Message of hope for LGBT youth

The “It Gets Better” campaign, which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) youth, is reaching further with a video from the RCMP.

RCMP officers from Surrey, B.C., posted the video on YouTube on Nov. 6. The ten-minute video contains 23 RCMP employees explaining their experiences of growing up while identifying as LGBT. Many tell their stories of hiding their identity in their youth, but explain the relief that came with coming out to their families, urging the youth that “it gets better.”

“Life is worth taking the chance and knowing that it will get better,” said Maya, a 911 operator featured in the video.

The campaign, led by columnist and author Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller, began in September 2010 as a response to increasing suicides of LGBT youth. Since this time the project has become a global phenomenon, sparking more than 50,000 videos on YouTube, which have been viewed approximately 50 million times.

Celebrities, politicians, organizations, activists, media personnel, and now RCMP employees are among the many individuals that have endorsed the campaign.

Sargent Shelley Jacobson of the Surrey Youth Unit told the Manitoban that the RCMP deals with all kinds of bullying. This includes psychological bullying, such as ostracization or name calling, or physical bullying through harassment.

“Whether it is physical bullying or social bullying, all kinds of bullying are hurtful and have a lifelong impact,” said Jacobson.

Bullying itself is not against the law, explained Jacobson, but many of the behaviours associated with bullying are. The goal is prevention and intervention, but when a situation escalates to extreme bullying it manifests as a criminal offense. She stated that a perpetrator can be charged with a hate crime if they go after an individual specifically because they are LGBT.

“Harassment, assault, and uttering threats are all in the Criminal Code and can be dealt with in the courts. It doesn’t matter if the offender is under 18, as long as they are over 12 they can be charged,” said Jacobson.

The video is intended to show positive role models of those who are gay and live on to have happy, fulfilling lives with successful careers. When asked if the video has been successful, Jacobson described the support the video has received from the LGBT community and that it lead to a 50-year-old man to coming out.

“To me that is powerful,” said Jacobson.

Jacobson said fear of diversity could be a reason why people may not accept LGBT individuals. Now that diversity is more the norm, society is becoming more accepting, but Jacobson claims there is still a long way to go.

“Diversity is all around us and we need to celebrate it more and judge less [ . . . ] I don’t imagine that the first gay RCMP officer had the same experience that one today would have,” said Jacobson.