What do Kermit the Frog, Vinny from the Jersey Shore, President Obama, and Ke$ha have in common? Apart from their favorite TV show being the now-defunct family sitcom Dinosaurs (complete speculation), there's not much, unless Kermit, Vinny, and Ke$ha are all Muslim, non-American citizens. Yet, from the different corners of society these individuals (and puppet) represent -- imagine the New York magazine approval matrix for this and I'll let you be the judge where to place these four in their respective quadrants - they can all be linked through their involvement in a little campaign called "It Gets Better." And Ke$ha, if you read this, call me!
The "It Gets Better" Project lets LGBT youth know that life is fine and dandy for gay adults and that many openly gay adults went through tough times in their youth to come out on the other side as perfectly-happy and well-adjusted adults. Well, Kermit, maybe there is something on the other side of the rainbow. Yet, with all of these superstars saying it gets better, I wonder though, what changes? Does it really get better? The world and everything in it seems so much bigger when you are a child. As you grow up, the size of the things around you doesn't change (except Oreo's and Chips Ahoy!, they've gotten markedly smaller), you just grow into them, take their size for granted because everything is within your grasp. Is this a parallel for what happens for members of the gay community? Life just becomes more manageable when in reality the environment hasn't changed?
I don't know the hardships of growing up gay, or being a gay adult, but I'm not blind to the acts of homophobia and anti-gay speech in the world. Do these fears and prejudices not span the generational divide or are they just being brushed under the rug, a way to quell the anxiousness and despair these kids feel that the adults can hide or better deal with? Aren't people like Carl Paladino out there still persecuting adults? Instead of just brandishing the "It Gets Better" flag, why is this project not more focused on its pledge of which the main provisos that "everyone deserves to be respected for who they are" and that you should "speak up against hate and intolerance whenever [it's seen], at school and at work," actually make it better, instead of magicking it better. The scope of this project should be all people, both gay and straight, to spread this "Make It Better" message. Alohomora doesn't unlock tolerance (sorry, I had to, it's the Harry Potter fever that's going around).
I had my Holden Caulfield moment the other day when I saw, "'So-and-so' are gay for each other," on a blackboard outside a high school locker room. I stood watching the board. None of the kids -- guys or girls -- that walked by it protested or even gave it a second glance, although some chuckled. Were they so cynical that they knew that even if they had a million years to do it in, they couldn't rub out even half the "is gay" signs in the world? Were they even so literate to immediately think of Catcher in the Rye? Or are people just O.K. being ambivalent about hate or ambivalent about acceptance if it doesn't directly affect their situation?
There was nearly a firestorm when word spread about the Purple Teletubby's sexual preferences, but see what would happen if two American icons, Bert and Ernie, officially came out. Replace Ernie's stripes with paisley and Bert's with madras and [cue Heath Ledger Joker voice] "everyone goes craaazzzyy." We can let our children see the devastating effects of homelessness (Oscar the Grouch), but when Bert alludes he's gay in a tweet the flood gates open. Why? Who cares? Why don't we just accept it? Why can't everyone rally and say how Bert and Ernie, gay or straight, represent two people (err ... puppets) who are so committed and caring for one another that Bert would sell his beloved paper clip collection so he could afford a soap dish for Ernie's rubber ducky, while Ernie would sell his rubber ducky (the one who made bathtime lots of fun!) to afford to a cigar box for Bert's paper clip collection? Isn't that what relationships should be about (I'm talking about consideration, not material possessions)? It shouldn't matter whether the person on each end of the relationship is a man or a woman or transgender, but whether they care for one another. And don't throw religious verses at me. You can't pick and choose parts of religion you like and don't like if you don't follow them all to T. Sesame Street, as per its billing, can educate everyone.
There's more to do than make YouTube videos or rant on Huffington Post with very little substance (Hey, wait! Is he talking about me?). Right now, it isn't better. Kurt keeps getting pushed into whatever bank of lockers he stands in front of on Glee. A former Arkansas Board of Education member wanted all "fags" to commit suicide. A "Kill the Gays" bill may become law in Uganda. This is some heavy ish.
So what do we do? This is not a LeBron James commercial...
People need to make an effort to erase those writings on the blackboard and confront them every time they come up. We won't be able to erase the millions of signs if more keep getting posted. The stand against hate speech and ignorance that the "It Gets Better" campaign has globalized needs to continue. And while I may not agree with the name of the campaign, because who knows, maybe it doesn't get better, the only way it will is if we make it, so let's "Make It Better."
Like Holden, we enter an unknown future with cautious optimism, but optimism nonetheless.