It Gets Better Project
Danny Miller, Northwestern University
It can get better. It does get better. It will get better.
The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered) people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach - if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project is an online video website founded by Dan Savage in September 2010, in response to media reports about teenagers who were bullied because they are gay or because their peers suspected that they are gay. The goal of the It Gets Better Project is to provide support and prevent suicide among LGBT youth by having LGBT adults convey the message that these teenagers' lives will improve. The project has grown rapidly: over 200 videos were uploaded in the first week, and the project's YouTube channel reached the 650 video limit in the following week. The project is now organized on its own website, http://www.itgetsbetter.org/
, and includes more than 10,000 entries from people of all sexual orientations, including many celebrities. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone.
In the fall of 2010, the Northwestern University fraternity/sorority community felt it was important to participate in this project and shared the stories of community members on camera. The video focuses not only on LGBT issues, but rather a diverse range of identities, as bullying can affect anyone.
The conversation began when two staff members, myself and Michael Anne Adriano, engaged in a discussion regarding the project. The dialogue was focused on the how the mission of the It Gets Better Project aligned with the many of the core values of fraternities and sororities. If our organizations could create a safe space, individuals would have the opportunity to explore their identity, in all aspects, with brothers and sisters who will support them in that process.
In the following days, we brought the project to the students and asked if they would be interested in participating. Initially, we reached out to fraternity and sorority presidents, Council officers, and other key leaders. We asked them to help us recruit students who wanted to share their story regarding bullying. In addition, we invited chapters to offer their support by appearing as a group saying “It Gets Better” at the conclusion of the video. The response was overwhelming.
What started out as a good idea, opened a profound dialogue in our campus community. We set a date for recording and solicited a film major from the School of Communication, to film, edit, and produce the video. While the professional staff at Northwestern were connecting with colleagues at the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Annual Meeting in Phoenix, our students spent the day in a campus auditorium sharing their stories.
We had five students respond with a story who were available on the day of taping – Tim, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, who identifies as a member of the gay community; Jasmine, a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. who identifies as Black and Latina; Rebecca, a Delta Zeta who has a developmental disability; Jodie, an out lesbian from Gamma Phi Beta; and Susan, a member of Delta Delta Delta who has struggled with her cultural identity. In addition, we had 17 chapters show their visual support at the end of the video.
Since its production and release in March of 2011 the video has been viewed more than 1,700 times. It has been featured on the Northwestern University homepage, highlighted in the Campus Pride blog, and has been used during campus programs as a tool to educate students on bullying and student development.
The topic of bullying is important and it is critical that we have honest conversations with our students about the culture of bullying within our chapters. If you are a campus-based professional, you cannot be naïve. We need to think about what bullying looks like in each of our organizations. Bullying transcends gender, social, cultural, and ethnic lines. If you are a headquarters professional, what is your organization doing to ensure the safety of your members? Does your member education address this as an important social issue? If you are a volunteer, have you been provided training on how to handle bullying situations?
Within a fraternity or sorority, bullying can occur anywhere - at chapter meetings, through social media, within a chapter house, at an inter/national convention, at a regional rally, etc. Both advisors and undergraduates can participate in bullying. The importance of students supporting each other and being comfortable in their environment to talk about who they are is an important step to ending bullying on our campuses and within our fraternity and sorority organizations. To hear our story, please watch our video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMTtIqswWvI