‘It Gets Better’ Gets New Leadership

Left Paul Dien, new President and CEO of the It Gets Better Project, … [+] and Seth Levy, a founding member who has served as president and chairman since the organization was founded in 2010.

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“It gets better:” These three words were at the heart of a successful social media campaign that was launched in 2010 and gave hope and encouragement to young LGBTQ people. In 2021, these words will represent an international organization that is reaching millions of people around the world through the power of video.

The It Gets Better project today announces its biggest change since it was founded 11 years ago – even bigger than when it opened an account on TikTok last year: Attorney Seth Levy, founding member of the nonprofit that tells the stories of lesbian and gay people and bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people step down as president and chairman of the board of directors. This is a position he has held since syndicated advice writer and columnist, Dan Savage, and his partner, Terry Miller, started The It Gets Better Project as 501 (c) 3.

The organization, which calls itself the world’s largest storytelling initiative to empower LGBTQ youth, has won 40-year-old Paul Dien as president and chairman of its board of directors. Dien joined the It Gets Better Project Board in 2017. In an interview prior to the announcement, 44-year-old Levy said he would stay on the board, calling it “a time to celebrate.”

“My crown and scepter are now being taken away,” joked Levy, a gay man. “It’s a great moment to transition because the organization is doing so well. I have found that when I work in this leadership role and in other organizations, it is so nice to be able to do something like this in good times and to give it something really positive. ”

It Gets Better Project has 67.5,000 subscribers on YouTube, more than 189,000 followers on Twitter and almost as many on TikTok with more than 2.5 million likes in just over a year. Actor Kyle Dean Massey’s video, who pondered his video a decade ago, is the latest addition.

“This has always been a team effort with a team that I think has only gotten fabulous over time as we attracted more people and really found our voice and rhythm,” said Levy. “And honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled that Paul is the one to pick up the coat and move us forward.”

“I’m a huge fan of the organization,” Dien said in a pre-announcement interview, revealing that he joined the board of directors after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016. “I’ve always worked in social impact, marketing and entertainment and thought to myself, what else can I do? I felt there was more to be done. ”

In his new role at It Gets Better, Dien said he considers himself his champion. “I think that role is to dream and think about the next five years, the next ten years as we grow. To be an advocate for what we do, to tell stories and share these amazing stories, “he added,” to amplify voices, to tell young LGBTQ youth that it is getting better. “

As the nonprofit grows from an attorney running the brand to a senior marketer with experience in social impact, music, luxury brands, entertainment, and fashion, it also makes an intersectional choice: Dien, the strategic partnerships for Good and Upworthy, who runs his own agency in Shanghai, is both gay and Asian American.

“As an Asian, I definitely felt racism. At the same time, I was looking at homophobia in the Asian-American community, ”said Dien. His answer to haters is to be himself no matter what. “I am and I do not apologize. And I think the more we can delve into these topics and talk about them, the better it can be. “

May is the Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month. In our conversation, Dien noted that he had just seen a report that the number of anti-Asian hate crimes had increased 164 percent in the first quarter of 2021. “These are conversations we are having in the AAPI community,” he said. “It’s a reckoning and I think we’re trying to sit down and learn about the struggle from other communities like the LGBT community and the BLM and just own it.”

Levy is a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, an international law firm focused on intellectual property protection, licensing, strategy and disputes, and research transactions and operations, particularly in the life sciences and healthcare sectors. Speaking from Idaho, where he is representing an incarcerated transgender woman, fighting to ensure that “she is able to receive her hormone replacement therapy called upon by her correct pronouns and treated appropriately,” he said.

It Gets Better co-founder Dan Savage recently criticized his advocacy for a fellow writer whose work was classified as transphobic, claiming it wasn’t a fair characterization. In March, GLAAD added Jesse Singal to its Accountability Project alongside Trump, Georgia’s two former Republican Senators and a contribution from Fox News. Savage didn’t have it.

Advocate associate Mey Rude replied, “Savage is not trans and neither is Singal, and neither is a cis expert on transactional issues or on what is or isn’t transphobic.” Rude is transgender and lesbian herself. Both Dien and Levy had something to say about Savage’s remarks while discovering that he is no longer involved with the project on a daily basis.

“I disagree with what he said and I think it’s important to call out our privileges,” said Dien. “I think cisgender white people in our churches have this privilege, and it’s okay to talk about it when people are wrong or offensive to other parts of our church. And I think it’s important to have these discussions. ”

“I really can’t comment on Dan’s relationship with the trans community. It was complicated for a long time, ”added Levy. “All I know is that as a co-founder with them and after working with them a lot over the years, he has done a lot for this community, often through this project. I hope that at the end of the day people understand that we have all really tried to fight the same fight, even if we don’t always get along along the way. “

The project works with organizations around the world, a role Levy has taken on since it started when “there really were just a couple of us in my living room,” he said. “In the first few days, the first week was literally having videos contributed by people all over the world. People wrote in and told their stories. Young people have made contact, organizations have made contact. “

The next big step that Dien is excited about is expanding It Gets Better to other closed corners of the world like Asia over the next five years.

“We don’t have a huge footprint in Asia right now,” he said. “We have a branch in India and a branch in Shanghai, but there are many other countries in Asia that need our support. We are in over 20 countries and we have this amazing setting because we are now in so many Latin American countries. We know that every country and culture has nuances and complexities when it comes to sexuality and what it means to have LGBTQ rights. So it’s about creating these safe spaces, but then also working with our affiliate programs to understand how we can help them do what they need to do. “

By relinquishing his role as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dien is making room for board member Avrielle Gallagher, an experienced nonfiction producer and development manager who specializes in the creation, development and production of premium documentary content, with the aim of becoming Vice President. “She is an amazing woman and a great ally for the community,” said Dien.

“It has long been a challenge that white men are the representatives of many of these organizations. And I think it’s important not only for the look and the message it conveys to show the diversity in our community, but also because those perspectives are so important, ”said Levy, who is white. “The diversity conversations we have in other corporate circles in America and at universities are no different in our organization. We need to hear from the API community. We need a representation of the black and brown community because there are problems that are similar among us that are just different or multilayered based on the different kinds of diversity we each bring that are not just one thing. One of the things Paul and I are working on is talking to stakeholders and organizations to weave those things together. Paul is a good example of someone who exists in both worlds. “

Note: After the release, an It Gets Better spokesman corrected Dien’s comment on a subsidiary in Shanghai. The organization has had teaching materials translated into Chinese, but at the time of going to press there is no actual subsidiary in China.

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