Make it Better

And, I happen to love movies which cast pop stars as normal people, and then you get the inevitable moment of triumph when everyone stands in utter disbelief as they realize, “Oh my God! You sing just like Christina Aguilera!” Only in the universe of the movie, Christina or Mariah or Britney doesn’t exist, which makes you wonder who dominates Top 40 radio in that world. I’m also loving the “It Gets Better” videos, which have followed the same pattern as most elements of popular culture — start with the gays, then you get the allies, then grab completely unexpected people as it goes global. For prior examples of this model, see voguing, Lady Gaga, and every fashion trend that has ever existed. Little known fact: The one-shoulder animal skin tunic was created by a gay caveman because loincloths did not flatter his midsection.

But it’s the momentum of the movement that has impressed me. We went from Ellen, to Kathy Griffin, to Hillary Clinton in just a handful of weeks. And then we got Barack Obama himself, wearing a very jaunty purple tie, adding his voice to the mix. The significance of that contribution cannot be ignored: The current president of the United States speaking directly to LGBT youth, letting them know there is nothing wrong with them, and they have an important place in American society.

If I had the chance to meet him personally, I would shake his hand, thank him for that, and then ask him for a progress report on what he’s doing to make America better for those kids he was addressing. Because if their idea of “better” includes marriage, military service, parenthood, or pension benefits from a spouse… well, then it hasn’t really gotten better yet, and I’d just like to get that timeline.

I voted for Obama, and felt good about that vote. I thought he was smart, and capable of making a difference. I still believe that. And when the apologists say his blocking the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a clever bit of maneuvering which will make the repeal more solid in the future, I want to believe that. But he hasn’t said it. He says discrimination of any kind is wrong, and claims things will get better, but I need to know what he’s doing to make sure that’s true.

People will use this as a distraction in the upcoming election. They’ll tell you to focus on every frustration in areas where we haven’t made progress. These people think you are stupid, and they are attempting to seduce you into apathy. They are trying to put people with very different agendas in power.

Let’s be very clear on this: The solution to being frustrated with your current leadership is not to allow people who will do less for you to rise to power. Where is Sen. McCain’s message against bullying? Oh, right, he’s too busy actually being a bully, gasping support of hatred and intolerance in the armed forces.

You can hope for things to get better, or you can work to make it happen. Preppy and I can say our marriage is the most important thing in our lives, but you don’t find time for the people and things you love, you make time. Until we do that, we’re not really living up to the ideal we established.

Do not stay home on Election Day. Put the best people available in a position to make change, and then don’t shut up until they do. When you make a promise for things to get better, it becomes your obligation to make it happen.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at