Amid a challenging climate of increasing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, a leading organization in LGBTQ+ youth empowerment has announced a rebranding with a name change and a redesigned website to support queer youth. On Thursday, what was once the It Gets Better Project became It Gets Better.
The organization’s new website, www.ItGetsBetter.org, looks to provide accessible digital resources for LGBTQ+ youth. The evolution of It Gets Better, from a viral video in 2010 to a global movement, has shifted with the need of the moment.
“With a national wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation threatening the well-being of younger generations, it is critically important for youth to find support and validation in a safe and welcoming community,” said It Gets Better executive director Brian Wenke in a press release.
The It Gets Better movement originated in response to a spate of LGBTQ+ teen suicides. In 2010, Dan Savage and Terry Miller’s YouTube video, with its simple yet profound message, “It gets better,” sparked a worldwide conversation. It subsequently led to the creation of the It Gets Better Project, a platform for hope and resilience for LGBTQ+ youth.
Ross von Metzke, It Gets Better’s senior director of communications, explained in an interview with The Advocate that the branding decision aligns with the organization’s development.
“Dropping ‘Project’ from our name reflects our growth from a viral movement to a more comprehensive support system for queer youth. It’s about connecting these young people with each other, not just adult mentors,” he said.
Von Metzke highlighted the importance of the organization’s digital shift, particularly in environments where LGBTQ+ topics are increasingly suppressed in schools. “Our digital platform is crucial in reaching and empowering LGBTQ+ youth, providing a wealth of information and support, especially when their educational settings fail to do so,” he explained.
“Given the restrictions in schools on LGBTQ+ topics, it’s vital that we provide a digital space with extensive information that meets kids where they’re at in their journey,” von Metzke said.
Discussing the challenges of maintaining the organization’s core message in current times, as GOP-controlled states implement policies that ban books or discussions about LGBTQ+ people, von Metzke acknowledged the complexities of making a promise that may not seem attainable. Right now, does it get better?
“The phrase ‘it gets better’ might sound simplistic, especially when LGBTQ+ youth in states like Florida face daunting realities,” von Metzke said, adding, “Our goal is to empower these young people to navigate life’s challenges with better tools and community support.”
Addressing Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichik’s recent appointment to the Oklahoma State Education Library Advisory Committee, von Metzke expressed his dismay. “It’s deeply troubling to see such appointments, but they are not surprising given the current political climate. Our focus is to provide correct information and support to those who need it rather than engaging directly with such antagonistic figures,” he said.
The new website features a comprehensive LGBTQ+ glossary and resources designed to educate and empower LGBTQ+ youth, regardless of their access to supportive environments.
“We’ve built our search around the glossary, allowing youth to explore their identity and find related educational resources, blog posts, and videos,” von Metzke detailed.
Von Metzke also highlighted the success and challenges of the 50 States, 50 Grants, 5000 Voices program.
Last December, the Lynchburg City School Board in Virginia made headlines by rejecting a $10,000 grant from It Gets Better to support LGBTQ+ students at E.C. Glass High School. Although the grant had widespread community support, school officials voted against accepting the funds. Ultimately, private donations funded the project for which It Gets Better had awarded its grant.
The incident in Lynchburg is just an example of what queer youth face. According to GLSEN’s 2021 School Climate Survey, a majority of LGBTQ+ students face derogatory remarks, harassment, and discrimination.
“While we’ve faced rejections in certain areas like Lynchburg due to misinformation and bigotry, the majority of our projects have been successful. We’ve funded a wide range of initiatives, from gender-neutral restrooms to inclusive educational resources,” von Metzke said.
Von Metzke also reflected on the increasing activism among LGBTQ+ youth.
“This generation is not just fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, but for a host of interconnected issues. They understand the importance of community and standing up for each other, which is truly inspiring,” he said.