Northwestern LGBTQ group discusses ‘It Gets Better’ campaign

Ava Wallace

A group of Northwestern students and professors as well as Evanston residents and Chicago-area LGBTQ activists met Wednesday to discuss the national “It Gets Better” campaign on NU’s campus.

Project ShoutOUT, an NU student group which advocates for and works with LGBTQ youths, held the panel discussion in Fisk Hall on Wednesday night.

Prof. John Keene; Tony Alvarado-Rivera, former director of the mentorship program at the Broadway Youth Center in Chicago; and Bonnie Wade and Malaundja Gayles, both community organizers from the Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network Home Host Program, were on the panel. Twenty-one people attended the discussion.

ShoutOUT President Ryan Lim said the purpose of the discussion was to talk about the many groups of people who are LGBTQ and also face difficulties that the It Gets Better campaign does not acknowledge, such as homelessness and poverty.

“We live in a bubble, and things got better for us,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “But that doesn’t apply to everybody.”

The four panelists voiced their thoughts on the campaign after Lim played the It Gets Better movement’s popular YouTube video and a counter-video, titled “It (Doesn’t) Get Better.”

Wade and Gayles, who are lesbians, said the campaign mainly publishes the stories of white, working-class adults, which they said is a narrow group of LGBTQs. Wade added the It Gets Better concept focuses too much on helping youths who face adversity strictly because they are gay, and needs to consider LGBTQ individuals with disabilities and minority LGBTQs.

“I think we talk about this issue within very topical frameworks,” Wade said. “If that’s all of what my activism entails, I think we’re missing the mark.”

The second half of the discussion was question-and-answer format and many of the questions focused on how “privileged” people can better relate to and help LGBTQ youths in need.

Alvarado-Rivera talked specifically about how “privileged” NU students should go about helping.

“Know what your intentions are,” he said. “Let’s analyze how it would work to have these privileged kids come in. Just be thoughtful about what that’s going to look like.”

Two members of the crowd also asked how to mobilize the It Gets Better movement’s ideas in such a diverse area.

In response, Keene said acknowledging the differences within a population and keeping an open mind is key.

“Even as we offer them critiques, we shouldn’t close the door to people who can be our allies,” the associate professor of English and African-American studies said.

Weinberg freshman Peter Cleary attended the discussion after seeing the event on Project ShoutOUT’s email list.

He said the conversation brought forth a new, needed perspective on the LGBTQ fight for equality.

Mary Weismantel, director of gender studies at NU, also attended the discussion and challenged students in the audience to work toward change concerning LGBTQs.

“This event gave a really great alternative view on how Northwestern students can help,” she said. “I hope this is the beginning of a process.”

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