Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It Gets Better in Latin America?

When sex advice columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller launched the "It Gets Better" project in 2010 I doubt they would have envisioned the tremendous impact the project would have.

Their goal was to reach bullied gay teens through YouTube and let them know others had gone through the same experiences and been able to survive.

The message, which has been criticized as simplistic by some, reverberated across the web and resulted in video contributions from hundreds of thousands of people including U.S. President Barack Obama.

As the initiative grew larger, Savage and Miller handed the reigns of the project to others leading to the launch of an official and trademarked website for the It Gets Better Project.

Trademark be damned, you might expect a project others throughout the world to emulate a project like this one and so they have.

Wikipedia currently lists similar copy-cat initiatives in Australia and Canada while the It Gets Better Project website lists official affiliates in Australia, Denmark and Sweden.

When it comes to Latin America, I am personally aware of Peru's Proyecto Todo Mejora which has engaged some of the leading Peruvian political and showbiz leaders on the subject of LGBT bullying including former Vice Presidential nominee Carlos Bruce and current Lima mayor Susana Villarán.

The Peruvian site mentions It Gets Better as an inspiration but there is no sign of collaboration or permission to use the trademark. It does have links to a local donation page and a merchandise shop.

So I was surprised today to see a new Todo Mejora initiative from Chile emerging as the official It Gets Better affiliate in Latin America (TodoMejora.org).

In a Spanish-language statement posted on the new Chilean site, U.S. project manager Seth Levy says he is grateful for Chile taking the lead on the project even as he admits knowing little about LGBT issues in Latin America.

A translation of his statement:
We are grateful to the Chilean team who has made TODO MEJORA a reality. We recognize the importance of working on the local scale in order to carry the message of our project. Reaching Chile and Latin America was a challenge because we are not experts on regional cultures, idioms, politics or other important items needed to coordinate a successful regional campaign.  We are confident that TODO MEJORA will change the life of LGBT youth in Chile and throughout Latin America.
The Project enjoys the sponsorship of the Chilean Fundación =Iguales (Equality Foundation) and is being launched in multiple platforms including a website, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Personally I am among those who believe that the It Gets Better Project's positive impact trumps most of the criticism lobbed its way. I am also hopeful that the new Chilean initiative will engage bullied Spanish-speaking LGBT youth who might otherwise not receive encouraging messages about how they feel and who they are.

I do wish that the Chilean initiative wouldn't be categorized as the Latin American response to It Gets Better since Chilean culture is indeed regional. After all, the official It Gets Better site doesn't bunch up Denmark and Sweden as representing all of Europe and, similarly, Latin America is much more diverse than this effort is trying to represent.

On the eve of its launch, though, the project has been received enthusiastically (check the Twitter hashtag for #TodoMejora) and we do wish it much success.



Juan Pablo Fuentealba, volunteer Todo Mejora said...

Hi! The idea of Todo Mejora www.todomejora.org is to become the "headquarters" of It gets better in spanish, and we're starting here in Chile because that's where we live. But other countries are invited to join and we're currently coordinating so they have their own sites (with regional info) under the umbrella of the Todo Mejora LatinoAmerica . So with the time there's gonna be a Todo Mejora Perú, Todo Mejora Mexico, etc, etc all with the same logo, colors and editorial view. Am I clear? Thanks for your wishes!

Franco Fernández said...

We celebrate the "It gets better" message is expanding around the globe.We began the PERUVIAN project in January,2011 with our camcorder,our own money & much enthusiasm.We sent a message to the "It gets better" youtube channel at the beginning to let them know about our existence.We had no answer.We recognize the inspiration we got from the original project but we just didn't copy it ("Todo mejora" is NOT the exact spanish translation of "It gets better").So we created our own logo and expanded our message to straight youth.We are happy to colaborate with other initiatives but we are going to keep our independence as the German,the Swiss projects...If TODO MEJORA CHILE has other plans,we just wish them luck!!