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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Someone Really Should Tell Them That

Posted by on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 4:59 PM

As a gay woman of color, I just want to let you know that it kind of doesn't get better. All these straight, rich celebrities, I'm not even going to name them, they can tell you that it gets better because they've got money and people don't care what they do. They're comin' from a good place and stuff. And I appreciate that, but I'm going to be real, because I live this life and I'm not rich and I'm brown and I probably look like most of you.

First of all, it doesn't get better but what does happen is this: You get stronger.

An excerpt from "Getting Stronger and Staying Alive" by Gabrielle Rivera, one of the featured essays in It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. Rivera writes for the Autostraddle, "a progressively feminist online community for a new generation of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies (and their friends)." You can—and should—follow Gabrielle Rivera on Twitter.


Comments (24) RSS

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" gay woman of color"

On the Victimhoood Scale, it doesn't get more oppressed than that liberals! Unless she loses a limb...
Posted by Or Speak Ebonics on January 31, 2013 at 5:18 PM · Report this
No I disagree, but that's an important point too. You get stronger. But it does get better. To any gay kid getting sucker punched and taunted daily by bullies, it does get better after high school even if you don't get stronger.
Posted by DJSauvage on January 31, 2013 at 5:19 PM · Report this
Speaking from my own experiences, the relative population of jerks willing to use the people around them as emotional toilets does go down with age. Kids can be sweet and innocent. They can also be humungous jerks. So yes, people get stronger. Specifically, the jerks get strong enough to control themselves. That counts as getting better.
Posted by DRF on January 31, 2013 at 5:19 PM · Report this
pfffter 4
It gets better because you get stronger. It's both/and.
Posted by pfffter on January 31, 2013 at 5:38 PM · Report this
Eh. I have to disagree. Life gets better when you grow up because once you're dependent on yourself alone, you get to call the shots about your life. Your parents can't force you to go to de-gaying camp, or church, or anywhere else when you're over eighteen and financially independent, and if they did, that would legally constitute kidnapping.

As for this "you get stronger" thing... I get where it's coming from, and I guess it's a matter of perspective, but I have to say this: The amount of strength it takes to keep on living, much less to maintain a sense of dignity, responsibility, and self-worth, when you're forced to constantly live in the presence of people who do everything they can to tear it down, is huge. I remember what that was like and I don't think anything I've done since has required more from me. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the people who are doing that now, and... this might be irrational, but I feel weirdly insulted by this "you get stronger" thing. It feels a bit like it's implying that people who are going through these things aren't already showing a tremendous amount of strength by dealing with it.

Is it just me?
Posted by The Eternal Noob on January 31, 2013 at 5:51 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 6
#3 you know why it goes down with age? Because when you hit 40 you become invisible and no one cares! Other wise you make good points.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 31, 2013 at 5:51 PM · Report this
@6 I was thinking more about the difference between six, sixteen and twenty-six, but I guess that's true too.

@5 I'm not sure. A lot of people like to believe that they have more control over their lives than they really do. This makes them feel safe. Saying "It's not my situation that's made me happier; I made me happier" is one of these things. It's kind of like, "I have a good job not because of luck but because of my own hard work" or "I have a bad job situation not because of luck but because I'm lazy" makes people feel better or how "She got raped because she was stupid/a slut, so if I'm smart/not slutty then I'm safe" gives people permission not to worry. It is very unpleasant to accept that so much of our lives is beyond our control.

Of course, it's also possible that this particular woman did get stronger, which made her happier. Hard work does make it more likely that someone will get and keep a good job and being smart (about safety) does make it less likely that one will be attacked.
Posted by DRF on January 31, 2013 at 6:11 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 8
While I'm not gay, my life got a lot better once I got the fuck out of the backward-ass hick-filled town I grew up in and moved to a real city. I imagine it's the same for many others.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on January 31, 2013 at 6:25 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 9
I'm w/ the Slog consensus: Good point, but it doesn't discount the fact that "It Gets Better."

What jumps out at me is her characterization of the supporters of the project: that they're all rich straight celebrities. Sure, a lot of them jumped on the bandwagon when it became fashionable, but there was a lot of real, non-rich, very gay, very lesbian people who were on the project before it hit the mainstream. Those are the people who I associate w/ IGB.

When I see someone pick a small detail to rail against the entire subject, that tells me they're more interested in tearing it down and propping themselves up, and it shreds whatever perception they might have. They're not finding something no one else has noticed, they're playing ego games. And helping no one.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on January 31, 2013 at 6:29 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 10
Yes and no.

Sure, for upper income, white, privileged gays (mostly men), it gets WAY better once you're out on your own.

But it gets better for lower income minority gays too, if not to the same degree. Middle and high school are a cesspool of unapologetic assholes who haven't learned to be decent human beings to one another yet. And a lot of teachers are too uninformed or too bigoted to stop homophobic bullying. Bigots never go away completely, but the percentages drop dramatically after high school. And many of the remaining bigots learn to keep their bigoted comments to themselves. Not all, but many.

Once you get past high school, and out from under the yoke of your parent's daily control, things do get better, even for most lower income minority gays. Maybe not perfect or ideal, but better.

And yes, after surviving years of school bullying and marginalizing, most of us also get stronger. Or we just get a bit numb to it all and get used to it. We get better at shrugging it off and not letting it get us down. That's part of the equation too.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on January 31, 2013 at 7:37 PM · Report this
I'm with noob @5 on this one. I've had lots of hard shit to deal with since adolescence. However none of the loss and sadness and other difficulty I've encountered as adult has required the amount of strength my teenage self needed to summon up every single day just to keep breathing. I have never experienced that degree of exhaustion and hopelessness since. I think I was as strong then as I've ever had to be. It got better. Sometimes it still sucks of course but compared to adolescence, no question: way, way, way better.
Posted by Ex-teen, still queer on January 31, 2013 at 8:01 PM · Report this
xjuan 12
It IS getting better. Pardon the cliche: It's not a destination. It's a process.
Posted by xjuan on January 31, 2013 at 8:02 PM · Report this
lolorhone 13
@1: If you have nothing better to do than to troll a liberal weekly's online comment thread, where do you think that puts you on the Uselessness Scale?
@5: She's saying that in enduring- in sticking around and working through and persevering-you strengthen yourself, your skin gets thicker, you value yourself more and refuse to allow others to make you lose sight of that. "You Get Stronger" is not to diminish what you go through when you're younger, it is to acknowledge its enormity.
Posted by lolorhone on January 31, 2013 at 10:32 PM · Report this
sirkowski 14
She's a strong gay woman of color who don't need no man and don't get better.
Posted by sirkowski on January 31, 2013 at 11:36 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 15
It Gets Better was a good campaign. Was it the be-all, end-all of everything that solved the problem of bullying once and forever? Of course not.

I know nothing of this woman aside from what was posted above, but here she seems like a nitpicking bore who uses a noveau-folksy style and the excuse of "keeping it real" to criticize instead of contribute.

Yes, it does get better. And you do get stronger. But calling out celebrities (or whatever it is she's attempting to do there in her "kickass" way) for supporting gay rights just seems like a real stretch to me.

With that said, I am doubtless a humorless old mannequin who hasn't had her her morning coffee yet.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on February 1, 2013 at 5:57 AM · Report this
No I don't like it. It may be true but to an adolescent going through hell what they might take away from it is: "You're weak now. Your problems are all your fault. If only you were stronger now things would be fine."

"It gets better" encompasses all the things that will work together to make life happier down the road: you'll be independent and can do what you want and live where you choose, the people around you get better and you choose who stays in your life, and yes you get stronger too.
Posted by Incompossible on February 1, 2013 at 7:07 AM · Report this
No I don't like it. It may be true but to an adolescent going through hell what they might take away from it is: "You're weak now. Your problems are all your fault. If only you were stronger now things would be fine."

"It gets better" encompasses all the things that will work together to make life happier down the road: you'll be independent and can do what you want and live where you choose, the people around you get better and you choose who stays in your life, and yes you get stronger too.
Posted by Incompossible on February 1, 2013 at 7:10 AM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 18
It does get better on the whole. Being dependent on your parents is dicey business-if you've got great loving and non-bigoted parents, you've won the lottery. If your parents are Mr. and Mrs. Alan Keyes, you're fucked.

And it is true that once your peers are legal adults who are more likely to go to prison for assault and battery than they were at 17, they don't beat you up as much. That, and their testosterone starts to taper off around 26 or 27, so they become less violent in general as you get older.

Then again, it gets worse in other respects. When you have to get a job and work to survive, you will encounter workplace discrimination.I work for the State of Washington government, and I got called "faggot" by a co-worker on two occasions. The boss has yet to do a thing about it, and probably never will. That's right-the government of the State that passed Marriage Equality. The offending co-worker based his opinion on his religious beliefs, which is why the boss won't touch it. Separation of Church and State? Not in this country.

When you're younger, you can elicit some sympathy. Humans have a natural instinct to care for the younger members of the species, and react badly when young people are threatened. After you hit 40, you really are all on your own. At that point, it's down to just your close friends and your partner, and maybe your family if you're very lucky.

You do get tougher. Its a lot harder to hurt you after a while, because you just get used to opening the news and seeing the latest report of a hate crime or a bigoted politician or a preacher getting arrested for park sex. Hearing that someone else's imaginary god hates you hurts the first couple thousand times you hear it, but after a while, you realize that imaginary god is just an excuse they hide behind so nobody will call them what they are, bigots. And when you see just how cowardly it is to hate, you begin to almost feel a sense of pity for them. How sad it must be to think that their god is always looking for an excuse to condemn them, and therefore they can never truly be happy. Their sycophantic prostrations begin to look like those of an abused child begging his parents for mercy. Alot like how you and I used to look, when we were those children. Lucky for us, we grew up. They never will.
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on February 1, 2013 at 7:26 AM · Report this
It's amazing how many people feel comfortable insisting that it gets better for everyone. Do you think that it's some kind of law of nature, or something? How do you deal with someone who says her life didn't get better? Tell her she's wrong, she's just too stupid to realize how fucking great her life is?
Posted by ian on February 1, 2013 at 7:47 AM · Report this
I always thought that It gets Better also means a call to unite forces to fight,so its not about just you but all of us that make it better for gays, in other words, You get Stronger is about you developing resilience against an unchanging circumstances, , but It gets Better means - on all levels, societal and personal.
Posted by Alinka on February 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM · Report this
SoapMacTavish 21
Shit, straight or gay, it's gets better for 90% of us when we can get the fuck away from high school. Worst days of my life for sure!
Posted by SoapMacTavish on February 1, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
Fenrox 22
It gets better is a pledge!
Posted by Fenrox on February 1, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
She is black, gay, woman, who just got a book published. some things have got to have changed for the better just for that to have happened.
Posted by toocents on February 2, 2013 at 6:34 PM · Report this
lolorhone 24
@23: So she's supposed to be content with the unnecessary hardships and injustices in her life now because she's publishing a fucking book? You remind me of a guy I argued with at a marriage rally who told me I should be grateful it's just this "little" inequality I had to be deal with since in the sixties I would have been sprayed with a fire hose and attacked by police dogs for my skin color. If those are the options, the imbalance is pretty much self-evident, even now. And if "Chin up, it's not so bad" is your position, your arrogance is pretty self-evident too.
Posted by lolorhone on February 8, 2013 at 10:11 PM · Report this

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