The It Gets Better Workshop
by Emma O’Neill-Deitel (Julia R. Masterman High School/10th Grade)
PYP Youth Council Member and previous 1st place winner of our Annual Playwriting Festival
Two weeks ago, I attended the It Gets Better workshop at the Kimmel Center, as a representative of PYP. The It Gets Better project is a multimedia campaign that exists to spread the word to LGBTQ youth that they are not alone, and that their situation will get better. It also promotes changes that can be made in communities to make sure that life does get better for LGBTQ people. The workshop I attended was part of a series of workshops all over the country led by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, in which members of the chorus facilitate a discussion and video-making workshop to promote the It Gets Better message. The other students in the workshop were from the Attic Youth Center, an organization for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ teens and their allies.
We began the workshop by introducing ourselves and our organizations. I was very proud to represent PYP and it was interesting to hear about the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA and the Attic Youth Center, neither of which I had been familiar with prior to the workshop. After the introductions, we broke into small groups and talked about what message we would like to convey to other LGBTQ teens. We then shared what we had discussed and made an outline for what we wanted to include in the video. After we had come up with a general idea, we wrote individual statements, which we filmed. We also wrote and filmed segments that we performed as a group. The experience of creating such a spontaneous piece (we did all this in just two hours!) reminded me of a similar process we often follow in PYP workshops, which has taught me that on-the-spot performances are some of the best.
The It Gets Better workshop was quite an eye-opener for me. I had never talked so openly about my sexuality with such a large group of people before. Even though the Attic students already knew each other very well, they welcomed me into their group and made me feel very much at home. The biggest revelation for me came when we were discussing what we wanted to say in the video. I used my experiences with PYP as my jumping-off point for the discussion because the other students and the chorus members were very interested in PYP. By the end of the workshop, I had come to a conclusion that I was not expecting.
I have always known that PYP is an open and supportive community, and I have always been grateful for that, but it never struck me so personally until I attended the It Gets Better workshop. I have always cherished how PYP feels so much like home, but I also took for granted how accepting the people there have been of me. The students from the Attic talked about how the Attic is a safe space where they feel accepted and respected, and I realized that PYP carries the same significance for me. I feel comfortable expressing every part of myself in my plays, and I have confidence that I will not be treated any differently by my PYP family for what I write. I know that I will not be judged for writing a play in which the main character is a lesbian. In fact, I have written that play, and everyone I worked with at PYP treated it as the non-issue that I believe it is.
I have done much of my self-exploration through my writing, and I have learned that in the PYP community, I don’t have to censor myself. The same goes for students of other minorities. I have seen plays and monologues produced by PYP that deal with race, mental and physical disability, sexuality, gender, and so many other topics that are largely put down by society and the media. PYP treats all these topics as equally deserving of the spotlight on a stage. Through the It Gets Better workshop, I realized how fortunate I am to have a home like PYP, and how important it is for other people my age to have such a place. I believe that PYP has created an incredibly supportive and tolerant community, and I hope other people will continue to find a home here as I have. I am so glad that I attended the It Gets Better workshop, not only because it was a wonderful experience in and of itself, but also because it helped me fully recognize some of the greatest attributes of Philadelphia Young Playwrights.