It Gets Better: YDS LGBTQ Coalition Releases a Short Film in Response to Gay Suicides
By Jared Gilbert ’12 M.Div.
The Yale Divinity School LGBTQ Coalition has produced and released a short film featuring nine YDS students telling their own stories of how, over time, life gets better for them as LGBTQ persons. The project is part of a global campaign by ItGetsBetter.org to support the Trevor Project in reaching out to queer youth who experience bullying or may be considering suicide. (Click here to view the video.)
We began our project late in 2010 after a string of suicides by gay teens made headlines. Many of us were moved by the It Gets Better videos that appeared throughout the fall, and we began to explore how we might bring a unique voice to the IGB movement.
We decided right away that we would film in Marquand Chapel—the most iconic space at YDS. As future pastors, social workers, and chaplains, it was important to present our voice from a distinctly religious space, as a voice for the future church. Since many of us came from communities where sexuality was silenced and queer sexualities were either ignored or oppressed by religion, we wanted to present stories that included faith and family and, sexuality. After collecting stories from each participant, we decided to simply film the stories, unscripted. On camera, we attempted to speak to people who may have lost hope and might be unable to imagine a positive future, in order to create some new possibilities in their imaginations.
The It Gets Better project is at once a tool to reach out to gay teens and a catharsis for the gay community. We hope our contribution is not only a message to send out to isolated and troubled queer people, but also a message for our community and for the church. When the voices of hatred, oppression and violence are so strong in our society, silence in the church is inexcusable. The narrative of this film also attempts to convey different ways of talking about hope in the face of heterosexism and homophobia through our stories.
The process of bringing a film like this to a global audience—so far, we are most popular internationally in Canada, UK, and Zambia, in that order—is challenging for a group of future ministers. We were nervously aware that our message would be received, critiqued and shared around the world with little control. However, as students at YDS, as future ministers and community leaders, we have a platform and a voice that is honest, unique and important. For those of us who intend to serve the church, we feel called for this moment, to model a way to speak hope to the world.
The Coalition worked with some very talented filmmakers to make our project a reality. With the help of Charles Vogl ’11 M.Div., we contacted two photographers and producers, Hannah Rosenzweig and David Soll, who filmed all nine stories in one day. Brooklyn-based Meerkat Media edited the project.
The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization working to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including a nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.