'It Gets Better' project combats LGBT bullying

By Maggie Schneiderman

Contributing Writer

This past August and September, America was alerted to a number of tragic instances of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth suicides following years of bullying. In response to the bullying and subsequent suicides, a video advocacy campaign called the It Gets Better Project was launched. The It Gets Better Project has turned into a worldwide movement that has inspired over 5,000 user-created videos and over 15 million views, and is now inspiring a new program at the University.

To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of “Glee” and Ke$ha, to name a few. In these videos, both LGBT individuals and heterosexuals relay the simple yet crucial message to troubled LGBT youth: that life does get better.

The website prompts those who visit to sign a simple pledge that reads as follows: “Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that ‘It Gets Better.’”

In coordination with the office of Residential Education and Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, the It Gets Better! Snap Shot Project at the University was founded based on the efforts of the It Gets Better campaign.

Statistics from the It Gets Better website demonstrate the critical situation that many LGBT youth are in, the struggles they face everyday, and why this project is so important to our campus. According to the website, LGBT students tend to be tormented by those around them: as teens, they are bullied two to three times as often as their straight peers, and nine out of 10 have experienced harassment at school. They are four times as likely as their straight peers to attempt suicide, and more than one-third of LGBT youth have made the attempt. LGBT youth with “highly rejecting families” are in an even worse situation, making them eight times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youth with more accepting families.

From Monday, Jan. 31 to today, students, staff and faculty have been invited to have their photos taken with a personalized sign of support to those who have been or are currently being bullied for their sexual orientation. All of the photos and signs will then be turned into one large display of support and encouragement in the student center. The project coordinators also hope to film the process and create a video to put online to represent the University’s support.

This is the University’s “opportunity to stand up and be the secondary education leader when it comes to LGBT bullying,” said Daniel Murphy ’11, the program’s mastermind.

“This project extends beyond just this group, providing a sense of confidence and hope for all who face bullying, regardless of reason. This is a chance for the Bucknell community to come together and support each other,” Murphy said. “This project will help Bucknell further foster an environment of mutual respect, one that encourages everyone to just be who they are.”

The snapshot concept was chosen because it allows for the greatest amount of personal contribution from the largest number of people possible. The hand written messages are a symbol of the support that the LGBT persons on campus have from their peers, a unifying and uplifting aspect of the project.

The organizers of the snapshot program hope that its simple message could offer profound support for members of the LGBT community.

“This project is about sending a strong message against bullying in the hopes that it can help someone,” Murphy said. “If this project helps just one person, then it’s done its job effectively.”

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