By Colin Minor
The University of Calgary is launching its own It Gets Better project over the next two weeks. The international project, started by journalist Dan Savage, is in response to a string of recent suicides by gay youth.
Students, alumni, faculty and staff of all genders and sexual identities are encouraged to videotape short messages of hope for youth experiencing homophobic bullying. The project is a collaboration between the U of C, the Students’ Union, Queers on Campus, the Student Success Centre and NUTV. Videos will be posted on the U of C’s It Gets Better website and the national YouTube page.
“It Gets Better is another initiative that the university and the SU are taking to reach out to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer community,” said SU vice-president student life Jennifer Abbott. “We have been getting a lot of positive press for the centre so I think that we will get a lot of positive feedback on It Gets Better.”
The YouTube site features videos from openly gay Canadian celebrities like Olympic gold medalist and U of C alumnus Mark Tewksbury and comedian Rick Mercer. Most videos involve participants sharing their coming out story. President Barack Obama and other heterosexual international names have posted videos of support.
“It is really important for queer identified students, as well as allies, to come out and let incoming high school students know that life gets better after high school and that the U of C is a supportive community for LGBTQ students,” said Patricia Minor of the Student Success Centre.
The recent opening of the Qcentre gave LGBTQ students a space to build a sense of community on campus. For LGBTQ students, not only does life get better after high school, life is getting better at the U of C.
“I think that as long as we continue to have university support behind initiatives like this, that we will continue to develop into a more safe and accepting campus,” said Qcentre program coordinator Kris Schmidt.
Social media and support groups helped Qcentre VP of transgender affairs Karynn, who only gave one name, with the process of coming out. Information and support on the internet can be very helpful for youth struggling with their sexual identity.
“Before I came out I was definitely very scared. The world I perceived was very closed off to me. There was only one life I could have lead and if I deviated from that it was very dangerous,” said Karynn.
The collection of videos from It Gets Better U of C will be a unique social resource for incoming and current LGBTQ students.
“Ultimately, after we record students in the next two weeks, we are going to encourage anybody else to record their own videos and post them on the It Gets Better U of C website so we can keep the momentum from the campaign going,” said Minor. “There is definitely a chance to make your own video and let everybody know that life gets better after high school and that the U of C is a warm and supportive community.”