In late 2013, a friend put Evan Sterrett (COL ’15) in touch with Professor Susan Lynskey, hoping the two would pursue a possible collaboration in the near future. Lynskey was directing the play “Dear Harvey,” a tribute to Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to hold an elected office in California. (The play opened yesterday, Feb. 1, in the Gonda Theater.) When the two met, Lynskey proposed an idea.
“[She] envisioned a video opener for the play, something to give hope in the spirit of Harvey, and something to remember those deceased LGBT youth, whom the message of hope, tragically, could not reach,” Sterrett said.
Lynskey’s vision soon became reality, as the pair created a special opening video montage for the “Dear Harvey” production, accompanied by the a cappella rendition of Billy Joel’s “Lullaby” sung by a few of the Georgetown Phantoms. The beginning half of the video was titled “It Gets Better: Georgetown Edition,” and was inspired by the It Gets Better Project, founded in 2010 by Dan Savage in an effort to inspire and combat harassment to the LGBT community.
Today, Sterrett released the powerful “It Gets Better” video to his Vimeo account, and in less than 24 hours, it has garnered nearly 1,000 views. Here it is:
To learn more about the motivational project and the LGBT community at Georgetown, we sat down with Sterrett. Here’s what he had to say:
It seems like you and Professor Lynskey really had a unique vision for “Dear Harvey” and “It Gets Better.” How did it come to life?
I was surprised that Georgetown University had not already created an It Gets Better video of its own, so I jumped at the opportunity to engage with this project. I created a Facebook event requesting interviewees, then filmed 13 volunteers in the LGBTQ Resource Center one Monday, after which I edited hours of footage into a six-and-a-half minute short. The process was inspiring, especially hearing everyone’s poignant stories. I learned a lot.
Did you submit the video to the It Gets Better Project?
Yes, I did submit the video to the It Gets Better Project and it’s currently under review!
How would you describe Georgetown’s LGBTQ community? Where does it currently stand as an institution here on the Hilltop?
I think Kyle O’Donnell (COL ’14) said it best, in his reading at the “Dear Harvey” performance, that, nowadays, we seem to have forgotten Harvey. Once a community of inclusion, acceptance and love, the LGBT community has now become one of division, labeling and exclusion. Twinks, bears, cubs, jocks, masc, femme, labels, labels, labels. We still have a lot of work to do. We must break down the divisions within our own community before we can make any broader progress.
Where do you see Georgetown’s LGBTQ community heading in the future?
While I was working at the Georgetown Office of Advancement this summer, I was sorting through alumni emails and discovered one that, ironically, was complaining about the LGBT presence at Georgetown. The sender requested to be removed from the mailing list due to the overflow of LGBT-related memos. That angered me a little, but I kept thinking about his message. On the flip-side of his complaint, how amazing is it that our Catholic institution is putting money and effort into supporting our community so publicly? I’m thankful for the progressiveness of our university. Looking to the future, I think we are in good hands.
I know the video just debuted today, but how has the response been so far?
The response has been really positive. Although, one area for improvement is the video’s lack of diverse representation, which would have helped to paint a fuller picture of the myriad of experiences of coming out and of gender identity exploration.
Through his short film and interview, Sterrett has expressed that the LGBTQ community at Georgetown still has many hurdles to overcome. Coming out – as his project clearly shows – is no easy feat, and the road to acceptance is tough. Nonetheless, students like Sterrett have shown that it really does get better. In the past years, the LGBTQ community has made progress in leaps and bounds. The Hilltop is off to a more than promising start.