Perhaps you’ve heard of the It Gets Better Project. They are a nonprofit organization, established in 2010, that utilizes video and other forms of messaging to convey an empowering, important message to LGBT+ youth: That you should not be bullied, discriminated, and ostracized because of your confirmed or perceived sexual or gender identity; that your life is worth living and protecting; and with the support and example of peers and allies, your life will take a positive turn over time.
Without a doubt, It Gets Better has made a powerful impact in the past decade: Over 50,000 messages have been made by people from all orientations and walks of life. The project’s YouTube channel has received countless views. It’s compiled a book of essays. It’s earned great praise, even an Emmy. And the positive messages have led to lives being saved and LGBT+ acceptance being furthered.
But with that goodwill comes… reality. No, I’m not gonna delve into any dark sides or criticisms in this space. Instead, I’m gonna show this ad for It Gets Better that aired this past weekend on Saturday Night Live.
Well, of course it’s a parody! You probably assumed that once you saw the words “Saturday Night Live” in the above paragraph. Leave it to SNL to find the humor in an admirable organization with an uplifting… okay, mostly uplifting message: There will be a point when being openly LGBT will be the least of your problems.
You’ll still have to pay income taxes…
You’ll get critiqued, witheringly, for offering your own critique of Lady Gaga…
You’ll be wearing basketball shorts and people are gonna be like, “whoa”…
And… well, there’s the danger of iguanas.
Some sidelights that should be noted: Kudos to SNL for allowing the characters in the ad to be filled by three cast regulars and one guest host who are all openly LGBT. Some may scoff, “So what?” But may I remind you that Hollywood still has the general temerity to put cisgender actors in trans roles. Okay, that’s an “apples to oranges” comparison for some, but the whole acronym should appreciate any and all victories we receive.
Secondly, there’s the above referenced guest host, Dan Levy. The It Gets Better parody has a bit of poignancy considering that, judging from a tweet from his mom (see below), other kids thought Dan was a bit “different” in his younger days. But at least a supportive family and colleagues have his back (his dad joined him during his SNL monologue), and he has earned accolades this weekend and over the years. While all those cabinmates at “Camp WTF” are ever gonna be is… mean. (“Why you gotta be so mean?”)
Third, if you think the It Gets Better Project, with its devotion to its serious mission, has a thick skin for parody… well, you think right. I’m on It Gets Better’s mailing list and follow them on Twitter, and the day after the SNL spoof aired, they sent out an e-mail blast that said, basically, “We still need to combat the rates of bullying and rejection against LGBT+ youth” and “Society must do more to ensure that queer youth have access to positive experiences…” but “Heck yeah, we couldn’t help but laugh at this mirror being held up before us.”
Watching SNL‘s “It Gets Better” parody, I couldn’t help but think it had a second mission: Establishing shared experiences between LGBT+ and cisgender/heterosexual people. All of us lead our own lives in our own way. We all have our own talents that we utilize for various missions. We all make our own gaffs and earn praise for what we do right. And we all have our own issues to face… like, say, trying to find that damn iguana.
Not intending to sound vain or self-promotional at this point, but I hope that when people read this lil’ blog of mine, they will realize that, just like those who present as the gender they were assigned at birth, I have my own issues and obligations:
Yes, I may present myself as a woman, but my relatives tend to find ways to annoy their son/brother/uncle.
Yes, I may put on a wig and makeup, but Male Mode Me’s gotta meet expectations at work, lest black marks be added to his permanent record (a current matter I may soon expound on if I’m up to it).
Yes, I may look damn sexy in a dress or patent leggings, but it doesn’t make me immune to criticism, whether it comes online, in person, or within the LGBT+ community. (“No, Slick, I am not employed by CBS. Or NBC, for that matter.”)
And… uh, I don’t have pets (and I’m allergic to cats), so any similarities to runaway iguanas are off the table at this time.
But you get the idea that no matter who we are or how we identify, we will all grow to have dreams and hopes, quirks and peculiarities, joys and, yes, fears. All youth must be made aware that things in life won’t be perfect… and LGBT+ youth in particular must be reassured that, yes, things will get better no matter how they may seem right now. Kudos to Saturday Night Live for reminding us of this in one 3-minute span… and to the It Gets Better Project for doing the same over the past 10+ years.