Far-Right Attacks It Gets Better After Group Donates $600k to Students

Author: Christopher Wiggins

As students return to school for a new academic year, far-right extremists and conservative media outlets are targeting LGBTQ+ organizations that support the healthy development of children. After the It Gets Better Project awarded grant money to more than 50 high schools in the United States and Canada to uplift and empower LGBTQ+ students in schools, some on the right have warned that the organization is “grooming” kids.

With the help of It Gets Better, middle and high schools nationwide received over $600,000 in June for projects that empower and uplift LGBTQ+ students. This program awards projects mainly run by kids, and it funds everything from Pride events to GSAs to inclusive language seminars to gender-inclusive closets.

The It Gets Better Project has approved $10,000 grants for 56 U.S. and 15 Canadian public and charter schools to fund LGBTQ+ initiatives throughout 2023, according to the organization’s website.

The far-right outfit The Daily Caller took issue with the group “promoting gender ideology.” The publication attacked It Gets Better on Sunday in an article titled, “LGBTQ Activist Org Awards Thousands To Schools Across the Country To Promote Gender Ideology.”

The conservative website listed some of the schools awarded funds in the piece.

“The group is funding programs and curricula that are inappropriate for children and certainly inappropriate for classrooms in public schools,” Erika Sanzi, director of operations at Parents Defending Education, complained to the Daily Caller.

Despite its claim in its title that it’s about parents or defending freedom, Parents Defending Education is a far-right group that opposes diversity, equity, and inclusion measures and complains about LGBTQ+ “indoctrination” in schools. Critics say it serves right-wing interests that seek to destroy public education.

It Gets Better Project senior director of communications and public relations Ross von Metzke explained the purpose behind the grant program.

“The goal is really quite simple to get money in the hands of LGBTQ+ students or allied students and teachers who really want to create projects that uplift and empower LGBTQ+ students,” von Metzke said.

He noted that in the wake of hateful rhetoric and legislation around the nation, the group hopes to provide some hope for young people who may feel times are dark. There are almost 500 bills across the country introduced this legislative session in various states that target LGBTQ+ rights, especially the rights of transgender youth. Local school boards have also targeted books in school libraries that have LGBTQ+ themes.

“If these grant projects can put a little power back in the hands of these students to create meaningful projects and change at the local level at their school, that’s what we’re really here to support.”

In the past two years, It Gets Better has supported everything from restoring LGBTQ+ books in libraries to schools hosting their first Pride festivals. Some schools have built gender-affirming closets, and some have crafted videos and presentation series to improve teachers’ knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues so they can serve queer students more effectively, he said.

A wide variety of projects are supported to make life easier and happier for queer students at a time that can be filled with wide-ranging emotions.

Grant applications are accepted from schools with a staff advisor and student leadership seeking to promote inclusivity and diversity projects. An extensive written application is required, and a panel evaluates and reviews applications.

Von Metzke also explained that these initiatives improve their mental and physical health, and set them up for long-term success.

Asked to respond to criticism by far-right extremists who have said that It Gets Better is an organization of “groomers,” von Metzke noted that for him, it is more productive to focus on reaching out to parents and individuals who may lack information, rather than engaging with narrow-minded groups.

“I think that there is a group of people in this country — it’s not as big as we think, It’s just very loud — that is a little bit beyond being reached,” he said, referring to far-right extremist groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education that are targeting LGBTQ+ topics in schools.

“I think we [need to] focus our energy on communicating with people who maybe haven’t made an informed decision, but just need to understand that having a happy and fulfilled child is much more important than any of this fringe language they’re being fed,” he said. “I think that’s where our focus needs to be.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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