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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It Gets Better: The New York Times Checks Back In

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Brian Stelter has a piece in the NYT today about the IGBP. It focuses on the accidental activism that the project has inspired: because we asked people to create their own YouTube accounts to post their videos (instead of emailing in their video files for us to post), comments posted to individual videos go directly to the person who created the video. The result:


“Middle school was the worst,” Calvin Stowell says in a YouTube video he uploaded on Oct. 1. Homophobia was rampant. Bullies were “pretty relentless,” he says, recalling that on his first day there, a girl walked up to him and asked, “Are you a faggot? No offense.” Eventually his parents pulled him out of the school. Looking directly at the camera, Mr. Stowell, now 22, then says three words that he wants isolated gay, lesbian and transgender teenagers to hear: “It got better.”

Thousands of people like Mr. Stowell have posted personal testimonies to YouTube in an online campaign titled “It Gets Better” that has, in Internet parlance, “gone viral” in the four weeks since it started. The campaign is intended to help gay teenagers who feel isolated and who may be contemplating suicide, and it coincides with a rash of recent news stories about bullying and the suicides of gay teenagers and young adults.

The highly personal videos have caused some teenagers to ask for help. Mr. Stowell now spends hours each day replying to messages from viewers. “Growing up, I never had someone to confide in,” he said. Now these teenagers do. “I can’t even articulate how much this has ended up meaning to me,” he said. Mr. Stowell says he has received 23 e-mails from teenagers who said they had felt suicidal. He has referred them to the Trevor Project, a toll-free telephone line and online chat site for gay youths at risk. The YouTube channel for “It Gets Better” is the third largest source of traffic to the Trevor Project, and there has been a “great increase” in calls in the last month, a spokeswoman for the project said.


People didn't realize when they made videos—I didn't realize when I asked them to make videos—that they were volunteering to provide counseling and referrals to teens in trouble.

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