The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are upon us, and all eyes are on Russia. The anti-gay propaganda laws recently passed there affect us deeply because they prevent youth from seeing positive examples of happy, healthy LGBT people—people who have lived through hard times and now live wonderful, fulfilling lives with loving families and friends. These examples are essential because they allow young people who are struggling with their identity or orientation to realize that the happiness they see in those around them can be their happiness as well.
At the It Gets Better Project, we work to show lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth that their lives have the potential to be full of happiness, love, and safety. We work to inspire hope and encourage others to make changes that will provide a brighter future for LGBT youth. When we expanded our program internationally, we made a commitment to take these messages of support worldwide.
This is why we created our "You Are Beautiful" campaign. We partnered with Children 404, an organization that is using Europe's largest social network, Vkontakte, to connect Russia’s LGBT youth to the international community. Together we are collecting messages from people from all over the world who want to show young LGBT Russians that they should believe in themselves, and that they are supported. Every message received is translated into Russian and sent off to our contacts at Children 404.
We expanded our reach by partnering with Uprising of Love, an organization raising money for the Russia Freedom Fund, which will distribute money to LGBT organizations in Russia fighting the good fight on the ground level. Together we have created a series of Hangouts, powered by Google .
Between January 21st—January 24th and January 27th—January 28th we will be holding discussions with leaders, tastemakers, and influencers in the LGBT community about local and global LGBT issues. We will talk about the LGBT experience within sports, media, schools and take on an additional conversation of how we can elevate trans-equality in all of these environments.
Over the course of these discussions, we will be joined by over 25 advocates for LGBT equality including professional basketball player Jason Collins; Tony nominee and star of the "New Normal" and "Girls," Andrew Rannells; YouTube sensation Hannah Hart; MMA fighter and activist Fallon Fox, and singer Melissa Etheridge.
We are two days into our Hangout series and we've already heard some incredible voices sharing their experience and giving their advice on how we can better serve the LGBT community in Russia and at large. Our Executive Director, Ted Farley, summed it up perfectly, saying that his, "hope is that we can come to recognize that those who are making these laws are doing so out of ignorance and a lack of understanding. He also hopes "those young people who are living with these laws know that, despite the presence of people who continue to discriminate against them, there is a world of people out there who want them to know that they have support, that happiness is possible, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them."
Our LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia—and other nations around the world—need to know that they're not alone in their fight for equality. We hope that you will join in for these conversations, by watching them live and submitting your own questions and comments on how we can improve the lives of LGBT people everywhere. Please visit Uprising of Love to get a full schedule and list of participants.