By Maria Costigan
Staff Writer, Simmons Voice
Reposted from April 5, 2012 Simmons Voice issue
Simmons College will join approximately 40,000 others who have spoken up in support of the It Gets Better Project - an online mission to prevent suicides in the teenage LGBT community by showing the fullness and vibrancy that their lives can achieve. On Thursday April 12th, these testimonies, whose subjects vary from the Boston Red Sox to anonymous people from the smallest towns across the country, will be joined by Simmons's own compilation at a launch party in the Kotzen room starting at 11:00 a.m..
School of Social Work professor Thom Harrigan conceived the Simmons College It Gets Better Project and inspired the College to become involved this year. He was joined by Dean of Student Life Sarah Neill, professor Marlene Fine, Director of Residence Life Jess Faulk, MJ Craig and students to create a video to add to the worldwide project.
"We are a community that values difference and appreciates the value-added to our community by every person in it," said Fine. "It's very exciting to see Simmons participate in a project that represents our values and positions us as part of a global movement for human rights and dignity."
The now worldwide It Gets Better Project was founded by journalist and commentator Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller in 2010 after a tragic string of suicides in gay teens.
In a 2010 segment of his Seattle advice column "Savage Love," after the suicide of 15 year old Billy Lucas, he said "I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes... I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better... but why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids?"
Since many of the LGBT suicide victims are from rural or suburban communities with few places for gay teens to get help, Savage hoped that It Gets Better could serve as a resource for those seeking information and positive role models.
It Gets Better's mission is twofold, said Craig. Not only does he hope it sends a message of hope, but also that the Simmons community takes it as a call to action.
"It Gets Better is a promise," he said.
For Simmons, the It Gets Better Project will not only provide inspiration for those struggling with bullying and alienation across the world, but the videos will serve as a "living archive" of the Simmons community.
"As a faculty member I am most excited...about creation of the living archive of personal stories that students, faculty, and staff can draw on now and into the future for curriculum development, research, and personal inspiration," said Fine. She hopes that students and faculty members will continue to add to the project each year.
The committee has received excellent feedback from the community, said Fine. Standing room only meetings and full email inboxes resulted in too many testimonies to include in the final video. However, their videos reside on the Simmons College It Gets Better website and youtube channel.
"Clearly, we had touched a nerve on campus," said Fine.
Junior Jackie Twiss, a student who told her story to the It Gets Better committee, said that the project had personal importance as well.
"Nobody every sits you down and asks 'what is it like?'," she said. "It was difficult to talk about my story on camera, but empowering because I know I'm doing something to help."
However bittersweet sharing tales of prevailing over oppression may be, the videos share a message of optimism, said Twiss.
"It's really easy to think that it's always going to be bad," she said. "These videos show there's something to look forward to.
For many participants, these videos acknowledge that the troubles they dealt with in their youth continue.
"Some people realized that once it got better for them, even though 10 to 20 years had passed, the same things are still going on," said Craig.
For Simmons, being part of It Gets Better is a natural continuation of the goals of the students and the faculty.
"It's important for Simmons to do this because we can," said Craig. "We have enough LGBTQ people here and in positions of authority that we can. If you can't be gay and safe here, where can you? We're lucky in that way."
Visit www.simmons.edu/itgetsbetter to view videos, photos, and more information about the project.
Official Simmons It Gets Better Video: