"It won't get better until we make it better" : the politics of self-representation, resistance and empowerment in the queer youth response to the It Gets Better Project

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Harding, Ashton Lee

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With the ultimate goal of illustrating the ways that queer youth employ change and act as agents of self-representation, this project examines the relationship between the It Gets Better Project, a queer adult project focused upon ‘bettering‘ the lives of their younger generation, and the Make it Better Project created in response by queer youth. This thesis addresses the following questions: How do adult conceptualizations of queer youth as vulnerable victims operate within discourses that employ queer youth as agents of change? In what ways do queer youth grapple with such conceptualizations? Furthermore, how might queer youth actively resist adult narratives of risk, vulnerability, and surveillance? Seeking to not only examine the ways in which queer youth negotiate adult

narratives of adolescent risk and vulnerability, this project is organized to highlight the ways in which queer youth understand and experience their own representational and performative narratives, particularly when performed in response to adult narratives. In examination of the “It Gets Better: Dan and Terry” (2010a) and “It Gets Better: President Barack Obama” (2010c) vlogs of the It Gets Better Project, this thesis seeks to uncover the ways that assimilationist goals of inclusion, tolerance, and equality impact the intelligibility of queer youth. As a means for which to explore the possible resistance employed to counter such silencing mechanisms, the examination turns to three youth-produced vlogs of the Make it Better Project. An additional intent of the focus on the “LGBTQ Youth Speak Out”, “Make it Better Project” and “Make it Better Project - You Can Make it Better Now!” vlogs is to construct a space to analyze the complex and fluid dynamics of queer youth communities. With focus given to the various mechanisms employed by the adult and youth performers of these particular vlog-narratives, this project constructs an interdisciplinary framework of new social movement theory, new online media studies, queer theory, quare (queer of color) studies, feminist sociolinguistics, and critical youth studies as a means to position queer youth voices at the forefront of discussion. With the goal of continuing research that represents queer youth as agents of their own experiences, bodies, lives, and identities, it is my hope that the framework provided by this examination will inspire future work that highlights and centers the voices of queer youth.



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