In September, Dan Savage, editorial director of the weekly Seattle newspaper "The Stranger," and his partner posted a video with a simple message - "It Gets Better" - to inspire and encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
The video project has gone grassroots, inviting people across the world to encourage our next generation, and to offer hope to those who are facing harassment and bullying.
Thousands of people have submitted their compelling video stories online at www.itgetsbetter.org. These stories are an opportunity for us to reflect on what has changed, and what work still needs to be done.
While it’s wonderful to send positive messages about the increasing societal support for LGBTQ youth, we also know there is sometimes a challenging spot between when life is difficult and when life feels so much better.
For LGBTQ young people, that period can feel like forever.
The national “Make it Better” project takes Savage’s message a step further, encouraging youth and adults to take positive action to end harassment, bullying and discrimination in the schools and beyond. Visit www.makeitbetterproject.org for details.
With all the momentum around providing safe spaces for LGBTQ youth, now is the time to think globally and act locally. We need to show all youth that we love and accept them, and that we believe they can succeed.
We need to provide them with successful adult mentors who can offer guidance, be honest, and listen with open minds. All young people need a safe home, caring adults, and peers with whom they can relate. Youngsters also need a space to unwind, recharge, and connect.
Sadly, for LGBTQ youth, there is often not this unconditional support.
I am so grateful for the many wonderful resources that exist in the South Sound.
As the director of Oasis, a drop-in, support and resource center for LGBTQ young people ages 14-24, I see the daily challenges LGBTQ youth face in our communities.
Located in Tacoma, Oasis is a program of the Pierce County AIDS Foundation. Oasis enhances and sustains the community by saving individual lives, building community and developing young leaders who can change the world.
And here in Olympia, Stonewall Youth serves LGBTQ youth up to the age of 21. Together, these two groups have been serving the South Sound’s LGBTQ youth community for decades.
The “Make it Better” campaign identifies many next steps we can take as individuals and as a community. While the issues of LGBTQ bullying and harassment are in the media right now, we know that this current level of awareness will fade as other important issues surface.
Please think creatively about how it can get better for youth, and what you can do to actually make it better.
From being “out” as an LGBT or allied person to volunteering to making a financial contribution, we can all do more to support and mentor youth as they navigate their identities in a world that has not yet caught up with them.
Locally, Stonewall Youth is hosting its seventh annual Fundraiser and Winter Gayla on Dec. 4. Details are online at www.stonewallyouth.org.
Thanks for making it better in the South Sound.
Seth Kirby of Olympia is a proud member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. He is a member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.