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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

HomoTech :: For Gay Geeks, It Does Get Better

By Oscar Raymundo -

Unlike most of my acquaintances, I couldn’t stomach the "It Gets Better" videos.

I still don’t entirely understand how making a five-minute home video is going to save a life. It’s extremely presumptuous to even think we have anything to say to gay youth who may be considering suicide, as most of these issues stem from mental health problems that we cannot even begin to comprehend, let alone advise on.

Yes, being gay is a-okay, and I understand that visibility is an important aspect of mainstream acceptance, but I’m afraid that most of my camera-happy peers will settle for talking to themselves on YouTube and consider it their grain of salt towards helping these kids. It’s not. I have yet to see one personal "It Gets Better" video that’s moved me, mostly because many are too self-promotional and delusional as to inspire any real emotion.

With that said, the amazing thing about the "It Gets Better" campaign is the involvement of dozens of companies, including several high-profile tech start-ups.

The corporate videos from such places as Yahoo, Facebook and Pixar prove to computer-savvy gay teens in rural America that it does get better. In the real world, your sexuality won’t even stir water cooler gossip, let alone prevent you from getting a job working among some of the brightest people in the world.

That’s not too bad, right? The great tech companies of the 21st century are infinitely more progressive than their previous equivalents. Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorites:



Date: Jan. 11, 2011
Views: 6,450

At the 1:00-minute mark, Yahoo! senior legal director J. Scott opens up about how his son’s suicide inspired him to start his new life as an out and proud gay man.

The video ends with a message of support from the CEO herself, Carol Bartz, talking about her own obstacles growing up poor and female.



Date: Nov. 22, 2010
Views: 933,350

The animation powerhouse, Pixar, rounds out their many LGBT employees to ask them what they would have missed if their lives had ended tragically.

Starting around the 2:00-minute mark and continuing all throughout the video, a female employee talks about her experience growing up a closeted lesbian and how a classmate saved her from jumping off the roof of her dorm.



Date: Oct. 26, 2010
Views: 185,050

One of the earlier corporate videos came from Facebook. One employee was asked by a fraternity brother, "If you could turn straight, would you?" The answer: a resounding no.

Another employee talks about realizing that his mother had embraced him, when she’d bought him really tight-fitting clothes. The video ends with Facebook COO urging viewers to report any online bullying they may witness on the social network.


Date: Oct. 19, 2010
Views: 488,150

The week before, Google released their "It Gets Better" video. Rocking their Android Pride t-shirts (robots, too, deserve equal rights!), employees talk about growing up before you could type, "am I gay?" on a search engine.

Google gets brownie points at the 1:25-minute mark for including the story of Tammy, a transsexual woman. And cutie alert! - at the 3:00-minute mark.


Electronic Arts

Date: Dec. 17, 2010
Views: 58,750

Employees of the video game company talk about the isolation of growing up gay, where you "knew everyone, but never part of a clique."

At the 1:00-minute mark, employees of the company responsible for The Sims start talking about focusing on their passion - in this case, computer animation - as a way to distract from whatever issues were arising during adolescence.



Date: Oct. 28, 2010
Views: 8,205

In their video, the social network for professionals rounds out practical advice from their LGBT employees (mostly gay men). They urge young viewers who may be struggling with their sexuality to find a community and make new supportive friends.

"Community is just not on the states that border the oceans. It’s everywhere," one LinkedIn employee comments.

Oscar Raymundo is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. He has written for WIRED, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CosmoGIRL! and the official Facebook blog. He is currently at work on his first novel. He blogs here.


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