Health workers to launch “It Gets Better” video

Capital Health and IWK staff come out with their stories to provide support

Halifax’s prideHealth will be launching their own It Gets Better video Friday Jan. 22. (Photo: Emilio Flores)

Diego Carlos Navarro knew he was gay since he was a child. He only came out to his friends and family five months ago. He is now 24.

Until then, he said to himself, "I'm never ever telling anybody. It was just going to be a secret I was going to keep forever," says Navarro, a second-year international development student at Dalhousie University. "Then one day I said, 'Why do I care what other people think?'"

Navarro says people around him took his coming out "very well" and he was never teased about his sexuality. When putting it all in perspective, Navarro is lucky to never have experienced gay bullying.

Navarro's experience is the goal of 18 employees of the Capital Health District and the IWK Health Centre. They have created a video to share their own experiences as members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex (GLBTI) community. The "It Gets Better" video was launched on Friday Jan 22.

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"It Gets Better" timeline

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Capital Health and IWK: It Gets Better

The employees are a part of prideHealth, a collaboration between Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre, to provide primary health-care services to GLBTI youth.

The It Gets Better campaign was started up in September 2010 by American sex columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller, after a string of gay bullying related suicides.

According to its website, the It Gets Better movement spawned more than 30,000 user generated videos, which have been viewed more than 40 million times. The contributors range from students in their dorm rooms to multi-million dollar companies such as Google and Ernst & Young. Even the The White House has lent its support.

These videos provide a medium where both victims of gay bullying and GLBTI supporters can share their stories, and ultimately deliver the message, 'it gets better'.

Last week, a 19-year-old gay filmmaker from California committed suicide. He was a victim of gay bullying for the majority of his life.

Eric James Borges' death "isn't an isolated incident," says Anita Keeping, a clinical nurse specialist at prideHealth in Halifax.

According to a study published in the International Journal for Equity in Health in 2009, the suicide rate among GLBTI youth in Canada is three times higher than the national average. The suicide rate among gay men is 14 times higher.

"We have to be ready ... When a youth decides they want help, they want it now. They don't want it tomorrow or next week," said Keeping.

Teen still felt ostracized after posting video

Borges committed suicide just one month after posting his own It Gets Better video on YouTube in December 2011. In the video he confessed that he was ostracized for being gay, both at school and at home.

"My name was not Eric, but faggot," he said. "My mother knew I was gay and performed an exorcism on me in an attempt to cure me."

Despite this, Eric assured his viewers that life as a gay person does "get better." He became an intern for the Trevor project, a California-based organization focused on suicide and crisis prevention among GLBTI youth, as well as a guest speaker and supplemental instructor of sexuality.

'It Gets Better' is not the only answer

"[The videos] probably wouldn't have helped me come out of the closet," says Navarro, the Dalhousie student. "But it's good to know other people are going through it as well, you're not the only one in your high school, your family, or in your group of friends."

Navarro says the videos send a good message to teens, because things do indeed get better. But for him, the ones made by straight celebrities, such as Stephen Colbert, Anne Hathaway and Glee's Max Adler, aren't as empathetic.

"The people that are making these videos are straight, so from their perspective they can't really be saying, 'Oh, it gets better', because they don't know. You have to experience it yourself," said Navarro.

Cybelle Rieber, co-ordinator of prideHealth, says the It Gets Better campaign is just part of the solution, "No campaign solves all problems ... We don't tell youth there is a 'gay nirvana'. It's not a one size fits all," she said.

Rieber believes that Borges' suicide speaks to the greater need of the video. GLBTI youth also face racism, poverty, classism and homophobia in addition to discrimination.

"If our video supports one youth, then we've been successful," she said.

According to Rieber, prideHealth is the only district health authority in Canada that has created an It Gets Better video.


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