It Gets Better is an internet-based project in response to the suicides of teenagers who were bullied because they were gay or because their peers suspected that they were gay. Its goal is to prevent suicide among LGBT youth by having gay adults convey the message that these teens' lives will improve. Steyn du Toit chatted to the organiser of the Cape Town leg of the campaign, Andrew Barry.
What is the purpose of the collection?
The purpose of the collection is two-fold. First, the speakers let sexual minorities know that it gets better. Second, the speakers let sexual minorities know that there are individuals and groups in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa who will support them. I hope the collection helps normalise non-heterosexual orientations too.
What motivated you to create It Gets Better – Cape Town?
I am from Calgary, Canada. Currently, I am a postgraduate student at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
Originally, I was motivated by the University of Calgary’s video. I started to make a video for UCT. But the collection kept growing. Eventually, it became a collection of 18 videos for Cape Town.
Was there a demand for the collection due to any particular hate crimes?
Sometimes I struggled with the collection’s message because it doesn’t get better for everyone. Unfortunately, in South Africa and elsewhere, some sexual minorities are victims of hate crimes. But in general, in South Africa, it does get better for sexual minorities and other vulnerable groups.
Is the concept aimed mainly at UCT students?
The speakers are UCT students, UCT service representatives, civil society organisation representatives, and high-profile individuals. All of the speakers are from Southern Africa. I think each speaker’s message is applicable to all sexual minorities in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa.
Helen Gibb, Jess Richards, Michal Wozniak, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Guy Hubbard and Andrew Barry
How did you recruit the production team?
I recruited the production team through friends and the Centre for Film and Media Studies at UCT. Almost all of the production team members were volunteers.
Were any speakers reluctant to help out with the collection?
All of the speakers were great! In fact, I wish we could have made added more speakers and videos!
What has the response been from the founder of It Gets Better, Dan Savage?
He sent me the following message after seeing our videos: "It has been incredible to see the It Gets Better Project continue to spread around the world, focusing attention on the mistreatment of LGBT youth and offering a vision of hope to those youth who endure bullying, harassment and violence because they identify as LGBT or are perceived that way. We're especially excited when people are inspired by the Project and take the initiative to bring it to their own communities, which is just what happened with It Gets Better – Cape Town. We are honored that leaders like Bishop Tutu would join the chorus of voices offering messages of hope to LGBT youth, and congratulate the individuals responsible for launching It Gets Better – Cape Town. And while messages of hope do make a difference – sometimes a lifesaving difference – reassuring youth that it gets better is not enough. We must also? work toward making it better for LGBT youth. It Gets Better – Cape Town is committed to that mission."
For more information on It Gets Better, visit their official website at www.itgetsbetter.org.