While much good has come of the campaign--hoards of politicians, celebrities, sports teams, corporate employees and the like have publicly expressed their support for young people struggling with their identity and condemned bullying--the danger is that it might start feeling like these videos are themselves solving LGBT bullying and oppression.
But it's only part of the equation: Being against bullying is not the same as being for LGBT rights and equality.
Given that young LGBT people are the target of the campaign, it's interesting to see one of the flock (an MIT student) rip into the campaign with this scalding opinion piece. Though he wrote it last year, some of it still rings true:
"Telling them that their lives will get better, as if by magic, merely serves to remove responsibility from the speaker (and the LGBT community and society as a whole) to do work towards improving the attitudes of the oppressors and the treatment of the oppressed."While I'm with him in his argument that participants and producers of the videos should not feel as though their LGBT activism work is done, I disagree that the videos should not have a place in the movement for LGBT equality. They are one (very, very successful) means of getting the word out to the public at large that there is a major problem in the way we treat LGBT people in this country.
But the piece that is missing is a strength-based approach. It Gets Better paints being a young LGBT person as wholly miserable, always a struggle and something to be endured, not enjoyed until adulthood. My lesbian and gay friends around the dinner table tonight agreed that more positive LGBT exposure is needed to provide balance: young people need to see examples of families who accept and embrace their LGBT members, of rad lesbian high schoolers taking their girlfriends to prom without a lawsuit, of middle school boys in fun and loving long distance relationships, and so on.
Wouldn't it be powerful if for every It Gets Better video produced, a Hell Yeah, Be Proud video was made too?