Search this blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


by Catherine Partin

let’s just rehearse, okay? i hit a car on my way here, thinking about you, and then i lost myself in your part of town. mississippi albina, ash ash (you poke and stir flesh and bone there is nothing there?): stumptown coffee ground to a whir in slate-grey cups. flannel linens and a heavy boot, flushed fuchsia like a freshly bloomed bruise. sandpaper your whiskey jaw, ivory bones beneath david crownless king you a hot surprise in top-heavy gravity pull drag into a tomb cold with dew. round stone beneath gentle fingers, a moss-covered log under, inside rushing water but green pillows, musk. "i’m going to do something controversial." a glass dark thick wine, blood nectar spiny butter prickles under the tongue and tart with bittersweet pang between my teeth. we swigged reckless giggles before I pushed you down to kiss. there was a gleam a spark in your wet marble eye, the pulse in your throat - a leap, you cough, I die. my breath caught in your thorns and. fevered brow, shock of lips tingled buzz oblivion - the pointed v of your cotton shirt. those tender shards of glass reflecting beauty cruel and shameless. you noble vulture, you lean leather in blue shadows, rain-streaked city bus window no umbrella dripping forehead lined tan hide, hooded lashes you gentle brute with rose lips and soft eyes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

meanwhile a woman

by Hannah

Some mornings a man
gets up, eats a chapati
and carries his briefcase
to the Subway
while another man
drinks his no-pulp orange juice
behind the counter and doles
out cigarettes like lottery tickets
   kissing Mary with each sale.

Meanwhile a woman
ties a scarf round her rough hair
the perfectly good one left in room 102
by that no-good painted trollop
and her big boyfriend.
She pretends it’s a tip and tucks
    under the rosette end.

Later each stops by and looks up
to the green woman holding fire over the Atlantic.
Paying pricey respects;
line up, take turns stirring
    the big bronze pot.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


by Catherine Partin

We were eating bratwurst and sauerkraut and whole litres of frothy piss-coloured beer in steins so heavy that my scrawny arm trembled uncontrollably when I tried to lift one to my mouth, nearly knocking over the plastic cup of tart white wine he’d uncorked especially for me.  The paper plate lying abandoned before me was heaped with soft strawberries, untouched because I couldn’t figure out an elegant way of separating the stems from the fruit, and the spiky remains of a bunch of pale green grapes, and a pile of mushy cantaloupe.  It was mid-June and uncharacteristically muggy, but a breeze ruffled the loose edges of the sky-blue tent pitched high above, and there was no heat radiating between the two of us as usual, but only an unpleasantly damp feeling under my arms and on the back of my neck.  He beamed down at me and mused, Whatever are you going to do without me, his eyes shiny black slits above a patronizing smirk.  Drunk, maybe.  I smiled and murmured something to the effect that I was quite at a loss now, simply all at sea as to what I should possibly do with the rest of my summer, the long months stretching ahead of me, arid and oppressive and hopelessly lonesome.  I suppose I should waste away pining for you.  My cup refused to empty and time was ticking, minutes slipping away and becoming vanished hours.  I sipped the wine slowly so that I would not grimace, and said, too quickly, oh yes, it’s delicious, I assure you, when he asked if it was any good.  I pursed my lips and sipped slowly because it was the worst sauvignon blanc I had ever tasted, and I cursed myself for agreeing to a drink at all, a drink poured by a man who doesn’t know how to eyeball a proper serving of wine.  I had to drive into downtown directly after the party.  I had a date, in fact.  We were going to try an Irish pub.  We were going dancing, maybe.

There was a lavish cake on the laundry room counter, a sickly beige colour under the shrill fluorescent light; a tangled mound of tiny painted cups for espresso lay glinting faintly in a wicker basket next to the cake.  Against the opposite wall were a washing machine and dryer and a plastic bin overflowing with soiled socks and boxer shorts, and a grimy refrigerator covered with kitschy magnets.  The toilet seat had been left up.  Shallow lakes of water rimmed by oily-looking soap bubbles covered the counter, half-heartedly absorbed by a wet burgundy towel wadded limply beside the sink.  Here all middle-class suburban homes are the same: cheap tricycles and bright soccer balls litter patchy front lawns while dandelions flourish between the cracks in the sidewalk; the funereal odor of scented candles or musty potpourri pervades every humid bathroom, and the pantry always smells like stale cereal.  These neighbourhoods unnerve me; visits always leave me sad and frightened; but even so there is something almost comforting about the way you can open the kitchen cabinets and expect to find an odd variety of logo-emblazoned plastic tumblers and cheap mugs.  The faucet was a cloudy faux-crystal knob that sent scalding water spraying with undue force into the toothpaste-crusted basin.  I dried my hands on my jeans, and sniffed them; they smelled like cucumber-melon.  Then I shut off the lights on my yellow reflection, walked past the refrigerator, past the espresso cups, the cake, the dirty laundry, back into the darkened kitchen, down the uneven porch steps, into the lumpy backyard grass and across the lawn to where the men in lederhosen were sitting, telling vulgar jokes.

My car was parked around the corner.  He hesitated, and looked at the ground, and scuffed at the gravel with one foot, hands in the pockets of his oversized leather shorts, squirming like a nervous schoolboy.  Am I ever going to see you again? he asked, and his eyes were wide.  Of course, I said, but I was thinking: why don’t you tell me, you spineless worm; that is not my decision; whose idea was this anyway?  The sun had already set and I was going to be late, and I wished I hadn’t drunk that glass of wine, but my head was clear and my heart was cold.

It’s a beautiful day in the country and I’m sitting in the shade on the back porch overlooking a tranquil pastoral scene, like something out of a painting, one of those haystacks by Monet, almost – grasses rustling, cows grazing, jets leaving white trails across the sky.  Of course, Monet didn’t paint jets, and they’re not very picturesque in my opinion, but you know what I mean.  I don’t know if it’s because of the ravine at the edge of our property, or the fact that we’re surrounded by lots of other hills,but if you holler into the stillness you can hear your voice echo a few times, which is probably why I can hear dogs barking and a tractor droning away somewhere nearby and the neighbors’ rooster crowing even though it’s well past noon and aside from the cows I haven’t seen any other signs of life today, yet there seems to be an invisible chorus of birds determined to torment me with their incessant twittering, and thus hasten my inevitable descent into madness, because these noises are reverberating in my eardrums like glass marbles dropped all at once onto a hard tile floor, and the sky is a jarring shade of electric blue.  Someday, I am going to wring that rooster’s neck and eat him for dinner.  I’m wearing sunglasses and a thick blue bathrobe and the T-shirt you so kindly laundered for me, drinking Perrier out of a big stemless wine bowl and fitfully gnawing away at a few bland crackers, which I somewhat regret since I lost four and a half pounds last night and it would be a shame to gain it all back.  I was perusing your copy of Maxim around five o’clock this morning and in it there was this blonde bombshell claiming her last meal consisted of bangers and mash, which I’m sure you must be aware is British code for big greasy sausages and mashed potatoes.  Just so you know, there is no possible way that models in Maxim actually eat huge fatty English breakfasts.  I do feel a little bit like Hemingway, after that cocktail, sitting here with my bitterness and my god-awful hangover.  Stella wants to play tennis with me, but I’m not having any of it, as you would say.  I wish you’d shoved me from the car and yelled “Get it together, lady!” and maybe mentioned that my being drunk stopped being even minorly cute something like six months ago.  I haven’t the foggiest notion what was in those two drinks to convince me of both my complete fluency in French and the dire necessity of being transported directly to urgent care for an emergency liver transplant, but I humbly beg your pardon for last night’s disastrous events, and thank you fervently for shielding me from the passersby when I leapt from the car and began to strip.

Cut to present tense.  My mind leaps to the thick envelope radiating heat from the bottom of my purse, but I leave it there.  We have only seconds to find the right words; we gaze desperately at each other, like fish.  I turn to unlock my car and he is already striding away, a silhouette against a watery orange sky, comically long legs casting surreal shadows on the cooling pavement.  Have fun in Germany! I shout, a mangled cry.  I can’t hear what he says in reply.  I’m in the driver’s seat already, turning the key.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

feminist reading

by Anna Rigles

We were late
                As usual
Because my demons do not allow me
                Entrance into unknown places without

I went to listen to the voices
                Feminist voices
Telling their stories, fables and creative dialogues about their feminist lives
I went with my wife and children
                To meet a friend, her daughter
And to glimpse familiar faces that reawaken me

I wanted to hear the words
                Linked in rhyme or rhythm or prose
But instead I sat listening to my damaged friend
Who does not know that she is an alcoholic
Ramble on and on and on
Because she desperately needs me to hear her
                To see her
To love her in the ways she has forgotten
She needs me to ignore her booze soaked words whispered in my ear
                In class
                At 10am
I listen to her, because she is loud
                And cannot take a hint
That I am looking away from her demanding and yet pleading eyes
Straining to find the people at the front
                Speaking about their feminist lives
Straining to find that glimpse of awareness with another person
                Like myself

She won’t stop talking
                About nothing
                Everything-in her life
Until I look into her eyes and let her see my damage
                My demons
Then she calms
It is the whisper of my past that soothes her tired vocal cords
                There are never words exchanged
Just the knowledge that we share similar monsters
                And there is safety in numbers

The reading is over
The band takes the stage and blares their music louder even than my friend’s desperate cry for my attention
I realize I heard nothing of the feminist voices at the front of the room
I did not find familiar faces and connect

My wife, my children
                My non-toxic intoxicated friend
                Her daughter
Pick up and leave
Not having heard any part of the readings
                But knowing
What I heard
                Was powerful

Saturday, March 5, 2011

marriage ≠ equality

by Kaleigh

            One of the topics of greatest debate in modern times is that of same-sex marriage. It is argued by many in the gay rights movement that by obtaining the right to marry, gay and lesbian identified people will have broken through a monumental barrier to the recognition and equality that they have sought for so long. This idea, however, negates the truth that marriage as an institution has been inherently oppressive for hundreds of years. Would being granted the ability to cooperate in such a stifling institution truly give same-sex couples the legitimacy they deserve? This essay argues that marriage is not the gateway to equality that many people believe it to be because of its history of systematic oppression of women, people of color, and people of lower socioeconomic status.

            Marriage, as a controlling arm of the nation-state, limits the ways in which people enact and fulfill certain roles in their day to day lives. One of the ways peoples’ identities are shaped by means of marriage is through gender roles. Traditional gender roles are reinforced by marriage, allowing for men and women to only participate in the established forms of masculinity and femininity deemed acceptable by society. As stated by Nancy F. Cott in Public Vows, “The institution of marriage has thus been the vehicle for the state’s part in forming and sustaining the gender order – or, it might be said, in forming and sustaining gender itself” (Cott 1442). In this quote, Cott is explaining that by shaping and limiting the ways we conform to gender roles, we are, in fact, shaping gender itself by allowing only two dichotomous genders to exist. This is extremely detrimental to the queer community, because they are a community in which gender is very much defied, in many instances. For queer-identified individuals to participate in marriage, a system that readily limits gender expression, their identities would be further marginalized and forced into traditional masculine and feminine roles.

            Marriage has also historically been used to control the citizenship of marginalized peoples, such as people of color. When African Americans transitioned from slavery to becoming citizens, they were punished if they tried to enter society with their pre-existing values, and were thus forced to do so according to the norms of the dominant culture (Franke 253).  Although they were no longer slaves, African Americans had not escaped the control of the state; the dynamics of said control simply shifted. One of the most influential ways African Americans’ experiences were shaped and controlled was through marriage laws (Franke 253).

            Upon being “freed,” African Americans were forced, in a similar way that gay and lesbian couples today would be forced, into behaving in certain ways as a result of control by marriage. Marriage laws granted African Americans various social and economic privileges, however, simultaneously required them to adhere to the norms of the prevailing culture, regarding race and gender (Franke 255). It would be no different for gay and lesbian couples today. By participating in marriage, queer identified people would be subject to the same strategies of assimilation that African Americans were subjected to upon being granted freedom and the right to legally marry. Some social and economic privileges were granted, but at what cost?

            Gay and lesbian identified peoples’ participation in marriage may also fuel homonormativity, defined by Lisa Duggan as “a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them, while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption” (Duggan 50). Homonormativity is yet another way that gay and lesbian peoples’ true identities will be marginalized, while the institution of marriage will impress upon them the need to be good, unquestioning patriots and consumers. Homonormativity is reinforced in such ways as the Human Rights Campaign’s advertisement featuring Keith Bradkowski (Aganthanelou, et. al. 126). The advertisement emphasizes Bradkowski’s patriotism and hegemonic masculinity, which are intended to normalize him in heterosexist eyes. In other words, the intention homonormativity is to assimilate queer-identified people into straight, mainstream culture.

            Not only is homonormativity the source for assimilating gay and lesbian identified people into the heteronormative culture, but it is also done so to further ostracize people of color (Aganthanelou, et. al. 126). This is done, for example, in the Human Rights Campaign advertisement previously discussed:

In exchange for begging for state rights and recognition, Bradkowski participates in the process of creating new outsiders and outsides, those whose racial, sexual, and economic aberrance beat the mark of counter-national, as decidedly un-American difference. (Aganthanelou, et. al. 126-127)

Again, the advertisement prizes Bradkowski’s patriotism, hegemonic masculinity, and whiteness, while concurrently establishing people of color as the terrorists, who are the “other.” This allows for certain queer-identified people, namely the ones who reproduce the nation’s message as closely as possible, to be granted into the “us vs. them;” us being the privileged United States, and them being the terrorists, or people of color. This is the process referred to as “incorporation and quarantining,” which is a subsidiary of the greater process of “enemy production;” both of which are instruments of building the nation (Aganthanelou, et. al. 127).

            The “us versus them” idea presented above denotes simplicity in the fight for equality. To simplify the struggle for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to one obstacle essentializes the community’s goals in a way that hinders progress instead of fueling it. As stated on, “LGBT communities have ample reason to recognize that families and relationships know no borders and will never slot narrowly into a single existing template” (“Beyond Same-Sex Marriage” 1). The statement on goes on to say that the U.S. Census reports that the majority of people in the United States do not live in traditional nuclear families (“Beyond Same-Sex Marriage” 1). The LGBT movement played a large role in the diversity of families in our country, through domestic partnerships, second parent adoptions, powers of attorney, and so on. To reduce the fight for equality to gaining one right, which simplifies the ways our families look and operate, demeans the work that has gone into diversifying the faces of families. “Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others” (“Beyond Same-Sex Marriage” 2).

            We must also take into consideration the fact that those who oppose same-sex marriage are not simply “anti-gay,” but that there is a larger framework of white supremacist capitalistic patriarchy at work. Sexuality that differs from the norm is not the only form of identity under attack, but also race, gender, class, and citizenship status (“Beyond Same-Sex Marriage” 2). Not only does the conservative Right’s agenda force upon us the limited ideas of heterosexist marriage, but it also enacts to cut funding for an array of family services (“Beyond Same-Sex Marriage” 2).

            It is also important to note exactly who will be benefiting from the right to marry. It will be the same type of people who benefit from heterosexual marriage; specifically, those with property and economic entitlements (Willse 2). This goes to show that granting the right to marry to same-sex couples does not get at the root of the problem. How can having the right to hospital visitation be worth anything if neither of the partners has health insurance the other can benefit from? While some will benefit from the right to marry, the people with a certain amount of privilege, granting same-sex marriage will not help all same-sex couples. It does not address the needs of the poor, immigrants, or people of color. As stated in “Ban Marriage!” Willse asserts:

When we say ‘I know there are problems with marriage, or I know gay marriage won’t fix everything, but it’s what we can do right now,’ I worry that we are justifying the gains of racially and economically privileged people at the costs of a broad spectrum of poor people, people of color, immigrants and their political struggles. (Willse 2)

This illustrates that granting same-sex marriage still only operates to benefit people who already have a certain amount of privilege, instead of truly granting equality. Furthermore, dissecting issues into “gay issues” and other types of issues, such as race, class, and so on, denies the fact that these issues intersect and interact with each other, creating social and political circumstances. By denying the fact that intersectionality exists, we are denying those who are an integral part of our community.

            The excerpt from Willse’s piece also sheds light on an often discussed argument for same-sex marriage. Many people who support same-sex marriage argue that it is something tangible which can be obtained soon, as opposed to larger, loftier goals that will grant more people rights, such as universal healthcare. The problem with this argument, as stated previously by Willse, is that it justifies overlooking people of color, poor people, and immigrants right now for the sake of those with skin color, economic, and citizenship status privilege (Willse 2). In other words, by granting same-sex marriage rights to people who already have more privilege, we are continuing to deny and devalue people who don’t have access to privilege in many ways, thus furthering their oppression.

            In conclusion, there are numerous ways that the institution of marriage as a whole is oppressive and devaluing to many people. Marriage is used by the nation-state to regulate racial and gender expression, allowing for only rigid views of identity. Same-sex marriage also promotes homonormativity, which furthers the marginalization of queer-identified peoples’ experiences and promotes assimilation into the dominant heteronormative culture. It is in these various ways that same-sex marriage is an inadequate “quick fix” solution to much larger complex issues.


*References available upon request.

Friday, March 4, 2011

welcome to california

by Mage

I wrote this poem several years ago for a poetry class. I grew up in Southern California, and this poem was created as a reflection of my experiences of that place as being suffocating and fostering of narcissism. I still have some of the same feelings about California, though I think that if I were to write this poem today I would be more descriptive about the oppressive forces I witnessed there. I suppose that's another project for another time!

All those pretty landscapes in Palm Springs
are part of a big grid. I know
the graffiti by heart.

Some old guy trying to prove himself
to a little girl.
He wants her
to think he's Big Somebody with a cigar
and a slick Italian car.
She wants him to think.

Hollywood is not a permit
for visions of grandeur and stupidity.

the handmaid's tale

by Anna

            This is a talk back assignment for an Intro to Women’s Studies class where I wrote a personal response to Margaret Atwood and her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. 

Margaret Atwood,

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”  I love that you included this Latin phrase throughout The Handmaid’s Tale.  The use of a dead language which was used by one of the most well organized groups of people creates an aura of secrecy and also revolution.  It is this secrecy that is the basis of Gilead’s government that makes this novel so poignant and also so possible.  As a historian, I read your novel and think of other fanatical governments.  Gilead reminds me of Bloody Mary and how she burned almost 300 Protestants in the name of God and tortured so many more so that she could help her people follow “the one true faith.”  The Spanish Inquisition comes to mind when I read your novel, and how Spain threw out all the “undesirables,” and those that refused to leave: they killed them.  If I look at a more contemporary event, I would have to compare Gilead to Nazi Germany and their forced labor and death camps.  You wrote that the leaders of Gilead forced their own “undesirables” to perform forced labor in nuclear waste lands which would inevitably lead to their death.  Your creation of Gilead is a perfect caricature of fanatical governments and also a terrifying look into what we as people are capable of.  When I read your novel I couldn’t help but wonder what was the basis of Gilead and what is the basis of the society in which I live.

I believe that even though we have definitely moved beyond the Spanish Inquisition and Bloody Mary’s reign of terror we are still living in a society that believes in punishing “the sinner” or those that choose to live a life different from the dominant discourse.  Saepe peccāmus, which translates as: we often sin.  Would the leaders of Gilead use this to describe the world in which we currently live?  Sometimes we sin, not by what we do, but also by what we don’t do.  Offred said, “I didn’t go on any of the marches.  Luke said it would be futile and I had to think about them, my family, him and her.  I did think about my family.  I started doing more housework, more baking.  I tried not to cry at mealtimes” (180).  Isn’t this a sin?  Isn’t self denial lying?  I was taught that lying is a sin and that in order to reach that divine fairy tale land where all the “good people” go to after we die I could not sin.  Wasn’t Offred sinning just by lying there in her red dress and aching for Luke while she was caressed by Nick?  Wasn’t it a lie when she allowed the Commander to kiss her?

The ways in which you describe what happens between the Commander, Serena Joy and Offred is so vivid and frightening in its realism.  Did you write these scenes believing they were rape?  I view them as rape.  I know that not everyone agrees with me.  There are women I know who view that scene as sex.  They think that it is acquiescence when Offred states: “Therefore I lie still and picture the unseen canopy over my head.  I remember Queen Victoria’s advice to her daughter: Close your eyes and think of England.  But this is not England.  I wish he would hurry up” (94).  Do you view these scenes of copulation, fornication as sex?  Is Offred making the choice to have her body used as an incubator?  Offred never describes it as anything resembling a positive experience.  She states:

What’s going on in this room, under Serena Joy’s silvery canopy, is not exciting.  It has nothing to do with passion or love or romance or any of those other notions we used to titillate ourselves with.  It has nothing to do with sexual desire, at least for me, and certainly not for Serena.  Arousal and orgasm are no longer thought necessary… (94).

Arousal and orgasm for women are not thought necessary.  I’m certain that the Commander reaches climax and that he achieves some form of arousal.  Much like when a woman is being raped, this is only about the man’s needs, wants, and desires.  Offred just becomes the hole in which he uses to dispose of his erection.  Her body is no longer a body anymore, it is simply a receptacle.    

I was intrigued at the lengths that you took to demonstrate how very far the leaders of Gilead went to make the Handmaids’ bodies property, thus making them no longer a human being.  Offred states, “I’m taken to the doctor’s once a month, for tests: urine, hormones, cancer smear, blood test; the same as before, except that now it’s obligatory” (59).  Offred has no right to decide what will happen to her, her body, herself.  How did you know how to write about being so out of control?  I understand being out of control and having everyone around me have control over my body and how I and they can use it.  You wrote, “I stand up, in the dark, start to unbutton.  Then I hear something, inside my body.  I’ve broken, something has cracked, that must be it” (146).  This line made me weep.  I remember that moment in my life when I broke.  I remember the moment when it became clear that I would never be able to forget what had happened and that I would never be able to live a day without the memory of them breaking me apart and tearing apart my body and my soul.  How were you able to show this moment?  I think so many women in our world are forced to know this moment.  Are you saying that it is universal?  Whether or not we live in society such as our own or in a society structured like Gilead will women always be forced to become possessions of men and to have their “self” ripped from them?  Will you write of a world where this doesn’t exist, or is that actually beyond the scope of what we can even imagine because this form of slavery is so ingrained in us?

Cicero once said, “Possumusne, Ō dī, in malīs īnsidiīs et magnō exitō esse salvī?” Translated, it means, “Can we be safe, O gods, in wicked treachery and great destruction?”  We can’t be safe, and we aren’t safe.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

does it get better?: youth, sexuality, & suicide

by Kaleigh

In the last months of 2010, the United States’ media has been flooded with stories of queer youth, bullying, and suicide.  The recent influx of queer youth suicides has brought widespread attention to the experiences of hatred that queer youths have endured as a result of the perpetuation of heterosexism in mainstream American culture, despite the fact that this issue was named more than a decade ago.  Hershberger, Pilkington, and D’Augelli (1997) broke ground by explaining how sexual orientation plays a role in youth suicide, when previous studies merely mentioned the higher instances of suicidal behaviors in queer youth.  In 1999, medical and public health professionals identified lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youths to be 3.41 times more likely to report attempting suicide than their heterosexual peers (Garland & Zigler, 1999).  Given these empirical understandings, it is a wonder that the general public hasn’t engaged in discourse on queer youth suicide until the end of the year 2010.

            In reaction to the societal outpour of emotive responses surrounding LGBTQ youth suicide, bloggers, vloggers, and journalists have taken to the internet to engage in discussions on the issue.  One of the most notable responses to the recent tragedies has been the formation of the “It Gets Better Project” by columnist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller.  The internet campaign to raise awareness on LGBTQ youth suicide and bullying was started by Savage and Miller, who made a Youtube video to explain to queer youths who are bullied in middle and high school that “it gets better” (Savage & Miller, 2010). 

The campaign has since gained massive notoriety, with such people as President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Representative Nancy Pelosi and numerous Hollywood celebrities all contributing videos ascertaining that “it gets better” (Savage & Miller, 2010).   The “It Gets Better Project” has both been critically acclaimed by the liberal media and deeply criticized in the radical queer community.  In this essay, I will explore these opposing viewpoints through the lens of youth suicide prevention research, and will analyze the ways in which “It Gets Better” both aligns with empirical prevention findings, as well as how it is likely to be ineffective as a means for prevention.  Finally, utilizing these viewpoints, I will synthesize this knowledge into my personal stance on “It Gets Better.”

The “It Gets Better Project” has been embraced on a national level as a means to provide queer youths with hope, which is, perhaps, the key element of IGBP.  In a blog post, Savage responded to some of the criticism he had been receiving by saying, “The point of the videos is to give despairing kids in impossible situations a little thing called hope,” (2010).  Hope is an essential factor when assessing risk of suicide, because hopelessness has consistently been found to be a correlate with suicidal ideation and behaviors (Gould, Greenberg, Velting, & Shaffer, 2003). 

Additionally, a construct that is intrinsic in Savage’s statement is the idea of youths in crisis.  Crisis interventions have been one of the most widely utilized prevention strategies for suicide (Garland & Zigler, 1993).  The rationale for these interventions, such as hotline services, is that the youth is able to access support immediately through accessible means (Gould et al., 2003).  The theoretical foundation of crisis interventions aligns with the goal of “It Gets Better,” in that IGBP was formulated to provide an expansive network of support for queer youths at the click of a mouse.  This is similar to hotline crisis intervention strategies, and is perhaps the method of crisis intervention of the future. 

As the internet has become increasingly more available and accessible over the past two decades, the idea of community has been reinvented and redefined to reflect the virtual communities of the internet, such as the Youtube vlogging community.  Youtube provides an instantaneous community for discussion and support (Burgess & Green, 2008).  IGBP has tapped into this emerging form of community and has provided a space of positivity and support for queer youths in moments of desperation, which is at the very heart of the reasoning behind crisis intervention strategies.

The creation of a Youtube community for LGBTQ youths also has positive implications for social support.  Access to culturally relevant means of support has been found to be a protective factor for suicidal behaviors in queer youth (Morrison & L’Heureux, 2001).  Affirming sources of support for queer youths, such as IGBP, decrease feelings of isolation and aid youths in the coming out process (Morrison & L’Heureux, 2001).  The “It Gets Better Project” on Youtube provides social support unlike any other, where youths can hear from and engage with their peers, as well as adults whom they respect, from all over the world.

Despite the various seemingly positive contributions that IGBP has provided to LGBTQ youths in crisis, numerous critiques from the radical queer and feminist communities have surfaced on the internet in conversations on blogs and independent news sources.  One of the most circulated blogs was an exhaustive list written by Zoe Melisa, which complicates the intentions of IGBP by introducing the constructs of privilege, trivialization, safety, and the elimination of differences (2010).  The essential argument against “It Gets Better” is that there is so much more complexity in the issue of queer youth suicide and a band-aid of false hope isn’t going to affect change on a systemic level.

Through a prevention lens, despite the prominence of crisis interventions for suicide in the mental health community, results have been inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of this strategy (Gould et al., 2003).  The continual lack of significance in the efficacy findings on crisis intervention is an indicator that these types of interventions alone are not the answer to preventing LGBTQ youth suicide.  Savage (2010) has explicitly stated that IGBP’s goal is to provide hope and support for queer youths in crisis, so the project can thusly be understood as a crisis intervention strategy.  Empirical evidence has consistently shown that crisis interventions have yet to be statistically significantly effective, therefore we can hypothesize that IGBP may not be effective, either.

“It Gets Better” also aims to increase awareness of LGBTQ youth suicide through the media, which has potentially problematic repercussions for the youths themselves.  Findings have indicated that the media’s focus on LGBTQ issues can cause queer youths to experience greater levels of internal stress, which in turn increases risk for suicide (Morrison & L’Heureux, 2001).  There is also the likelihood of contagion, which is the phenomenon of individuals becoming aware of suicides, and the increase in instances of suicide following that awareness (Gould et al., 2003).  IGBP has attempted to provide support and awareness for queer youth, but the campaign may be doing just the opposite by increasing sexual orientation related stress in queer youths.

Furthermore, “It Gets Better” lacks to acknowledge the complexity of youths’ experiences with suicide.  It may be one step in the right direction to understand youth suicide through the lens of sexual orientation, but an integral facet of youth suicide is also race.  Native American male youths have the highest rates of suicide and Latino/a youths have the highest rates of suicidal ideation and attempts (Gould et al., 2003).  IGBP does not mention the component of race in youth suicide anywhere on their website, and it is rarely (if ever) directly discussed in the videos being submitted to the project.  The simplification of queer youth suicide doesn’t take intersectionality into consideration, which subsequently limits how youths can identify with the faux support of the campaign.

Given the research that has gone into this essay, I have had the opportunity to analyze the “It Gets Better Project” from the two opposing sides at the forefront of debate.  While I value the various opinions that have been voiced regarding IGBP, it has been useful to understand the project through a clinical prevention lens.  In the end, regardless of what our opinions are on an issue based on our philosophical assumptions, if something works, it works.  It was my goal in this essay to explore whether “It Gets Better” can really accomplish what they have set out to accomplish.

In reviewing the literature on LGBTQ youth suicide prevention, and youth suicide prevention in general, it became clear to me that the “It Gets Better Project” is not likely to have as positive of an effect for queer youths, in terms of suicide prevention, as the liberal media might have the public believe.  As stated previously, this kind of intervention has not conclusively been shown to be effective.  More importantly, the research conducted by Morrison & L’Heureux (2001) illuminated how this kind of media attention can even make queer youths experiences worse.  Based on these findings, I think it is imperative that people do their research on what can actually help youth before setting out on a mission to supposedly help them (while subsequently gaining massive amounts of praise and self-promotion).

I do, admittedly, take great issue with the way this project has been implemented and the lack of true thought and consideration that went into bringing it to fruition; however, it took me a while to come to this conclusion.  Upon learning about IGBP and watching the first videos, I was glad for its existence.  As a survivor of suicide, my initial reaction was that this was a beautiful way to reach out to youths who were aching.  If I had had access to something like this, I wonder how I would have felt.  At the time in my life where I was blinded by my anguish, I pined for connection; I yearned to feel something outside of myself. 

I honestly think that if I was able to hear people talk about where they had come from, and how they climbed out of that abyss, I wouldn’t care about the simplicity of the program’s implementation.  When I was experiencing the most devastating grief of my life, I know that I wouldn’t be thinking about how this program wasn’t informed by feminist and queer theory, and that it didn’t reflect my radical ideologies.  I think being able to recognize these deficits in the project is a privilege that someone who is suicidal often does not have, and that is a privilege that even the most radical of bloggers has failed to consider.

In summary, I have explored the “It Gets Better Project” through a clinical prevention lens, and have utilized my findings to formulate my personal stance on the issue of the project and LGBTQ youth suicide.  I have found that, overall, the theoretical framework of IGBP is not supported by empirical prevention efficacy findings.  Finally, I have come to the conclusion that my opinion of “It Gets Better” is very much in the gray area, and that I am extremely conflicted about my position.  As a self-professed radical, in terms of my politics, I see, understand, and agree with all of the ways that IGBP is incredibly problematic; however, my identity as a suicide survivor causes me to empathize with the cause, and to see that in some youths’ situations, it just might provide the support they need. In the end, I am content in knowing that this is a complex issue, and my complex feelings are valid.

*References available upon request.