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It Gets Better might be making it worse

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: ‘It Gets Better’ might be making it worse – Los Angeles Loyolan.

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Photo Credit: It Gets Better Project

“Shut up.” That’s my knee-jerk reaction whenever I read an article where a heterosexual person tells the LGBT community what to do or what they’re doing wrong. And every so often, after I’ve actually read the full article and listened to his or her point, my reaction hasn’t changed.

But after reading “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.,” an article written by right-wing activist Kathleen McKinley on Nov. 1 on the blog “TexasSparkle,” I have to admit I was left contemplating her argument a little more than I typically would. Not because she’s any great shakes as a writer – in fact, she comes off as a bit of a half-wit – but because buried underneath the mediocre verbiage, she makes a few good points.

McKinley’s argument is, in essence, that adults who urge gay teens to come out of the closet at an early age are endangering them and preparing them for an unrealistic world. Her targets are the It Gets Better Project, the television show “Glee” and other media outlets she perceives as portraying a false world to gay teens.

The blog, along with a few other web outlets, have blasted McKinley for, in effect, telling gay kids to stay in the closet and blaming their parents rather than blaming the bullies who are really at fault. McKinley does seem less interested in admonishing the hateful bigots than she should – instead, she focuses her anger primarily on, as she puts it, “the idiotic adults who force our adult views on kids, and pull them into our adult world long before they are mature enough to handle it.”

While I’d love to say that she’s wrong and that adults are completely aware of the difficulties of being so young and dealing with the process of discovering your sexual identity in today’s world, she’s actually making a good point. The media world is hypersexualized today and so focused on figuring out your identity that it’s nigh impossible to come to an understanding of your sexual identity independently.

The It Gets Better Project, established last year by columnist Dan Savage during the last rash of gay teen suicides, gained notoriety quickly as a source of support for LGBT youth. Hundreds of YouTube users, both famous and obscure, uploaded videos communicating their sympathies to bullied gay youth. The movement became an overnight sensation with mainstream media.

Fast forward a year and America is once again in the middle of a multitude of gay teens committing suicide, with Canadian teen Jamie Hubley as the most recent victim. It’s not a stretch to say that the It Gets Better Project has failed as a campaign, especially when considering that one of the bullied teens who eventually commited suicide, 14-year- old Jamey Rodemeyer, actually made an It Gets Better video during the first string of suicides.

McKinley’s critique of the It Gets Better Project and other adults who emphasize being who you are, rather than coming out at the right time, is on-point. LGBT teens need a way to express themselves and work out their feelings and curiosities. However, waving a rainbow flag and setting their social studies presentations to Lady Gaga songs isn’t the answer. It may be a generalization, but teenagers are jerks. They’re still discovering who they are and tend to take out their insecurities in hateful ways. High school is not the best place to freely express who you are, no matter who that may be. It’s not fair, but then again, very little in this world is fair.

Parents should be open and honest with their children, giving them safe environments to express their sexual identity in a healthy manner. They should also be honest with them about being confident in themselves but also being safe. By the same coin, LGBT teens should be proud and confident in their sexual identity without exposing themselves to bullying. They should acknowledge their circumstances and respond appropriately to their situation. If a gay youth doesn’t feel safe and is without a strong support system that can be there in the worst of times, it’s not a good idea to push gay youth to come out.

I disagree with McKinley’s approach and her stances on most other issues. I also wish she would learn how to write properly so she didn’t make an otherwise strong point so insufferable to read. None of that, however, takes away from the fact that her argument is valid and needs to be heard.

The It Gets Better Project and movements like it have their hearts in the right place. But, they aren’t quite working and it’s time to acknowledge that rather than crucifying those like McKinley who are willing to say so.

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