The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance has released a moving new video from students that speaks in stark terms about the issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth aimed at an important audience-- themselves.
In the video, the students of the Alliance, whose mission is to promote safety, support and healthy development for LGBTQ youth in Illinois schools and communities, address their 40-year-old selves on a variety of issues they face in their current everyday lives.
Some of the messages from students to their future selves are heartbreaking, highlighting the pressures that many youth face. One student recalls a dark period of their current life, saying, "Freshman year, after your stepdad beat the crap out of you, all your mom told you was, 'I know you're a faggot.'"
While many of the stories are hard to hear, they also contain an optimism for the future, based on the rapidly changing acceptance of LGBTQ people. Echoing the popular "It Gets Better" video meme, many of the students tell their older selves they recognize that times may be tough now, but the world is changing. One of the video participants looks hopefully at the future, saying, "I know it's crazy now, but back then, things were different...people just didn't understand. I guess that's when the journey began."
"We believe the personal journeys highlighted in the video will spark change and promote understanding in all who view it," the Alliance writes on its website, "Please take a second and share it with your colleagues, friends, and family in Illinois and elsewhere."
The video, and the stories of theses students, are indeed powerful. Hearing the trials that LGBTQ youth face, yet seeing their continued hope for the future, speaks volumes about the strength and tenacity of these young people.
While I am a huge fan of the "It Gets Better" campaign, with its celebrity and political figure showing support to LGBTQ youth, this video from the Alliance really seems like something fresh and new. It isn't a supportive, older person saying "just wait, it gets better... have patience."
These students are living the struggles of life as a young LGBTQ person--the bullying, the abuse from parents, the lack of support from schools, and the heated political rhetoric that makes them feel like less of a person. They know the reality they are living and are looking to change it by bringing attention to it now.
They aren't just waiting for it to "get better" in the future, they are working to make it better for themselves and for students like them.
Waymon Hudson is a RedEye special contributor