Monday, December 6, 2010

Raising Kids, Raising Hope

Over the past couple of months, the “It Gets Better” video campaign created by Dan Savage to combat the bullying of LGBT youth has exploded from a small grass-roots project to utter ubiquity, in which it seems like everybody and their PFLAG-waving grandmothers have sent in a video. And not just human beings either -- each new day it seems like a different corporation has gotten into the act. Of course the project’s popularity is nothing but a good thing for struggling gay kids out there, but when you see reality-TV faux-celebrities like those from the MTV show “Jersey Shore” beginning to post “It Gets Better” videos, it is hard not to feel like enough is enough already.

That said, there is one important group near and dear to my heart for which the growth of this project has served well – gay dads. When we submitted our video in late September, the project was only a little over a week old, and there were only a hundred or so submissions. (There are now over 5,000!) Besides Dan Savage’s own video, featuring himself and his partner Terry and incorporating still photos of their son, we didn’t see any other videos than ours that featured gay couples with kids. That may be why Dan Savage emailed us personally to thank us for posting and to congratulate us on our family. At the time, we were quite shocked that it seemed like we were the only other gay family featured in the project. After all, in those hundred videos we scrolled through when posting our own, we saw gay people from all walks of life talking about how their lives got better after high-school -- but where were the gay guys and gals raising children?
To be sure, that representation is much more important for LGBT kids to see than some gay celebrity who reached a level of fame (usually, ahem, by staying in the closet well into adulthood) that these kids will almost certainly never experience, and probably don’t aspire to. On the other hand, there are definitely LGBT kids out there who would love the experience of raising a child some day, but are feeling miserable because they fear that they are doomed to the unenviable choice of either living their life open and honestly as an out gay person and sacrificing their dream of having a family, or staying in the closet to become a parent through the disastrous lie of a straight marriage. I personally know several people who told me that when they came out they felt like they were sacrificing the option to have kids some day.

And here is where the tremendous growth of Dan Savage’s project over the past month or so has real value, because its popularity has resulted in not only all those annoying celebrity videos out there, but -- unlike when we made ours -- there are now a plethora of videos by gay parents on the channel as well. For example, a couple of weeks ago reported that The Pop Luck Club, a Los Angeles based organization of gay dads, prospective dads, and their families, put out a compelling and powerful “It Gets Better” video. The video features short snippets of testimony from 13 dads who relate their stories of coming out, meeting their husbands, ultimately deciding to have children, and how rewarding those experiences have been for them. And they are not the only ones. Videos like these are so important because they show LGBT teens that you can be both openly gay and have a family of your own some day. I think that message will brighten these kids’ views of their futures much more than what a celebrity or corporation might craft for the project through their PR firms.

Stewart and I were initially hesitant to put our family on video in such a public setting as youtube, but we realized that the simple fact that our family exists as it does is too important for the next generation to see to let what little amount of privacy we gave up stand in the way. We are thrilled that so many other gay parents have realized the same thing, and we think that Max will be super proud of his family’s part in this project when he gets older (though he’ll likely be mad that we didn’t edit out his big spit-up in the middle of the video!)

1 comment:

  1. Great insights here and in all your posts. I would never have considered that someone coming out might feel like they're "sacrificing their dream of having a family", but it seems obvious, now that you say it.