In September 2010, the world got a bit better for LGBTQ youth suffering from harassment as journalist and LGBTQ activist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller debuted the It Gets Better Project. In the past seven years, the It Gets Better Project has become a worldwide movement to show solidarity with survivors of harassment. According to Itgetsbetter.org, the project has generated over 50,000 user-created videos of support and collected support from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and LGBTQ allies alike. These videos have been viewed over fifty million times. “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living” is the complimentary book, edited by Savage and Miller. With the collection of over 100 messages of support, Savage and Miller string together a series of unique and gripping messages to keep holding on.
“It Gets Better” is heralded in by an introduction by Dan Savage, who explains the impetus for the project: the deaths of Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucus and thousands of others of bullied teens. Searching for a way to help, the It Gets Better Project was founded. Savage explains that his life got so much better and he wanted to send a message to the youth to keep holding on; life can be better than imagined but you need to push through the challenges.
The first message of support is from President Barack Obama, wherein he addresses the challenges of creating a better world. He writes: “we’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage---that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all our kids.” His words are easily applicable to any individual overcoming harassment and President Obama’s message of healing and fighting LGBTQ oppression is echoed throughout the book.
Contributor Urvashi Vaid’s message leaves the reader emboldened to take action to build a better community. She writes: “activism saved my life…what I found in social movements was a whole life that has given me hope, inspiration, friendships.” Vaid offers a message of hope and reminds the reader to look for a community to connect with and build power.
The message “Getting Stronger and Staying Alive” by contributor Gabrielle Rivera is a raw and powerful affirmation that things don’t always get better but you do; you get stronger. Rivera’s message resonates in the heart of anyone who has endured oppression and needs that pep talk to find courage. Rivera continues: “don’t give into the myth that its going to be fancy and amazing when you’re older…. just know that you gotta get stronger. And the stronger you get the easier dealing with all this craziness will be. The stronger you get the more you hold onto your own life; the more you’ll love yourself.” Rivera’s voice is the necessary voice of the older sibling, best friend and encouraging parent all rolled into one.
Contributor Ivan Coyote reflects in her piece “What I Wished I Knew,” echoing the sentiment that it is up to every individual to build a better world. She writes: “You deserve to be loved for exactly who you are right now. This also means you must return the favor. Learn more about racism and sexism and ableism…Learning more about how different kinds of oppression work and where they intersect will help you build better bridges with others.” Coyote hits the nail on the head; in order to eradicate oppression we must know how it works and operates and challenges the reader to get involved.
It Gets Better is chock full of raw personal anecdotes, vital life lessons and blue prints for a better world. It serves as the perfect weekend read when in need of a reflection or a go-to book on your shelf when looking for a soul-shaking shot of espresso. Read it; recommend it; live by it. After all, it does get better.