Bil Browning

Really, It Didn't Make It Better...

Filed By Bil Browning | February 08, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: It Gets Better

I keep saying it and keep saying it.... The It Gets Better campaign has turned into a commercial enterprise now. Need more proof? How about some cranberry and pomegranate flavored "It Gets Better" chapstick?


The worst part? I still got chapped lips in Minneapolis even though I used it constantly. It didn't make it better at all. Go figure.

Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Though I don't think "it gets better" is living up its potential- and sends weird mixed signals to LGBTQ youth, I don't think a chap stick can be held as proof of something's commercialism... many non-profits have small give-aways like this to raise awareness and remind people they exist. The program I run gives away screen printed rainbow bandanas at some of our events.

David Castillo David Castillo | February 8, 2011 4:14 PM

Wow. That's pretty freakin' shameless.

Okay, I'm gonna nibble on this a little. And I freely admit I'm the guy that assumes everyone has good intentions and wishes we'd all get along, etc.

What are the details, Bil? Might the Chapstick be produced to raise awareness or funding for The Trevor Project or their crisis hotline? Is there a web site or phone number on the other side of that stick? Maybe one of these sticks will land in the hands of a young person who is struggling? Don't the words "It Gets Better" now have a specific meaning (gay youth can find support) and that alone is worth the marketing gimmicks? What is overkill when it comes to a message like this one?

Full disclosure: I made a video with my gay brother early in the campaign, not to become famous but because we thought we could encourage gay youth. They might use ours in their upcoming book, for which we waived any proceeds. Do I feel exploited, or part of a WalMart-sized corporate image campaign? Um, no. I'm just happy to help some gay kids.

There may well be sideline businesses/products/opportunists at work here, but to my mind, it's a byproduct of a very successful campaign that shouldn't be penalized for becoming popular.

Just the URL for It Gets Better and the required drug facts on the back. That's it.

I'm pretty sure proceeds from the merchandise goes to The Trevor Project and GLSEN. Go ahead, ask Dan Savage if he's getting a penny out of this. Or keep being catty, it's your call.

Where did you see this, by the way? It's not on the IGBP website.

He saw it in real life.

"I'm pretty sure proceeds from the merchandise goes to The Trevor Project and GLSEN."

Why are you sure?

At the bottom of the page, it says "Our beneficiaries" and pictures the Trevor Project logo and the GLSEN logo.

Where else would this money be going? Site makers? Dan Savage? This whole line of argument about people profiting from a volunteer campaign is strange.

Yeah, I know, the site lists them (plus the ACLU's LGBT project) as "beneficiaries." That doesn't mean that 100% of every donation goes to those orgs.

Also this:

This whole line of argument about people profiting from a volunteer campaign is strange.

It's not strange - it's the founding principle of many nonprofits. Joe S. wouldn't buy those D&G suits if it weren't for the volunteers collecting cash at Pride events for HRC.

IGBP=HRC now? Video makers for the It Gets Better Project aren't collecting money.

I'm really losing the point of these arguments. The IGBP is growing and getting more organized. They have a logo now! And a store, that profits The Trevor Project and GLSEN. However, bullying in schools is not stopping. People who read this blog and other LGBT blogs know about the project, but do students in schools? Will people with IGBP shirts and chapstick raise awareness of the growing campaign? Hopefully. Is it selling out to make shirts and chapstick? Is it selling out to grow?

In my opinion, the IGBP is still not big enough. It's changing LGBT teen lives in that it gives them hope and confidence. Is it changing the opinions of middle and high school principals? Probably not. It doesn't have the power. It may not ever, and may never have that goal in mind. It has raised money for The Trevor Project and is saving lives, though, so why not keep progressing and raising awareness?

Kevin Erickson | February 8, 2011 4:53 PM

Is this actually being SOLD or is it being given away as a promotional item?

Are you sure you are using it on the right end, Bil?

Just askin'!


Carol, thanks for posting this quip ... I did think of it, but everyone already knows what a dirty old man I am!

[* Now do you mean the right end of the chapstick ... or the right end of Bil? *]

(blushes profusely)

I meant the right end of the *chapstick*, of course! ;)

Wow, you *are* a dirty old man!


I have to point out that many LGBT support organizations use products like chapstick, stickers and even bags and koozies to get the word out about their services. I have quite a collection from my many PRIDE parades and store visits. I don't believe its commercialization or selling out. Just one more tool to help spread the word about these much needed organizations.

I'm sorry but, it the chapstick gets better then I'll just wait for the better chapstick to come out then....

nice! Burt's Bees is really the only way to go anyway

I love Burt's Bees! His foot ointment is great, too!

I must say, for me personally, and I'm sure this will make some people mad but I find the chap stick less offensive than the It Gets Better video the Obama did. Yes, I understand Obama reached LGBT youth and he's the first president to ever participate in the campaign, which I think are great reasons. But I'd love to see full equality actions take place. It's one thing to "say" and another "to do". I'm not against the It Gets Better project as long as it's used for the right reasons and people follow up with actions that just a viral video.

I think It Gets Better is getting the message though. This recent video post featuring Adam Lambert had the following comment attached by It Gets Better:

"Thx Adam Lambert for not only making an It Gets Better Project video, but for being one of the few celebs who's backing up his/her videos with action in supporting The Trevor Project. We hope all other celebs & politicians will follow and not just say "It Gets Better," but act to "Do Better" for LGBT youth"

Maybe the Chap Stick should be used on other areas? Like ears? Oh, my ears have never chapped!

Bil & community -

It was great to meet you at #cc11. Yes, nearly all of the contributions to IGBP get donated between GLSEN and Trevor Project. There is about a couple percentage point overhead for our project which should be understandable (travel to creating change, etc.). We'll of course be filing with the IRS and releasing our reports.

I'm the full-time project manager and as a team we've decided not to take a salary to maximize contributions for the first 6 months to GLSEN and Trevor. This of course has made my personal budgeting fun...

Back to IGB: We're selling shirts on our site. The chapstick, wrist bands and bumper stickers were a big hit at #cc11 and were meant to distribute to 'influentials' to remind them the project is more than a YouTube campaign, it's a movement and we see you as a leader with a microphone. The pennies each cost is worth it. We have received good feedback and as we prepare to try to get the IGB book in every school in the country, this helps keep our project drumbeat going.

Bil, I'd be interested in what you'd like us to do? I think many people see our commercial work because that's what people report about (including you here). But if you check our facebook page you'll see a mix of the 'real' videos which I and our board all think are the best messengers, but obviously don't get the star-traction.

So I guess I challenge you and the Bilerico community, if you think there are too many commercial videos on IGB, then make some yourselves! This project is a user generated campaign and while we may profile different things, we do want quality stories -- we have nearly 10,000 of them.

So will you make a video? Will you ask your readers to do them? Or if not (I understand if it may be awkward to talk about yourself in a video format) will you post your favorites? I'll retweet the link to them to our community.

Anyway, sorry for the longwinded response but I hope it gives a good picture of the amazing ride the last 5 months of my life has been -- the letters we get from kids across the world make every moment so rewarding.

And if from time to time we give out a wrist band or chapstick then so be it, all charities do this for PR purposes. Just remind me not to hand you a gift next time...

Thanks ;-)

Scott Zumwalt
Project Manager
It Gets Better Project

If the product gets the message out and at least some of the proceeds go toward worthy organizations I have no problem with it.

The intent may not be as noble as one would like but we are getting attention. Not that long ago such things would not have been acceptable. If it directs someone to the project and one of the many videos helps it has done a job we need done.

The world is not perfect and sometimes we have to compromise on smaller things. And yes in the grand scheme this is minor. Not the most tasteful but minor.


Damned if they do; damned if they don't.

Rick Sutton | February 9, 2011 5:11 AM

Jack Black lip balm. Blue tube. Not cheap, but used sparingly, a tube will last for weeks. Multiple flavors. Domestic company. Contriubotr to multiple good causes.

Available at Nordstrom, among other place.

Chronic winter dry lips here. My doc told me Chap-Stik and Car-Mx were actually too waxy, and to try BB or some similar product. Loved BB, but after Jack Black...well, there's no comparison.

Is this Jack Black, the pudgy (I should talk!), comedic actor? Or a different Jack Black entrepreneur?

Rick Sutton | February 9, 2011 3:48 PM

It's a heavenly lanolin-enriched lip balm.

But the actor may be lanolin-enriched, too. Don't really know. I do know he's quirky and funny.

Nuthin funny about cracked lips.

I have a huge respect for Bil and Alex and the rest of the contributors of Bilerico. You guys do excelent work.

But I feel that you guys are attacking It Gets Better (and Dan Savage) for a variety of reasons which may be a good article to reflect on.

Is IGBP it perfect? No, but it is reaching out and trying to do something and creating something new. As someone who studies mental health I feel the narratives placed out there can be helpful. The media attention it help draw informs people about the need for change. In the end, IGBP has helped us continue the narrative that we need more help for LGBTQ kids.

I'm disappointed in this pariticualr attack because no follow up was done. You can not incite that someone is making a profit on this and discount a commentor who says it goes to charity without making some kind of effort to research this. If this becomes cannon it is your own credibility you put at risk and I do not want to see that happen.

I thank Scott Zumwalt for his comment that cleared some of the mystery.

Please do keep up the great work here, but also challenge your own views and not just ours. Thanks

I'm getting a little tired of this constant bashing of the It Gets Better Project.

By all means, go ahead and criticize politicians who hypocritically make videos while opposing our rights or celebrities who use it to advance their careers, but as Scott Zumwalt said, it's largely a user-generated campaign.

So far, I've seen Dan Savage criticized for writing a book based on the project (um, he is the one who started the whole thing, so it would kind of make sense for him to write a book about it, I think), some guy criticized for making a compilation CD and now, criticism for IGBP chapstick. And that's in addition to the constant stream of over-intellectualizing, pseudo-academic "critiques" by various radical queer types.

Honestly, what is it about GLBT people from all walks of life making videos designed to give a bit of encouragement to young teenagers on the brink of suicide that bothers you people so much? Is it because it's accomplishing something and making waves, and that makes you jealous? Is it because it was started by the CEO of The Big Bad Evil Gay White Abled Cisgender Male Privilege Oppression Corporation, Dan Savage? Is it just because you have an undying, insatiable need to piss and moan about something? I mean, what is it?

Actually, to add to your argument, Dan Savage isn't writing the book. He's editing the book. Others are contributing.

The original response to criticism of the campaign still holds up: if you don't like it, submit something to change it.

Thanks, AJD.

So I was traveling and trying to raise awareness for IGB in NY this week, but I wanted to follow up. I am wondering if the Bilerico Project would donate ad space to 'It Gets Better' since it is clear you are profiting off the adwords traffic this mis-researched post is drawing attacking an all-volunteer non-profit.

While it may seem like fun and games, we are very very serious in the work we do. This is not a PR stunt. This is an organization that has done something no other LGBT group has succeeded in before -- attract a straight audience (50% of sign ups identify as straight).

I can get you a graphic, just let me know the dimensions.

Or in place of a graphic a small contribution would be much appreciated. We're trying to raise as much awareness and money as possible for LGBT youth.

Thanks all for your support. Together we can do amazing things for LGBT youth as long as we all work together and steer clear of snarky posts like this one.