If It Doesn't Get Better, Then What?

Today was National Coming Out Day, and all through the day my social media feeds were filled with references to it - some funny, some touching, and some inspiring.  But along with the stories of coming out, there were also the obligatory critiques.  (At least in progressive circles it seems like critique is always obligatory.)  In particular, there were criticisms of the "It Get's Better" campaign. 

As someone who identifies as a straight ally, my personal reactions to the "It Gets Better" campaign have run the gamut.  I found the first few videos to be extremely touching.  Then the criticisms startted coming in, raising valid points that I had not considered.  It gets better if you're cis- but not necessarily if you're trans.  It gets better if you're middle-to-upper class, but not necessarily if you're poor.  It gets better if you're white but not necessarily if you're a queer person of color.  It gets better if you're attractive, but not necessarily if you don't conform to the normative standards of attractiveness.  "It gets better" glosses over a whole lot of stuff.  The criticisms are valid, and important to make.  They opened my eyes at the time when I first heard them and I think they're still important now. 

But today, when I saw yet more critiques of "It Gets Better," I remembered something.  The campaign was created in the context of teen suicides.  LGBTQ teens commit suicide at a rate three times higher than for straight teens, and the point of the campaign was to give queer teens hope so that they could hold on.  So that they might choose to live long enough to get help, long enough to get through.  That is the reason why the campaign, with all its flaws, exists. 

So my question is, if "It Gets Better" is not the right message, then what is? 

I'm talking about this issue as it pertains to the LGBTQ community but really this is relevant to a larger issue among progressives in general.  There are any number of campaigns created by liberals trying to address important issues.  And for most all of these campaigns, there are progressives pointing out what is wrong with them.  The campaigns often don't go far enough, aren't inclusive enough, lack a systemic frame, and ultimately buy into the same mindset that we are trying to dismantle.  Oft times what is presented is a "kinder, gentler" version of something that is still at its root oppressive.  I get that.  I'm not trying to defend that.  But the question still remains, what do you tell the kids who are being bullied right now?  If it doesn't get better, then what?  What kind of hope do you offer to encourage them to hang on while at the same time working to address the systemic violence that is driving them to suicide in the first place?  After all, if we are encouring LGBTQ folks, including teens, to come out, then we are encouraging them to risk abuse. 

And on a more general level, when we offer our critiques, what postive alternatives to we also offer?

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