The Privilege of Ignorance, Part 2

I’m going to continue my critique of the recent anti-bullying, anti-suicide movement here, specifically addressing some issues with the “It Gets Better” campaign.

For those who aren’t familiar with the It Gets Better campaign, I’ll provide a brief explanation. It Gets Better is a series of short videos over the internet in which LGBT-identified people explain to younger members of the LGBT community that while bullying is painful and high school can be awful, one day life will get better. The project was started by noted gay rights and sex advice columnist and blogger Dan Savage (on a personal note, I’ve been a huge fan of Dan’s “Savage Love Cast” for years).

The It Gets Better project fits into the same vein of anti-suicide sentiment I addressed in part one of this critique. This means that it also continues to ignore the pressing issue of transgender-targeted violence and exhibits the same privileged, white, middle-class perspective. In a previous blog entry, Aren asked about trans people posting It Gets Better  videos. I found one such video, which I believe fits nicely into the same matrix of privilege I’ve described:

This video immediately reminded me of the documentary clips we watched in class from “Trans-Generation.” Just as in that film, here we see a white, middle-class trans person discussing their life. While the film did feature trans people of color, they were still attending institutions of middle-class education and subsuming themselves into that culture (joining sororities, dressing as members of the middle-class, etc). This It Gets Better video demonstrates the same behaviors and mindset. Yes, it does get better for those trans people who are lucky enough to attend colleges and find academic and economic security. But what happens to those trans people who do not even graduate from high school, let alone college?

The It Gets Better project videos, both those by homosexuals and those by trans people, fail to address the issues facing those trans people in the United States who are limited by more than just their gender variance. The It Gets Better project has no words of wisdom for poor, black transgendered people who are stuck in the same poor communities into which they were born. It has no advice and can offer no hope to transgender sex workers who battle economic exploitation, racial prejudice, and the ever present threat of physical assault or murder on a daily basis.

If the It Gets Better project wants to portray itself as existing to help the entire LGBT spectrum (which it does proudly declare on its home page) then it should do more to assist the T portion of the acronym. A spattering of videos posted by successful, white transgender individuals is not enough. With the massive publicity the project is garnering, it could do so much to assist those transgender teens who will not be attending college and will not be following the life plan so casually laid out as “better” by the project. Videos should be produced and posted by transgender people from all races and socio-economic classes giving hope of something more than another violent murder. The It Gets Better project should begin linking to non-profit organizations that assist Transgender teens who are not attending college, those that are trapped in decaying urban communities or who are living on the streets.

The alternative is continue to be blinded by white, middle-class privilege and to continue to ignore the real suffering of those among us who cannot automatically look forward to something better.


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