Does It Really Get Better?

I've been thinking a lot. I've been thinking about Jamie Hubley's death. I've been thinking about Rick Mercer's rant. And I'm wondering, does it really get better?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh1jNAZHKIw

Rick's not outing anyone. He's not threatening to out anyone. He wants bullying to stop and he's hoping that if some GLBTQ in the community, with public lives or not, step up and say, "I'm GLBTQ" that maybe it will get better. Maybe it will help. Maybe it won't.

He wants everyone to stand up, no matter who they are, and say that bullying isn't right.

Because telling kids it gets better isn't making it better right now.

But this is the part I'm struggling with -- does it get better? If Rick is, essentially, urging people to be vocally out... why aren't they out already? Are they worried? Is it a threat to their jobs? Have they been harassed? Do they fear harassment?

The Canada I grew up in isn't the same Canada these kids know. When I was growing up in small town Canada you did not talk about people's sexuality. No one was out in my town. I mean, I had graduated university before same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario. (Civil unions, of course, predated this in many provinces but in terms of marriage, 2003 was when it started.) This generation of teens barely remember that. Today's 15 year old was 7 when same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario.

Today's out teens and adults... they aren't fighting for rights the way people were a decade ago. They are fighting for something else, something perhaps much, much harder. They are fighting for social acceptance and the ability to live their lives freely. Openly. Without fear of harassment or, at least, no more fear than their straight peers.

My Canada, my Ontario, is one in which it is fine to be out. It doesn't matter if you are out or not. You are just you. But I know this isn't everyone's Canada. I know this because kids like Jamie Hubley are bullied because they are gay. I know this because Rick Mercer is urging GLBTQ people to stand up and be role models. I know this because I've read about the suicides of too many GLBTQ kids AND adults.

Do we need it to get better for kids right now? Yes. Do GLBTQ kids need GLBTQ role models? Yes (though I'd argue that straight kids need GLBTQ role models too...). Do we all, no matter who we are or how we identify ourselves, need to stand up and say that bullying, no matter why the kid is being bullied, needs to stop? YES. Emphatically yes. Does it get better for everyone? Goodness, I hope so.

But before we tell kids it gets better, we need to ask if it really does. Before we ask GLBTQ adults to stand up and be role models, we need to ask why they aren't already. These kids deserve our honestly as well as our help.