Entertainment » Culture

Coming out? Make a video!

by Jim Halterman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Oct 8, 2009

Just in time for National Coming Out Day on October 11th, The Trevor Project, the national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, is unveiling a new initiative next week that is both exciting and purposeful.

The Rated Q initiative will give youth another positive arena to express their experiences with being young and dealing with their sexuality through the use of video submissions. To find out more about the initiative and its accompanying contest as well as everything else The Trevor Project is up to, EDGE's Jim Halterman talked to Executive Director and CEO Charles Robbins earlier this week.

EDGE: Rated Q sounds like a great new initiative. How did the idea for it come about?

Charles Robbins: We've often thought about the power of video and the power of YouTube and Facebook and the way video has become such a mainstay for self expression so that was really the catalyst for it. Our target population is using it all the time. They're so creative. Video is just the medium that resonates with kids and is very much a part of their generation. What we wanted to do was encourage LGBTQ youth to be proud and speak out in talking about the experiences they've encountered as a young gay person. The video initiative is designed to empower young people to listen and support each other with this technology. Contests of this nature are becoming very popular now with voting so we were able to find a technology that allows us to post videos and there's a voting mechanism in place.

Launches October 11

EDGE: And all this will all be on the Trevor Project’s website?

CR: Yes. Rated Q launches October 11th and we’ve been getting the word out to kids because we already want them to be making things and thinking about things like ’If I were to make a video what would I do?’ So at least we’ll have some entries when we open up on October 11th, Coming Out Day, and it runs through November 15th. The idea for youth to explore topics around feeling harassed, bullied, coming out and how they overcame it, how did they find support and what did they do to overcome the challenges of being a young gay person.

EDGE: How does the voting work and when will we find out the winner?

CR: If you’re a youth between ages 13 and 24, you can submit a video and then we’re going to have a public voting space so the public can vote for their favorite video and that will determine the top 5. We’ve opened it to the public because we thought there may be a gay youth that can have their peers or friends vote for them or their entire school so it was really to put that public face first. Hopefully it’s not going to be just be a popularity contest so we want people to log in, watch the different videos and if it moves them, vote for it. At the end of the results, after the public votes and we get the top 5, we will announce the winners so the Trevor Project will vote on the top person of the five and there will be four runners-up. They get prizes and the grand prize winner will have their video unveiled at Cracked Xmas and that will be in front of a live audience. I don’t think any kind of organization is doing this kind of way of engaging youth to tell their stories. We heard a lot about the political campaigns and people said they had to tell their stories but you just don’t see them. And then they go work on an ad campaign for a marriage initiative but you don’t really hear the stories of what’s that really like for them to feel less. I think it’s going to be a powerful way to demonstrate and obviously one of the bridges we would like to see is that non-gay people will get a chance to see these videos as well.

About Cracked Xmas

EDGE: I’m always interested in how you get the word out on the Trevor Project and, for example, Rated Q. Can you talk about how you have spread the word?

CR: We now have over 6,000 youth on TrevorSpace so they have all been alerted about it, we have our Trevor blog and all our email lists so we can spread word that way. We work with a lot of PSAs and they have started to announce it. CampusPride, which does leadership development on campus, has announced it. So a lot of our partner organizations like GLSEN and Campus Pride are getting the word out about it.

EDGE: The Cracked Xmas in December is always such a great event here in Los Angeles and Neil Patrick Harris is being honored this year. Can you tell me anything else?

CR: It’s going to be a star-studded lineup. It’s great to be honoring AT&T. You know, our call centers are all AT&T lines and there’s a symmetry with corporate America and it’s a company that values diversity and it’s a company that we use as a vendor so that’s a great tie-in. I can’t divulge everything yet but as more people get confirmed we’ll send out announcements.

EDGE: How was 2009 gone for Trevor Project? Are calls up? Down?

CR: Calls are up. Every month is an increase over the previous month. It continues to be there. We haven’t had a month yet since January that was less. We’ve also trained more volunteer counselors and have more shifts so we’ve not had any problems handling the call volume, which is great. The other good news is that we just finished our fiscal year, which ended July 31, and we actually raised as much money this fiscal year as the previous fiscal year, which is uncommon based on the conversations I’ve had with other LGBT organizations...

EDGE: ...and the economy in general...

CR: ...right. So we think we’re still providing great value to our donors and clearly the need is there as we continue to get the visibility that we get with various mediums. We’re focusing a lot on technology and using technology to engage youth and I think that’s the reason why our visibility among youth is so great.

EDGE: I was looking over GLAAD’s recent study on gays in television and since that medium is so important for youth to watch I’m interested about what you think of what’s going on in TV right now?

CR: It’s always an interesting thing because I love the positive portrayals. Don’t get me wrong; it’s important for youth to be able to see that there is a life out there. I can be gay and be somebody who is at the top of my game, somebody who other people don’t disparage. That’s a good thing. The stories that don’t get told are the realities that it’s still tough out there. Everything is not as rosy as some folks would think with the portrayals. There are occasionally some television shows that come along and bring us back to reality about that. It’s both positive and it’s also yet so much reality out there that could be shown. It’s like what [the Lifetime TV movie] Prayers For Bobby did. It was an accurate portrayal of an unfortunate situation and it really brought a good dose of reality back to the television screen. As long as the stories continue to be interfused like Glee with positive characters that are out there, I think that’s balanced television.

For more on The Trevor Project, go to www.TheTrevorProject.org and the Trevor helpline, as always, is 866- 4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.


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