGBT youth. A great follow-up to the president’s message would be turning his words into concrete results that actually do improve the lives of LGBT people and build on the accomplishments that the administration has already delivered upon in this area.
A good place for the administration to bring their considerable political muscle could be with an endorsement of the Student Non-Discrimination Act. This legislation would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on a student's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Additionally, the administration should also refrain from efforts to appeal the recent judicial order that struck down the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as an unconstitutional violation of the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.
Nothing will actually show LGBT kids that life does in fact get better then breaking down and eliminating the ugly bigotry and discriminatory policies that treat LGBT Americans like second-class citizens.