IT GETS BETTER: A Lehigh Valley Video Project

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the “It Gets Better” project – an internet based project where various people in support of GLBT rights and tolerance have had short video testimonials aimed at queer youth, to remind them that much of the harassment and injustices they face will get better in time.

The internet is full of video subissions, from various organizations to political leaders, to random folks wanted to lend their words and support. I’m so happy to announce that when I got in touch with some people to see if they had interest in helping make a Lehigh Valley PA submission, everyone immediately said “Yes!”.

So! On Sunday, Nov. 7th, ANYONE interested in participating can go to Civic Theatre of Allentown, from 1-4pm, where they will get a maximum of 3 minutes to lend themselves and their voice to be filmed. The point of the project is to remind people that over time, you get more comfortable in your own skin, and you find support from friends and community that are sometimes hard to come by when you’re a teen.

You are welcome to do this in any way that suits you best – read off a paper, just start talking, share a story, get mad, get excited, play an intrument… whatever you do best, do it and be proud!

Please go here to see the online event page, and spread the word: It Gets Better Lehigh Valley

Huge gigantic THANK YOU’S to: Sarah and Matt Fulton of Post Sputnik, you do incredible work that constantly improves and gets people excited about the Lehigh Valley. The fact that you will lend your equipment, talent and time to this project is humbling and everyone this affects will be forever grateful.

And also to Ryan Hill (my love!), Bill Sanders and Arlene Daily of Civic Theatre of Allentown, because despite organizing, planning and rehearsing the biggest production of the year, you all immediately wanted to help out and offered Civic Theatre as the public space for the filming to be held.

This project is for ANYONE that supports GLBT people and rights. There is a full, thriving community in the Lehigh Valley and this is a beautiful place for anyone to call home.

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25 thoughts on “IT GETS BETTER: A Lehigh Valley Video Project

  1. I saw this even through the Civic Theatre’s site. As a gay man with a partner, I know what it’s like to grow up in a small town and dream of when the time comes when things will become easier. I think what Dan Savage and his partner have done are wonderful and I sincerely think we need all the allies we can get. But I’m curious as to know if Pride of the Lehigh Valley or PA Diversity are involved in this? Or any glbt organizers?

    I think it’s great that you put this together but if I knew that most of the people behind this were straight, I really don’t know if I could relate. Not to be mean but it’s almost condesending to sit and tell me as a gay person or a kid it will get better because you and your boyfriend have rights that I do not. If you two want to go out and get married tomorrow, you could. You probably don’t get stared at if you hold hands. I know that you are behind equal rights but I’m sorry, you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be in a gay person’s shoes. This is just my humble opinion. Thank you

    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew,

      A press release went out today, and I have talked with various people involved in GLBT activism – not everyone yet (this JUST became official, what, 48 hours ago?) but we will continue to contact more people, included various college organizations, etc.

      I’m sorry you made the assumption that everyone involved is straight. That is not so. On this topic in particular, I’m happy to further discuss it via email. I’m sorry you don’t feel that people should be involved unless they are gay, it seemed to me that the point was acceptance and tolerance for all – which means straight people accepting gay people. If you try to push those people away, it’s kind of like going backwards. It’s funny, I think some of the most hurtful things I’ve heard in the past year or two regarding sexual orientation have come from gay people being angry at straight people. Hmm. I would hope you don’t think someone shouldn’t therefore try to diminish racism based on the fact that they may be white, or that a man couldn’t stand up for rights of women.

      As I said, please email me if you desire to better understand the personal stories of some folks involved thus far. It’s not my place to speak on behalf of everyone else (that’s what the project is for), but I can speak for myself. Thank you so much for writing!

      • Jaime K, I think this is a fabulous idea! As a person who has been in both straight, gay, and alternative relationships, I think it’s really important that people from ALL sides are given the chance to have themselves heard. Love is love, despite gender or sex or any other biological boundaries. And this is about acceptance, so it’s just as important for people who identify as straight to be involved in this as it is for gay/bi/pan/etc.

        I plan to do everything I can to be there that day and contribute to this. I think you’ve done a wonderful thing hun. <3

      • Hear hear! Things won’t get better unless both sides are just as open minded. :) As a gay man, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the army of supportive straight friends that I do. In fact, I feel many of them are more pro-active about gay rights than I am and it makes me want to do more. Not to mention what it does for your pride to have the “other side” (even though, that’s a bad way to put it, we’re all on the same side) on your side too.
        Anyway, I’m really excited that something like this is happening in the li’l ol’ LV. Hope I can be a part of it.

    • Wow Andrew, on an even more coincidental note, the “gay VS straight” mentality I mentioned earlier also came from someone residing in Pittsburgh! I see that’s where you are from. What a strange, small world. It’s almost as if you know each other! Imagine that!

    • The “it gets better” project is for anyone who wants to support LGBT youth. Saying that most people involved with the LV version are straight would make you “not relate” is reinforcing a stereotype about a prejudice that the project is going to hopefully change. As a supporter of the project a large amount of performers, politicians and others have recorded messages have shared their words, not perhaps of experience but of compassion. As a gay man it would have changed my life to have such support when I was 10, 11, or 12 years old – and from both sides. Saying that straight people shouldn’t be organizing this is like saying that white people shouldn’t have rode to Selma for the civil rights march – there is no separate but equal. We must applaud and join anyone who helps the cause and WELCOME them. Just as these kids who feel ostracized will see the power of so many diverse people SUPPORTING them. They [and WE] need everyone’s support.

      • The idea that straight people being involved is somehow making a mockery of things is hurtful on so many levels, but also to the many people who are donating their time to work on this. I think about the filmmakers, a wonderful happily married straight couple, who are taking up their whole sunday to set up equipment, do all the taping, sign waivers, etc etc… THEN spend the hours and hours to edit everything down… free of charge. Because they believe in it.

        There is nothing bad about that, and on the contrary, it’s incredibly generous and infinitely inspiring. It shows exactly how wonderful this community is at supporting one another through personal issues, the arts, careers, activism, etc… YAY LV!

    • Andrew:

      Equality is everyone’s responsibility, and while I agree with you that it’s important for queer folks to be able to speak up for themselves, I think it’s ludicrous to suggest that because the organizers of this particular project may or may not identify as queer, that the project has no credibility.

      I’m curious how you can make so many assumptions about Jaime’s sexuality? How do you know she has a boyfriend, and if she identifies as a straight person? How do you know her boyfriend identifies as a straight man? You’re making an awful lot of assumptions here.

      I’m a transguy in a relationship with with a cis-woman, and I accept that I experience a lot of hetero-privilege since transitioning. But I still identify as queer, as does my partner. We both have experienced the pain of coming out to unaccepting families, of being threatened and harassed in public, of being discriminated against for being visibly queer. Does all of our combined queer experience become null & void now? Am I no longer permitted to be a “card-carrying queer” since people assume I’m straight? Is my outrage over LGBT inequality suddenly invalid? I call bullshit. In fact, I’ve probably experienced just as much transphobic garbage from the LGB community as I ever experienced homophobia from the hetero community.

      If the only people who condemned prejudice were the ones being discriminated against, where would that get us? I find your “us vs. them” mentality to be pretty disappointing, and quite frankly just as discriminatory as the anti-queer rhetoric this project is attempting to address.

  2. This sounds like a really great idea–I love that it’s giving anyone and everyone, not just people from one side or the other, the opportunity to talk about why this issue is important and why things should be better for the GLBT community. It’s amazing to see that people want to be involved in making a change, even if it’s through something simple like recording a message or playing a song. I think that any positive support is good support and can really go a long way. :)

  3. I’m so glad I found your blog, it’s wonderful to see such positive activism like this in the Valley! I would love to be there but unfortunately have prior plans, but I hope you get a great turnout. This is such a great project.

  4. I think this is great that Civic is doing this. I’m a straight man so I won’t pretend to know what it is like to be gay. I know what it is liked to be harassed and threatened because someone thinks you are gay.

    3 years ago when I was in High School, my girlfriend at the time and I went for a walk holding hands after a band competition along the school grounds. At some point in an area that wasn’t well lit we kissed. Within 20 seconds of us kissing 4 boys my age about 30 to 50 feet away started screaming anti-gay slurs saying they were going to kick our ass. I was quite confused as my girlfriend was very attractive and didn’t know who they were talking to. For the band competition my Girlfriend’s hair had to have been tied in a way that from a profile in the back it would be difficult to tell whether she was a girl or a boy. The 4 boys thought we were two guys kissing and I guess decided to harass us.

    I was scared shitless at the prospect of having to fight 4 guys at once. When the boys got within 5 to 10 feet they were able to see that I had in fact been kissing a very beautiful girl and apologized and walked away. My girlfriend and I had a nervous laugh about it on the way home with me saying good thing you got such a beautiful face and that was the end of it really. I really haven’t given it that much more thought till Prop 8 and must admit at times haven’t been the most vocal on my feelings on the issue of gay rights.

    So, I learned for a very brief frightning 5 minutes what it might be like to be a gay American. However, at the end of the day that was just 5 minutes. I went back to having not to fear kissing a person I loved off a beaten track on a cold fall night. Other people in America don’t have that luxuary.

    The thing that got me most was the boys were apologetic when they saw my girlfriend was in fact a girl. That if she had been a guy it would have been somewhat acceptable to harass us and maybe beat me and her up. I wonder what would have happened if she had been a guy and why it would have been acceptable in those strangers mind to to attack people they don’t know if that had been the case.

    For 10 minutes I was a gay man in America and my observation is it can be a frightening experience at times. I’m glad this is being done for the community in the Lehigh Valley.

  5. I am glad you posted this Jaime! And yes, I am straight and I do not know what it is like to be discriminated against in a gay perspective but I am a single mother, who feels it in a different circumstance. People assume a lot when judging books by their cover, it’s something that will never go away. I know I am a mother, and it’s unfortunate I don’t have the family I’d prefer but this is the life my son and I are now leading. No one knows where I came from, who I was with, they just make assumptions when I’m not married or with anyone. To each their own. Now, I have many gay/lesbian/bisexual friends and love them all just the same as my straight friends. Love is love, and that’s what we need to focus on here. In the end I hope this project is a success in everyone’s eyes! :)

  6. i just wanted to say i’m really excited to get involved in this project, and about the fact that it’s even going on in the first place.

    when my friend jaime told me about it, i could not have been more psyched, remembering what it was like to be a kid in a not-so-queer friendly setting.

    it does get better. and it’s a good thing there are projects and people like this getting a good word out about the beauty of the full spectrum–queer and otherwise.

  7. Jaime – kudos for wanting to add a Lehigh Valley submission for this movement. This topic is more prevalent today than ever before – our LGBT communities need to feel the support within the community and from OUTSIDE the community too. Not only do us straight individuals support LGBT rights, but we want to be wherever/however/whenever we’re needed to be on the other end of the phone, part of a rally, an ALLY in any shape or form. It’s a fantastic idea, and I’m really proud of you for making it happen. Thoughtfulness is someone that thinks of doing something… and then DOES them. :)

  8. [To add to that: I might be able to get there by bus to make a little submission. If you feel you really need to pack in the people, let me know and I’ll try my best to get there and come up with something good. However, if you have quite a sign-up already, I may pass… just out of transportation reasons.]

  9. Anyone who can find fault in what Jaime is putting together here should really astep back and reevaluate their intentions. How is your comment benefitting anyone Andrew? You make me sad.

  10. Jaimie-
    I commend you on your efforts to bring this message to the Lehigh Valley. YES it does get better, and it gets even better than can be imagined, even when you are growing up and feeling so different and often defeated and you can’t see the light. It gets better because of people like you, straight people, people like me, gay people, and people like all others, who identify in whatever way their hearts lead them. Understanding and compassionate straight people like you, and like my parents, and my brother, and my co-workers, and your boyfriend, and our friends at the theatre, and straight friends and family at churches, and colleges, and in the government, and in every corner of our lives….straight people who care enough to join this fight because they care about intolerance and injustice….we need you, and we thank you.

    • Thank you for your incredible reply, Jason. As for myself, I do not identify as “straight”, though I am currently in a straight relationship. But no matter, it’s the entire community (no matter how defining themselves) that is what supports each other, all of us. It’s disheartening to think that for some people, you can actually be “sort of gay, but not gay enough”, and that is something I plan in bringing up in my part of the video – with humor and a positive conclusion, of course. :)

  11. Throughout history and around the globe, oppression of all different groups has only been truly overcome when people from both the oppressed and non-oppressed groups join together to refuse the continuation of the cycle. While it is certainly true that a “straight” individual cannot fully comprehend the pain, strife, fear, and injustice inflicted upon a member of the LGBTQ community, taking part in the “It Gets Better” project is one way of voicing a commitment to ensure that it WILL get better for the generations to come and that we are not okay with living in a society full of injustices.

    This project, currently aiming to improve the quality of life for one particular group of people being treated with inequality, has the potential to grow to affect many different groups of people. It makes a broader statement that people care enough to try and make the world a better place to live for EVERYONE.

    From my point of view, the concept behind the project gives me a touch more faith that I will someday be able to watch my best friend marry the person she loves, that my husband and I will not be forced to hurriedly check out of a campground in Gettysburg or be the subject of insensitive remarks being yelled from a passing car due to the fact we are an interracial couple, that another friend of mine will be able to voice her political opinion openly and without worry despite the fact she wears a scarf, and that none of the wonderful things that make this world a beautiful place will be used against those who bring them to the table.

    No one will be able to honestly say it gets better in the future if all different kinds of people don’t say it now.

  12. Jamie,
    I am so happy to hear of this project in the valley. I didn’t come out of the closet until college at CCC. There were amazing pockets of openness, but I would get scared, at times, holding my girlfriends hand when walking through the Walmart parking lot on MacArthur Rd.
    Also, dating someone of a different gender does not a straight person make. My fiance is bi, and I am a lesbian. If I happened to be a man, she would still be bi. You have always been an extraordinary woman, and you wear your heart on your sleeve. Thanks so much for being a voice for what matters.
    All My Love!
    Jenny

  13. i am happy to see this happening in the lehigh valley, so kudos and THANK YOU to all involved in making it happen and to those who are planning on participating! i think dan savage’s “it gets better” project is timely, powerful, and amazing.

    i’ve been shocked recently by some interactions i’ve had w/ straight people who are reacting very negatively to the fact that gay rights issues are becoming human rights issues, so i believe it is especially encouraging to hear from straight people who are allies.

    one “friend” said something to the effect that gay people need to stop seeking acceptance from outside sources and just accept themselves (which is basically true, but i believe having the support of those around one struggling with self-acceptance can only help). he went on to say something like 95% of the people out there don’t care if you’re gay. and he also believes that DADT is a good thing (he’s not gay, nor in the service). uh… so…

    i have started engaging in conversation w/ these people (interestingly, they have all been straight white men) because i find this backlash bizarre. there’s a very real possibility that the political landscape is about to tip to the far right again, so i am happy to know that the number of people who give a damn (another great project) about gay rights and human rights is increasing.

    btw, please vote next week!

    as a human, woman, and lesbian, i can offer people who may be struggling an account of my own experience to show that it does get better. i’m pleased as all get-out to know that there are so many allies willing to show their support and back it up w/ action. to me, that in itself is a great example of how things get better, because this wasn’t always the case…

    namaste.

  14. Andrew,
    As a lesbian with a partner, I too know what it is like to grow up in a small town wondering when things will get better. I wanted to know people like me but I also wanted acceptance from those who were not like me. Maybe you are forgetting the mission of the project. ACCEPTANCE, opening minds and stamping out ignorance. Shame on you for thinking that this project has any less integrity for not having GLBT organizers (or assuming it doesn’t). Where would we be without our straight (or seemingly straight) allies? Kids/teens need to see SUPPORT and acceptance from straight people just as much as they need reassurance from gay people. I am thrilled and thankful for people like Jaime, Ryan and Civic Theatre for making our fight theirs. This is just MY humble opinion.

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