The first It Gets Better video was posted on YouTube on September 22, 2010, and was uploaded by Dan Savage and Terry Miller. The two simply sat in front of a camera and talked about how bullying almost destroyed them as teens, but how they grew to become happy, fall in love and start a family together. The message was simple: that no matter how much bullying you face as a teen, it will get better.
The video inspired a YouTube revolution: people of all ages and of all backgrounds—even President Obama—uploaded videos, reaching out to LGBT teens to tell them that there is life after bullying.
Since then, It Gets Better has become a brick-and-mortar organization that provides support, resources and outreach for LGBT youth around the world. Part of their outreach program is sending members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles into communities around the country. They’ll facilitate discussions. They’ll perform with local choruses. But, most importantly, they’ll be educating and healing at the same time.
Liesel Reinhart wrote and directed the the performance art show It Gets Better—a theatre arts performance at the end of the week, in which The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles combines with local performers to put on a moving show. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles has one of the most-viewed It Gets Better videos on YouTube.
“Our recording of the chorus singing ‘True Colors’ was one of the very popular ones. It told us, as an organization, that our reach could go a lot further than we ever expected. We’ve been looking for ways to expand our work with young people, so a new show came up and we decided to reach out to the It Gets Better folks,” Reinhart explained. They took their show on the road last year,
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles will be performing with Austin’s own Conspirare, the Capital CIty Men’s Chorus and Amphion Youth Choir. The President of the board of the Capital City Men’s Chorus, David Nielsen, explained that the Capital City Men’s Chorus serves as both a performing arts group as well as a haven for gay men and allies to come together in solidarity.
“I moved to Austin in ’96, on kind of the same path that many of our members have followed. They either have decided that this was something they needed to do to help with their personal expression or integration into the gay community,” Nielsen explained.
The volunteer chorus performs at many events and has a very active calendar, including holiday performances and a big fundraiser. They were more than happy to add It Gets Better to their calendar, as it serves as a great form of outreach and giving back to young LGBT people who are suffering bullying.
“I hope [the performance] really connects with people. People need to see the impact that discrimination and bullying have on others. I think it’ll be a very emotional performance,” Nielsen said.
According to Reinhart, The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles gives local choruses the limelight, providing for what she calls “the best moment in the show.” In addition to the surprise best moment, local choruses get to perform a song written specifically for It Gets Better.
“It written for the show by Jeff Marx—he wrote Avenue Q—and Mervyn Warren, who was one of the original members of Take 6. Merv also did all the album arrangements for Whitney Houston and some movie soundtracks. It’s quite a team,” Reinhart explained.
The most important part isn’t the performance by any means, though it is a real celebration of progress in a community. To Reinhart, the most important thing she and the people at It Gets Better have seen is when local communities are touched by It Gets Better and then flourish in the fight against bullying long after It Gets Better leaves the scene.
“It really is up to the people in each community to really get that It Gets Better spirit and figure out how to make it better right now. That’s our goal, is to cross-polinate,” Reinhart explained.
“We’re not experts: we’re artists, who just have extensive personal experience with this with a little bit of training. Really, we’re not coming in and saying we’re experts and here’s the policies you should implement in your school to fight bullying. It’s about fortifying the individual, activating each person to be an agent themselves within a community.”
It Gets Better will host three events at the Long Center the week of September 16-20. Click to purchase tickets to the It Gets Better performance.