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It Gets Better video seeks to promote equality, support for LGBTQ community at UNH

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 01:09

The word “gay” means happy. It is used to characterize a cheerful and light-hearted person. This is what anyone would see if they were looking in a dictionary. 

Looking at a gay person can be much different though. With some members of the LGBTQ community suffering from depression or having thoughts of suicide, the It Gets Better campaign is looking to spread hope. Now that campaign has come to UNH.

Last semester, senior Ari       Schaaff was interning with Health Services when she decided to bring the national It Gets Better campaign to UNH, and make a video here on campus. 

The campaign was started in 2010, and is a series of videos that intends to give hope to members of the LGBTQ community and tell them to not give up when times get hard.

Being a member of this community herself, Schaaff wanted to bring the project to UNH to help students, as well as to help create more allies.

“UNH is a welcoming place,” Schaaff said. “But there’s always room to improve.”

Last semester, Schaaff, with the help of Health Services and her friends, began holding filming sessions on-campus where people could record themselves for the movie. 

Students and faculty, whether they identified as LGBTQ or were allies, would record their personal stories or their messages of hope and advice.

Peter Welch, a health educator and counselor at Health Services, supported Schaaff with the project and hopes that it’ll spread a positive message around campus.

“It’s important for LGBT students to know that there is hope around the corner,” Welch said.

He said that this is the main message of the film, but that this should also inspire students who aren’t members of the LGBTQ community to go watch it as well. Welch said that, even if a person isn’t an ally now, that it is inevitable that everyone will eventually know someone, whether it’s a friend or family member, who is LGBTQ and that it’s important to know how to give them support.

Sophomore Rob Richard-Snipes, who is in the film and helped with advertising, also believes that showing support for the community is a key goal of the film. 

He said that students need to know that UNH is an accepting place.

“Especially with first-year kids, it’s difficult adjusting to a new place,” Richard-Snipes said. “Kids need to know that it’s alright to be who you are.”

Joelle Ryan, a professor in the women’s studies department, was also interviewed in the film, during which she shared her personal story of struggling as a person of the transgender community. 

She wants this film to help anyone experiencing a similar struggle and she wants UNH students to realize that the LGBTQ community needs their support.

“I think we need to create a community that values all of its members and realizes our equality,” Ryan said.

Schaaff said that just through the filming of the It Gets Better movie, the support of allies has already been overwhelming. 

She has spoken to and filmed professors, college deans, President Mark Huddleston, several athletic teams and numerous students.

“What really resonated with me was the willingness and excitement of people who were a part of it,” Schaaff said.

Schaaff herself also speaks in the film, although she admitted that she found it hard to put all of her thoughts into words once the camera started rolling.

“There’s so much to say and so much to convey,” she said. “It’s hard to condense it into a short clip.”

The film, which premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m., will be approximately 30 minutes long, with a panel speaking afterwards. The panel will feature Schaaff, Richard-Snipes, Ryan and Jen Clayton, another student who helped create the film. Welch will facilitate the panel, asking questions about the film and being part of the LGBTQ community, and then will open up the discussion to allow questions from the audience.

The whole event will take place in MUB Theater II, which is a location change due to the large number of expected attendees. 

Despite the positive outlook of hope surrounding the film, Schaaff, as well as the others involved, know that this is a community that suffers. 

Schaaff said that, although she wants to help people, the LGBTQ community members and allies need to put in hard work together if they want to see change.

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