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Growing up isn’t easy, especially when you’re trying to affirm and assert your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can be a challenging and isolating process – but, the good news is, no one has to do it alone, and the It Gets Better Project can help.
We’re proud to celebrate Pride Month and to support the It Gets Better Project for the fifth year, this year with a $50,000 donation to help uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the world. Plus, you can make a donation at checkout both in stores and online!
Learn more about the nonprofit organization from Brian Wenke, who’s served as executive director of the It Gets Better Project since 2016.
For anyone not familiar with it, what is the It Gets Better Project?
The It Gets Better Project began as — and continues to be — a storytelling organization at its core. We leverage stories to connect LGBTQ+ youth with their community, to empower them to realize and pursue their greatest potential, and to prepare them for a world that does not equally support those who are different. But for our stories to be effective, they need to reflect the experiences of young people today, and they need to be shared in ways that align with how youth are navigating their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. More than 75% of queer youth come out online before doing so in real life, so we prioritize the cultivation of social networks with the highest propensity of reaching them. This requires a significant degree of fluidity and adaptability to bring LGBTQ+ youth the information they need to become self-actualized and healthy adults.
Our stories also have the power to fuel culture change. It Gets Better EDU, our education program, translates It Gets Better stories for use in the classroom and other community settings where learning takes place. Every year, tens of thousands of students, LGBTQ+ and others, are engaging with our stories to deepen their understanding of the LGBTQ+ experience. This strategy has a tangible impact on encouraging empathy and facilitating culture change on a broad scale.
And, finally, our stories cross language barriers. The It Gets Better Global Affiliate Network now spans four continents with storytelling initiatives in eight languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, French, Greek, German, and Hungarian). The accessibility of our work has never been more critical to the success of our global movement. The global grantmaking and continuing education opportunities the It Gets Better Project provides members of its Global Affiliate Network ensures all are positioned to effectively engage and support young LGBTQ+ people in meaningful and relevant ways aligned with local cultures.
How do donations help the It Gets Better Project help create change?
A donation to the It Gets Better Project, the world’s largest storytelling effort to empower LGBTQ+ youth, is an investment in a world where all LGBTQ+ youth are free to live equally and know their worthiness and power as individuals. Whether donating to support our storytelling initiatives, educational programming, or the needs of a growing Global Affiliate Network, rest assured that every dime is being stretched to provide the best experience possible for young LGBTQ+ folks on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity journey.
We love working with your organization. Can you talk a bit about how we’ve made change together over the years?
American Eagle continues to make a significant difference in our work. Heading into its fifth year, our partnership has generated more than $1.8 million in support, which has led to an expansion of our education and global programming, as well as infrastructure improvements helping us to sustain the growth of our organization well into the future. Financial investments aside, there is a visibility factor to our partnership that has helped to enhance the reach of our Global Affiliate Network, now comprising 19 countries (not including the US) – nine of which have been recruited over the last five years. The more visible our organization is, and the more effectively we can engage with new audiences, the faster we can recruit affiliates. Every Pride season, for example, because of our increased visibility, we typically get two or three organizations and/or volunteer groups proactively reaching out to join our movement. American Eagle does an amazing job of connecting our work to their audience in ways that are simply cost prohibitive for many nonprofits.
Pride looked so different last year because of the pandemic. How are you celebrating Pride this year and how can we honor Pride every day?
The It Gets Better Project was born a digital native. When our Pride events in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we just stayed online. As a result, we connected with exponentially more young queer people than we ever could at our in-person events. Our 2020 It Gets Better: A Digital Pride Experience attracted more than 340K individual attendees across YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and TikTok.
We are bringing It Gets Better: A Digital Pride Experience back this year and, with the support of American Eagle, combining it with our annual Global Summit to create an incredible 4-day celebration June 21 – 24. Pandemic restrictions or not, we see this as an evergreen need for LGBTQ+ youth who do not have access to Pride celebrations in their local communities or are living in regions of the world where being out and proud is not safe.
But, Pride is so much more than a celebration. It is a feeling we need to honor throughout the entire year. The LGBTQ+ community and its allies have fought for decades to keep us on a path to progress — to be recognized and treated as equals. We have achieved so much in the last ten years alone, but there is still so much to be done. Every day, we have the choice to either observe or contribute to that progress. Allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community, alike, can celebrate Pride all year long by supporting one another, championing the basic human rights we all share, and honoring the differences that make each of us unique.
What resources are out there for LGBTQ+ folks looking for help?
The It Gets Better Project has a wonderfully curated database of direct service providers supporting the needs of LGBTQ+ young people around the world. Whether someone is recently unhoused, in need of legal guidance, looking for mental health support, or wanting to get involved in their community, the It Gets Better Project’s Get Help page at ItGetsBetter.org/gethelp has something for everyone. And, if you are looking for some inspiration, I would recommend checking out the endless scroll of It Gets Better stories while you are there!