I promised to put my Dan Savage Is Annoying campaign into context. Thankfully, other people out there think Dan Savage Is Annoying too, and probably have much more reason to than I do. So if I haven’t completely lost you already, I highly recommend you read the following post. It criticises the It Gets Better youtube video project, which Savage set up after the media highlighted recent suicides in America by ‘gay’ teenage boys and young men. The project involves ‘queer’ people recording video messages for young people who may be feeling distressed and who could be being bullied over their sexuality/gender identities. The message being, ’it gets better’.
This is just one example I found of a few similar criticisms of the It Gets Better Project:
I don’t have much to add to that critique. Except for some snide remarks about Mr Savage’s need to tell us all about how he met his partner at a gay club where there was a drag queen working the cloakroom and his no… I just won’t go there. Quiet Riot Girl Is Annoying Herself.
There was one youtube video submitted for the project criticising it along similar lines to the above post, saying Dan Savage is a ‘rich white man’ so of course it gets better. But the person who submitted it took it down, and made another, more positive video, after pressure from others involved, who said it might ‘hurt’ vulnerable young people. Basically the youtube project suggests support for queer youth has to stay ‘on message’ and ‘upbeat’. Dissent and diversity does not seem to be encouraged. This is borne out by the vast numbers of videos being uploaded by white university-educated gay men, in comparison to those from women, transgender people, and working class people, and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
You may notice my trademark use of ‘ ’ inverted commas, round the terms ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ in particular. This is my main criticism of It Gets Better. Many many young people are confused and isolated for many reasons. Their identity becomes bound up in sexuality and gender during adolescence, well, even earlier than that. And this can be very challenging. But to lump all that confusion, isolation, and yes, sometimes cruelty and bullying, together as affecting ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ young people, is misguided and misleading in my view. Associating teenage angst and alienation with a ‘deviant’ sexual identity, and expecting those teenagers to hold onto that sexual identity for the rest of their lives, I think, is just as much a problem as things like homophobia and bullying. Some ‘queer’ kids are so keen to avoid getting stuck with that deviant identity that they are the ones that act in a homophobic bullying way. Some people don’t experience same sex desire until adulthood. Some people sail through high school as a ‘normal’ ‘popular’ kid and then have a really shit time later on, partly because of who they happen to fall in love with*
So to the sentiment of ‘it gets better’ I still ask ’what does? and for whom?’ Not to be negative about people with diverse sexual experiences and identities, and not to make such a song and dance about ‘privilege’. But to be open-minded about life, love and young people’s sense of who they are, and who they might be. And to resist this ever-encroaching culture of homogenity, whereby if someone who seems to have influence in liberal, socially-aware circles does something, the consensus has to be that it must be A Good Thing. Because it is campaigning against Bad Things.
I will leave you with a quote from Goodbye To Berlin by Christopher Isherwood:
‘We are all queer in the end’.