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On the Care and Maintenance of Straight Friendships

Fun facts about straight people:

  • Most of them are not dangerous!
  • Some of them are actually quite lovely people.
  • Straight people are not as violent as they are portrayed in action movies.
  • Straight people are your neighbors, your friends, members of your community.¬†You may be related to a straight person, or even share a room with one in the hospital.
  • I mean it TAKES ALL KINDS, amirite?
  • Tomorrow, while you are attending the daily Straight Pride Parades that form the totality of public life in America.
  • Take a moment to tell a straight person you support their life decisions.
  • Tell them you know many fine straight people.
  • Then put your hand near their ear, and pretend to find a silver dollar there.
  • They love that shit.

Straight people will NOT:

  • Try to make you straight.
  • (Not that it would work, amirite?)
  • Make it impossible for you to appreciate Ani DiFranco on rainy days.
  • Make you want to move to Florida.
  • Inject a lot of brown into your wardrobe.
  • Drag you on a cruise and then spend two weeks complaining about how few deck chairs there are.

Here we have a video by straight pop star Justin Bieber. I personally have been a big fan of Justin Bieber’s right to define his own sexuality, since he has been gender policed by the culture at large pretty ferociously. But I’ll admit I was a little reluctant to watch his video, as I’ve seen the project gain steam and seen straight voices begin crowding out queer voices. And the straight voices that replaced them are saying things like “I know how hard it is being weird when you’re younger.”

First of all, I was not weird, I was fabulous. Second of all, yes this is a very relatable experience. Bullying is widespread and terrible. But the germ of the project was a need for older and younger queer voices to reach out to a generation that is still terribly vulnerable. These kids hear straight voices every day, and it means so much more for you to use them in your community. This project was about being able to have our voices amplified by the medium and movement. Your voices are already amplified by your orientation. Use them locally.

Hopefull, J.Biebs will have something good for us.

Oh, look! Bieber waited until the project had been underway for months, until it was as mainstream and watered-down as possible, then supplied us with 21 seconds of uncut life WISDOMS. Things get better, people, mumbly things!

Look, I understand that this video is possibly well-intentioned and may have sent cataclysmic shockwaves through the bangs-heavy ranks of his tween hive mind, but as Queerty pointed out, it may well be the shortest “It’s Gets Better” video yet recorded. I don’t mean him or his fans any ill will, I know that straight people aren’t all alike. I want to see my good straight friend Justin come out a hero on this.

I want to Belieb.

After all you can always count on straight people to take the elements of queer rebellion and community building, strip them of all meaning, and then try to sell them back to us as support. Don’t worry straight people, we’ll keep making culture if you keep being awesome!

29 Comments

  1. Mike wrote:

    Thank you. Times, like, a bagillion.

    Straight people (that is, the kind that don’t spend time on awesome ladyblogs) can be so exhausting.

    And whatever his intentions, I’m still inclined to sigh with exasperation and say, “Just shut the fuck up Justin Bieber.”

    (I repeat: not aimed at pretty much anyone reading this.)

    Friday, December 10, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink
  2. Melusin wrote:

    UGH.

    The thing that really, really exhausts me about the co-option of It Get’s Better is that it ignores that the kids who stand out in “being a bully” are often queer, or don’t conform to binary gender, or otherwise marginalised, and the kids who will be made feel so much worse for being bystanders, will see themselves as bystanders? Let me guess that they’re NOT the most privileged ones.

    We had David Cameron and Theresa May make an It Get’s Better video over here. At least with Bieber I can watch it and hope it was meant to be a modern equivalent of Bill and Ted’s “be excellent to each other” (ridiculous teenage almost truism) although it’s not. With politicians that have rainbowashed (to borrow sparkindarkness’s wonderful phrase) but fought against “promotion of homosexuality in schools” I… can’t actually let myself watch.

    The videos I can watch? Are the ones that say “we need you here. Still, tomorrow. When it doesn’t get better”.

    The saddest funeral I ever attended was a Catholic one for a cousin who wasn’t close, but I’d known. Everyone knew it was suicide. The service was given by a priest who’d been at school with him, who was the same age (30).

    I don’t know whether either he or the priest was queer, or just vulnerable. What I know is that having someone who was really angry that someone he’d grown up with had died, that this wasn’t a sin or weakness, leading the service made me able to cope with the conversations before and afterwards about how it was just a “tragic accident”.

    and yes, I was not weird, I was fabulous, I was extra-normal (my camp, straight dad’s phrase used to comfort me and my sister), I was brilliant. What nearly broke me was thinking that that didn’t matter or wasn’t true.

    Friday, December 10, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink
  3. Kate wrote:

    Obviously Bieber’s video is a little toothless but he does have a lot of reach and influence with straight young people and someone needs to get the message out to straight young people that it’s not okay for them to bully queer young people because obviously the parents and the schools aren’t doing the job.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 6:22 am | Permalink
  4. AndyG wrote:

    I don’t think Katy Perry made a video, but she did dedicate her new single to the campaign. Not sure how that squares with “UR so gay”.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink
  5. Sooz wrote:

    HOW DO YOU POSSIBLY THINK THE POINT OF “IT GETS BETTER” IS FOR STRAIGHT PEOPLE TO SAY THAT?!

    I mean, how do you get through all the work of setting up the video, deciding what you’re going to say, recording it, editing it, and then uploading it, without once thinking, “Y’know, I don’t actually have any personal experience with this particular facet of existence. Possibly I should leave this up to those who actually know what the fuck they are talking about.”

    Oh wait, privilege, right.

    Although I suppose I am willing to give slightly more leeway to Bieber, if only because he is at that age where just about everyone has their head firmly lodged in their butt.

    His handlers have no excuse, though.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  6. Good idea with the silver dollar. We straightz are suckers for closeup magic of all kinds. Maybe learn a few card tricks, too.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  7. I am sad to think that Justin Beiber is probably the most famous Canadian in the world.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  8. Miss Minx wrote:

    Lindsay Beyerstein – me too! I thought that we had really bottomed out with Bryan Adams, but now we have The Beib.

    I weep for Canada.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  9. Katherine Kipling wrote:

    Melusin, do you have a link for that Cameron/May video? It sounds too gruesome for words.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  10. Aine wrote:

    he’s Canadian? I thought the Bieb was our fault…

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  11. sossajes wrote:

    isn’t he, like, fifteen or something? (i’m unwilling to google his age, but he looks younger than i would in drag, which is about fifteen). i realize he doesn’t have the most mature and nuanced perspective out there, but that’s pathetic even when giving him a pass for youth.

    young master bieber, no one is going to spit in your pudding if you say “attacking kids for being gay or seeming gay is awful rummy, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself if you do so or allow it to happen around you.” sometimes being a half decent person involves cheesing off jerks! it’s a risk we all must take.

    (i’d like to take this moment to note that a lot of the slang in wodehouse is non-ableist, sexist or racist because its completely nonsensical, give it a whirl!)

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  12. XtinaS wrote:

    You should be GLAD that more straight people are willing — nay, brave enough — to stand up against bullying!  It’s not like this is pretty explicitly for non-straight people to talk to non-straight children/teens!  What would you have them do, start their own project??

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  13. incognotter wrote:

    Funny how “please don’t kill yourself because it gets better” has morphed in the straight mind into a generic anti-bullying campaign. As if co-option of culture is not in its own way bullying. As if gay teens are an “issue” rather than real people. As if fights about bullying and what to do about it are not oxymoronic.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  14. canomia wrote:

    I love Tim Gun and I loved his It gets better-video. Oh and pixars, and this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9y1NP0Fuik Sister Unity is really wonderfull, She made this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDqW0lqyK80 way before the campain, good for anybody to see.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
  15. Sulagna wrote:

    Hey, first time poster here. I am more than a little in love with this blog.

    Anyway…that is a shitty, shitty video. Sheesh. While I have my problems with the “It Gets Better,” campaign, I do think it’s terrible that it’s been appropriated as an anti-bullying campaign. Not only does that allow it to shed the whole, you know, reason behind it existing, but it also becomes a less pressing issue because it’s like, “Oh everyone gets bullied once in their lives it makes you a better person,” instead of “WTF is wrong with our society that this is happening?”

    Maybe instead these people should move on over to a “You Deserve Better,” campaign? If they’re going to say something, shouldn’t it be more like, “We as a society are failing YOU, as you deserve love and respect and happiness like everyone else. And we apologize and promise to do right by you.”

    Er, not that straight voices need anymore airtime, but if they need to have their say, it should be in parallel to queer voices rather than overlapping and thus co-opting them.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  16. Crito wrote:

    I had no idea that My People had co-opted It Gets Better so thoroughly. I am so sorry that this happened. Like I tell everyone who will listen, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Because you co-opt them.

    Monday, December 13, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  17. k not k wrote:

    Ugh, what the hell. That was literally the most generic thing I’ve ever seen.

    My fellow straights need to leave It Gets Better alone, I agree. However I don’t think the core message of the project is really capable of being ruined or watered down by stupid shit such as this Justin Bieber video. Queer kids will be able to find the genuine, awesome videos which are out there and I think the whole project will continue to do lots of good.

    No thanks to dumb, bandwagoning celebrities, of course.

    Monday, December 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  18. felicia wrote:

    Straight people (of the opposite sex) just might:
    *Get you to tell your mom you love her
    *Take you out for a doughnut to help you over a rough relationship
    *Go shopping with you
    *Make jokes about guys/girls that only you would understand

    Monday, December 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  19. Lu wrote:

    On behalf of straight people, I apologize for all the co-optation (in addition to everything else!). Isn’t the “It Gets Better” project the brainchild of Dan Savage? Since he started it specifically to encourage young gay kids not to give up, you’d think that there’d be some gatekeeping of what becomes part of the project. Not just any celebrity should be taking that particular pulpit to blab on about, “Don’t be mean, it’s not cool.” I don’t mean to imply that it’s the job of The Gays to keep The Straights in line, except in this case the person who should be controlling the message is gay and straight celebs like the Bieb are running all over it like cock-a-roaches. ;-)

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  20. benvolio wrote:

    Sigh. I hate to harsh, but ‘reticent’ means ‘not talkative, laconic.’ The word you want is ‘reluctant.’ They are not synonymous.

    Otherwise, I agree with the whole post.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Permalink
  21. bluebears wrote:

    A couple weeks ago I read another online blog that posited this rather thorny issue.

    As a straight person I could never understand what it’s like to be a young gay teenager. I can empathize but I cannot speak to that experience.

    My understanding of the project was the same as yours Garland. That being it was a way for an older generation of the LGBT community to reach out to the younger.

    Anyway when I mentioned this several straight people told me that it was a way to show straight support as well. And…yes I can see that. But still. I have conflicted feelings.

    (sorry so long)

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  22. Garland Grey wrote:

    A part of me wants to feel good about straight people being allies through the this project, and I understand that hearing a straight person that you know make a video on the local level could be invaluable to a young queer kid. But in the beginning there were a lot of really moving personal stories, and that’s being crowded out by other people jumping on the bandwagon.

    Ultimately I just never want to see another video like this.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  23. Lorelei wrote:

    Aren’t there a million straight versions of “It Gets Better” already anyway? Like, every iteration of an ugly duckling story, and every story about a social outcast who turns out to have special powers or a secret destiny or whatever. When I read teen magazines they always had celebrity interviews with beautiful people who are like “oh god I was such a dork as a kid!” Mine would be pretty much the same – my life is way better now because I’ve mostly grown out of the things people were mean to me about.

    From a queer perspective, that seems like pretty cold fucking comfort. I might as well make an ad for one of those ex-gay “therapy” programs. There are lots of ways I can offer support that don’t involve trying to claim this particular message.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink
  24. Dish wrote:

    Isn’t Beiber a little young to be making one of these videos? He has no experience getting out of high school except to go on tour. Is his message that it gets better when you become famous?

    Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 2:27 am | Permalink
  25. I’m dopey on drugs, so the humour in this post made me laugh immoderately loud for work (I am supposed to be quiet, shhh! *drool*), but it is awesome.

    The thing about all the straight people jumping on the bandwagon is that they de-fang the point of the campaign – it’s easy to feel warm and fuzzy over a generic “mean people suck!” message, but it’s really hard to wave one’s hand dismissively in the face of real, raw, honest truth-telling, which was what was happening at first.

    Bullies and bigots act by dehumanizing their victims – they’re not human, so their hurt isn’t real, amirite? – and warm fuzzies do nothing to dispel the notion that gay teen bullying/abuse is an “issue”, not a bunch of human beings facing intolerable treatment at the hands of abusers with the full weight of society behind them.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink
  26. Holly H wrote:

    Yes, it’s a lame video by a lame artist. Still, young though he is, at least he’s trying to help. Should we really be shouting down people who are getting the message out there (even if they don’t seem to know what it’s about)? The project is capitalising on lil’ Bieber’s popularity, and I can see why. Leave the poor boy be.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  27. Casey wrote:

    I’m not the only one who thinks that straight people should leave “It Gets Better” alone and start a similar campaign to stop (straight) adolescent girls from killing themselves over slut-shaming, am I?

    Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink
  28. Noanodyne wrote:

    Teh hetz have stolen a smarmy, feel-good-but-pointless exercise in self-congratulatory, masturbatory humanitarianism? Horrors. What angst-ridden 13 year old baby dyke, minutes from hanging herself, goes on YouTube and decides life is worth living because a bunch of old fucks say it is? Right. Our elders voices carry so much weight. In their own minds.

    And the fact is, it most certainly does not get wildly better for many people, especially lesbians and people with little money living in the rural pits of ‘merika. But Ellen and Dan Savage wouldn’t know about that. The former stayed well-closeted until she had a tv contract and was protected thusly before and after, the latter is the shining example of gay male turpitude-for-profit.

    Teh hetz can have it and all the bland banality of it – they couldn’t possibly soil it any more than we have.

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  29. Casey wrote:

    @NOANODYNE

    I was gonna say, after reading a lot of scathing blogs that picked apart how the “It Gets Better” project is essentially hoo-ha, that I was gonna mention offhandedly “well, it’s bullshit anyway” but I’m glad an actual LGBTQ person came out and stated the TRUTH (I don’t think that as a hetero-type person my words have any real weight to them, ‘cuz I don’t really have the lived experience).

    Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink