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Friday, October 5, 2012

Dan Savage and the It Gets Better Project

Last week we had the opportunity to hear Dan Savage speak about his It Gets Better Project. He told us the project came about as a reaction to the increased suicide rates of LGBT teens. He wanted a way to connect with LGBT youth, to tell them that life gets better after high school, but knew he would never be invited to speak to them in a public forum. The project features people uploading videos of themselves telling their stories to give hope to teens who may be bullied at school and/or at home.

The It Gets Better Project is one example of how the Internet can provide a powerful service. It's a way for people to connect with others who understand them, people who they would not have the chance to meet and talk with in person at a time when they need it most. I can relate to this need for connection- the first thing I did when I found out Belalu's diagnosis was search the Internet- not for medical info, but rather for personal blogs. I wanted to connect to others who could give me some insight to what this diagnosis would mean for our family. That compulsion was also immediately followed by my desire to join in the voices sharing their experiences. Hence, this blog.

I wish there was a similar project for us, the parents of a girl with hypo. I wish we could go to a website and see videos of LP people telling us about their experiences growing up, overcoming challenges, finding a job they love, starting a family ... That web page doesn't exist, but blogs do, and we can attend LPA events and meet people first-hand who can share their knowledge with us, so we can make sure Belalu finds a life of fulfillment, in whatever form that takes for her.

A couple of things that Dan said last week really stood out for me. Obviously, I have no way of knowing now what Belalu's sexual orientation will be, but I couldn't help parallel a lot of what he said about these marginalized teens to her own possible experiences as someone who will stand out as different and could also be the victim of bullying. First, he said that a lot of kids who are bullied at school go home to parents who are like them- racially, linguistically, etc- and can therefore sympathize with their son or daughter because they have similar experiences. We will not be able to relate to our daughter in this way. We will love her and support her, but we will not have had the same experience growing up as a little person that she will. Which is why I want to make sure that she gets to know other little people and has a network of support to turn to if she needs it.

The other thing that I took away from the talk that directly relates to Belalu is when a student asked Dan if he had any advice for LGBT activists. His response was to always have a sense of humor and to not assume that others are the enemy. I have not had to confront anyone yet about Belalu's condition. She is young enough that it is still not patently obvious. However, I know that we will have many incidences in the coming years where I will have to answer or respond to questions and comments- some of them misguided if not downright ignorant and hurtful. And I will need to model behavior for my children. And right now I have no idea what I'll do or say, and I imagine there will be times when it is so sudden, so unexpected, that it will take me aback and even a stock phrase won't come to me. And humor will not be the appropriate response. But equanimity always is. I write this knowing that equanimity is not my strong suit. Neither is grace or eloquence. But I have time to cultivate them both.

If anyone has any advice to give about how to handle comments, stares, etc. I would greatly appreciate it.

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