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It Gets Better

October 26, 2010

I first came across the tragic story of Tyler Clementi after my openly gay boss quoted the always outspoken comedian, Sarah Silverman, on his Facebook status.

“Dear America, when you tell gay Americans that they can’t serve their country openly or marry the person that they love, you’re telling that to kids too. So don’t be f*c&ing SHOCKED and wonder where all these bullies are coming from that are torturing young kids and driving them to kill themselves because they’re different. They learned it from watching you.”

I was soon reading about it everywhere in connection to a slew of suicides by young, gay individuals across the nation. Clementi jumped to his death of off the Washington State Bridge after classmates secretly filmed him having sex with a man and broadcast it over the internet. He became the fifth gay teen to commit suicide in the span of two weeks.

While the media began an evaluation of our school system’s response to bullying and an evaluation of the American attitude toward people that are gay, Dan Savage uniquely responded to the tragedies through his It Gets Better project. The campaign, which has virally exploded throughout the internet, is committed to gaining supporters to help reach out to the LGBT community to let them know just that- it gets better. Since its start in September 2010, celebrities, politicians, everyday people and even President Obama have joined the movement by making videos letting young people like Clementi know that they support them. The It Gets Better youtube channel has uploaded more than a hundred videos and has nearly two million views. The #ItGetsBetter Twitter page has millions of people tweeting to support people like Clementi in their struggle for acceptance.

Dan Savage effectively used social media to do good. He recognized that young people are not turning to their parents or counselors in tough situations like the one that ultimately pushed Clementi to commit suicide, but rather turning to the internet. He reached out to them on a level in which they are familiar and comfortable with. His approach has allowed him to build an enormous online community of people that could very well be the voice that makes a young gay individual decide not to take his/her life.
Savage’s project has made the support these young individuals need accessible when ever they may need it.

While the It Gets Better project does not fix everything, at the very least it has brought much needed attention to a serious issue that will now be harder than ever to ignore. Although the Internet was used to hurt Clementi, it has now served as a source which may lead to a more accepting and understanding attitude toward the gay community in America.

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