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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 8, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 41
'Make It Better' video project fights against youth suicide
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'Make It Better' video project fights against youth suicide

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

In response to recent LGBTQ youth suicides, Gay-Straight Alliance Network has launched the 'Make It Better Project,' aimed at giving youth tools to combat anti-LGBTQ bullying and prevent suicide.

The 'Make It Better Project' includes a website and YouTube channel where students and adults can upload video messages to share what they are doing to prevent suicide and make it better for LGBTQ youth in schools now. The project also has a Twitter and Facebook page.

LGBTQ youth suicides made headlines in September as anti-Gay bullying drove a number of young teens - ages ranging from 13 to 18 - to take their lives and served as a wake-up call to adults everywhere. In response, Seattle columnist Dan Savage launched 'It Gets Better,' a video message to LGBTQ youth that life gets better after high school. Carolyn Laub, founder and executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network and creator of the Make It Better Project, acknowledges that any effort to stop teen suicide is admirable, and says the Make It Better Project takes Savage's message one step further by giving youth the tools they need to make their lives better now.

'While inspiring and hopeful, we felt it imperative to let youth know that they do not have to wait until they graduate to be happy and safe at school,' she said. 'We launched the project to focus on how we can all take action to make schools better now, rather than later.'

The YouTube channel is full of videos where youths tell the world what they are doing, or have done, to make their schools safe. The website, www.makeitbetterproject.org, includes steps students can take now, including how to start a Gay-Straight Alliance, fight slurs, organize events, and educate students and teachers about LGBTQ issues.

'LGBTQ youth need to know that they have rights,' said Laub. 'They have the right to attend school free from harassment or discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. They don't have to wait until they graduate to enjoy life or live free from harassment and discrimination. They have the power to change their school now and they should know that they are not alone. There are many other organizations like the Gay-Straight Student Alliance that will help to support them.'

Laub says that LGBTQ youth need adults to support their efforts to make every school safe for every student.

'Parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, and the public can help make it better for LGBTQ youth by advocating that schools adopt and fully implement anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity, and by ensuring that teachers and administrators work to stop anti-LGBTQ bullying, harassment, discrimination, and slurs,' she said.

Laub warned that, in order for things to drastically improve for LGBTQ students nationwide, the teens need Congress to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

'We're urging everyone to call their representative and senator to support both of these bills, which can prevent bullying and discrimination of LGBTQ youth in schools,' she said.

Gay-Straight Alliance Network empowers youth to fight homophobia and Transphobia in school by training youth activists and supporting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in California and throughout the country. While anti-LGBTQ bullying is an epidemic in the U.S., with 60% of LGBT students reporting that they feel unsafe in school, research shows that students with a GSA club experience less harassment and are more likely to feel safe at school. Since GSA Network began in 1998, the number of GSA clubs in California has skyrocketed from 40 to over 800, including 33 middle school GSAs.

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