The following articles were published in the Voice, Langara’s newspaper, on November 4.
A Message of Hope
Less that two months after the It Gets Better Project was created, over one thousand videos have been submitted. The project was started in September by Dan Savage, American author and sex advice columnist, in response to the death of seven teens who committed suicide because they were bullied for being gay.
The project encourages gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender (GLBT) teens to see past the insular world of high school and to try to imagine their lives as openly gay adults.
Noted celebrities, politicians, and members of the GLBT community have submitted encouraging messages.
However, as Langara Students Union Queer Liason, Chris Vautour, said, the problem does not begin with the kids themselves. It begins with ignorant and homophobic people.
“Education for GLBT young adults is just as important as educating their parents and their friends,” said Vautour, who wants people to change the way they think about sexual identity. “When [straight] people think about gay people the first thing they think about is the sexual act. But a gay person is first somebody’s child, a member of their community… who loves their family, and who is just trying to fit in.” Vautour said it is important for families and friends to, “take an enlightened view and move past the thought of sex.”
She agreed that it does get better, but it might not happen right out of high school. Vautour said education, a strong community of people to support you, and self-confidence are all essential to a safe and positive coming-out experience, but these are things that take time to develop.
Amy Allen, 28, is in the social services program at Langara and has counseled GLBT youth. She knows that coming-out can feel scary and overwhelming. “If you are afraid to visibly come-out, there are online communities that can offer support as well,” Allen said.
“It didn’t get better for him,” said Allen as she pointed to a magazine with a photograph of Tyler Clementi on the cover. “He had already left high school.”
Clementi, 18, killed himself in September after having his private life invaded by university peers.
Vautour doesn’t want anyone to feel like they have to figure things out on their own. “Take the leap of faith. Come to the queer centre,” she said, “there is nothing to fear. The queer resource centre is a safe place.”
Coming Out in College
“It does get better, but you have to let yourself believe it gets better,” said Alvin Tran, a former Langara Studio 58 student. Tran was bullied in high school because his classmates assumed he was gay.
He saw college as a fresh start but, even at Langara and BCIT, he worried that “high school would happen again.” Tran describes his coming-out process during college as slow and difficult. For him it was challenging to get solid and reliable answers to all of his questions because he was not sure where to go to look for answers. Tran eventually went for counseling to get the help he needed.
Tran found resources and a community through the Health Initiative for Men on Davie Street in Vancouver. He connected himself with a supportive group of people who encouraged him and showed him how fantastic coming out could be. In time Tran was able to accept himself for who he is.
Now he is encouraging others to do the same.
“By building a circle of friends you can trust, you will see the world differently.”
Tran has been in a relationship for over a year and is living a life he could never have imagined while he was in high school.
To sum-up his advice for people who are struggling, Tran quotes Bernard Baruch: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”