It Gets Better

By Sean Carroll | October 22, 2010 9:21 am

No substantive blogging from me — I’ve lost my laptop and need to get a new one, with all the crapola that entails. (Speaking euphemistically here; it wasn’t “lost,” it was stolen. Story later.)

In the meantime here’s a video from Barack Obama, supporting Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign. (Via Jezebel.) Savage is a well-known sex columnist, and Obama is President of the United States, so it’s a newsworthy pairing in its own right. But this is an important message for every teenager, or for that matter for every person. The campaign is aimed primarily at LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered) kids, who are very commonly bullied and ostracized in school. But bullying isn’t right no matter who the target is. It does get better, as you grow up and figure yourself out and find supportive communities. It shouldn’t ever be bad in the first place, so we have to do what we can to change the cultural acceptance of harassment.

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  • CW

    As someone pointed out on Twitter, it’s almost a bitter sweet gesture since he’s personally against gay marriage (and his administration is considering appealing the DADT ban).

    But I applaud him willing to participate nonetheless because as you say, bullying and ridicule is harassment and wrong. As a short-statured person, I had to endure a similar sort of thing – and I agree that it does get better. If the Arrow of Time did switch, I’d be really bummed to have to re-visit my teenage years again.

  • Lulu

    I guess it wasn’t this guy :(

    I had my laptop stolen out of my room senior year as I was writing my thesis… that’s a time I wish not to revisit.

  • Lotty

    I appreciate that Obama has made a video supporting the It Gets Better campaign. That is progress from previous administrations regarding some support, and hope, for LGBT people in the US. Nonetheless, it doesn’t get better by itself, we have to make it better. Obama, as the highest ranking elected official in the US, has more power than most to not just say it gets better, but to actually make it better.

    How about helping gather support and making a priority to pass an inclusive version of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA). That would make illegal in the US to fire somebody because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
    I bet that this would have a high impact in the well being of LGBT kids in schools by allowing their teachers to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity. In that way providing a role model, a mentor and a supportive environment. Instead, teachers loose their jobs for being gay or transgender (or do not get hired).
    How about making clear that the school administration and teachers must step up and not allow bullying to anybody in schools.

    Also, as a note, it doesn’t get better in the US for every LGBT person after school (specially, for the T part).

    In any case, expressing that there is hope and support is very important and Obama making the video is a very good and powerful step.

  • bittergradstudent
  • Sili

    ‘The most powerful man in the world’ decides to do something to help gay people. And he makes a video? Big whoop.

    This is as ‘hilarious’ as his joke about running away with whoever it was to get ‘gay married’.

  • Per

    Could someone tell me exactly what has changed since the Bush administration? It’s a serious question.

  • réalta fuar

    there’s obviously just no pleasing a lot of people. You folks want the Shrub back maybe? or, just sit on your hands and wait for a possibly new (and not better) U.S. Congress. Sheesh…..

  • Doug

    It’s not about congress anymore. It was Obama’s Justice Dept that filed an appeal against the judicial injunction against DADT last week. He seems to be committed to nothing but lip service.

  • Valatan

    réalta fuar #8:

    That’s exactly the point, actually. With 59 votes in the Senate and a large House majority and the Presidency, more institutional strength than the Republicans have had since the Taft administration, Obama has failed to produce 4 out of the 5 things promised to the LGBT community during his campaign. This despite the fact that Obama could abolish DADT simply by not appealing Log Cabin Republicans v. United States.

    For people who live in right to work states with no LGBT protections, the failure on DADT and ENDA aren’t abstract things.

  • Joey

    Give the guy a break. I’m sure most of you wouldn’t do half as much in his position. Sure, he could do better — but it really takes *a lot* of courage to do this given his current position.

  • Cynthia

    As I watch this clip of Obama peddling his so-called “It-Gets-Better” campaign, I’m reminded that Obama has mastered the art of kabuki theater. If Obama really wanted to back up his words with actions, if he really and truly cared about American gays and their struggle for equal rights, he wouldn’t use his presidential powers that he inherited from his fascist predecessor, George W. Bush to overturn a judicial ruling, asserting that the military’s “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy is flat-out unconstitutional. But since he did do this, this goes to show that Obama is either an anti-gay bigot himself or a total suck-up to the Christian powers-that-be in the military who think the same about gays as they do about Muslims, insomuch as they think that the only good gay is a dead one. So I guess some may argue, at least the brain-dead Obamabots will argue, that Obama is merely using his elaborate skills as an eleven-dimensional chess player to protect gay military recruits from being turned into cannon fodder or being victims of so-called “joy killings.” But most of us progressives have enough active brain cells in our heads to know not to fall for this and other kinds of higher-dimensional nonsense that Obama and his army of Orwellian propagandists try to throw our way!

  • Cynthia

    Let me also say that if Obama really and truly wanted to put an end to bullying in primary and secondary schools, whether it’s against gay kids, Muslim kids, atheist kids, or whatever types of kids that belong to an oppressed minority group, he can start by putting an end to our bullying of other countries around the world. But this would require him to put an end to our practice of invading and occupying other countries. Needless to say, our Nobel peace prize-winning president is too much of a warmonger himself and he’s too beholden to the war profiteers on Wall Street and the Christian Crusaders at the Pentagon to ever end our various sorts of bullying activities around the world.

  • Jimbo

    Sean hit the nail squarely on the head: Regardless of the target, Bullying is Dead Wrong. Today’s school-yard bullies are tommorrow’s prison-yard criminals. Only the venue has changed. The same sadistic reality is S.O.P. be they children, teens, or adults. Isolate unusualness &/or weakness, then harass, intimidate, & attack.
    But I disagree that a cultural change will eliminate or mitigate the problem, particularly in middle & high schools where bullying begins its formative stages, at recess & after school. A great example is illustrated in the movie `A History of Violence’ as to how insidious it is.
    Schools cannot afford private security to patrol school grounds where it usually happens, & cops sure are’nt going to help. No, it has persisted for decades, largely because parents were bullied, & view it as a `rite of passage’ to adulthood. How can their kids deal w/adult bullies if they do not first learn how in the school of hard knocks ?
    The only good that can come of the recent suicide is the realization of how deeply the problem is embedded & how difficult it will be to make a dent in it, without a total committment of govnt. , parents, & schools.

  • Jimbo

    Just to follow up on my comment above, today’s news reports the stat that 50% of HS students are bullied:
    Today’s !!?? That’s only news-worthy because of the recent suicide. Try Decades of bullying, mostly unstudied, & probably near 50%.
    Just goes to show the level of denial about this tragic reality for millions.
    Hopefully, under the glare of the media spotlight, something will Finally be done about it.
    I for one would like to see a survey of prison inmates who admit to being bullies, & was it in HS or earlier ?

  • Earl


  • sha196094

    what ABOUT the muslim teen call gay and terrorist and bullied in middle school and went to high school and got bullied again ,then said enough is enough and told his dad ,they are now facing hate crime charges,do he have to commit suicide for you to see him as a victim to mention


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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