Inspired by the global video project, a local gay pride service organization and award-winning film production company have combined forces for the month of January to tell the area’s youth that, despite bullying and homophobia, life does get better.

The NEPA version of the “It Gets Better Project” began in December in Wilkes-Barre and moved to Lackawanna County and the offices of JVW, Inc., 515 Center St., Scranton, last week.

“As far as I’ve found, there is no other community that has done this,” said Kingston resident John Dawe, executive director of the NEPA Rainbow Alliance. “There have been sports teams, the United States Senate, political groups, but there hasn’t been a community, certainly not of this size, that has done this.”
The original project aims to show lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth that bullying and anti-homophobic attitudes that may be incredibly harsh during their teenage years is not something they’ll have to endure for their entire lives. It began in Sept. 2010 with a YouTube video from syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage.

Locally, the project encompasses more than 40 individual stories recorded at The Woodlands in Plains Township, the NEPA Rainbow Alliance office and Twist Bar in Wilkes-Barre, and the JVW offices.
Joe Van Wie, CEO of JVW, said supporting the project by providing professional recording and editing services was a simple decision.

“I really felt what John was doing was a benefit to the area, and we wanted to be involved. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a project that aims to stop hate and bullying?” Van Wie said. “Everything John works for is to stop hate. How could you not advocate for that?”

The regional video project will tentatively launch in March at www.nepasafezone.org, according to Dawe.

Interviews recorded last week included seven students from Scranton and West Scranton High School that are part of the True Colors Alliance at United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The group includes about 20 youth advocates that meet weekly to discuss prevalent issues in the region, UNC Communications Coordinator Alison Woody said.

Other interview subjects have included LGBT advocates, allies, parents, military veterans, and business leaders.

“The sort of secondary thing that comes out of this is the awareness that there are LGBT people in every single facet of our community,” Dawe said.

Lackawanna County residents interested in telling their own “It Gets Better” story may email Amy at itgetsbetternepa@gaynepa.org to register an appointment with JVW through the end of January, Joe Van Wie and John Dawe said. Email subject lines should read “It Gets Better Videos,” and appointments should be at least two days in advance.

Chris Hughes
Go Lackawanna