It is getting better for LGBT youth in Chile with Todo Mejora

Many LGBT children and teens have been touched by the work of the It Gets Better Project in the U.S. since it was created in 2010. Millions of videos have been uploaded by people all over the country sharing their own stories, encouraging others, and most importantly letting young LGBT people know that whatever they are struggling with they are not alone and it gets better.

What people may not realize is that the It Gets Better Project has been touching a lot more than just U.S. youth. There are It Gets Better affiliates around the world in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Italy, Moldova, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and Sweden.

For LGBT youth in Chile and Latin America, Todo Mejora (Chile’s version of It Gets Better) is currently the country’s only organization targeted at helping specifically LGBT youth. The Huffington Post referred to Todo Mejora as a pioneer in anti-LGBT bullying prevention in Latin America. Founded in 2011 by activist Júlio Cezar Dantas, Todo Mejora has taken on an important role in both changing the culture and providing services to LGBT youth.

According to Andrea Infante, a Todo Mejora intern who grew up in Santiago, Chile and is dedicated to bettering the lives of LGBT youth, issues of sexuality and gender identity were never discussed in schools in the country. With the Andes on the East and the Pacific Ocean on the West, Infante believes that Chile is very isolated and closed to new influences. Religion plays a large part in the culture, and people are afraid to question their traditions. She says, “both homophobia and transphobia are very present in our society.” Many still view LGBT people as “disordered” or “deviant.”

In 2012 an openly gay adolescent Daniel Zamudio was beaten to death in Santiago because of his sexual orientation and this prompted the president to sign an anti-discrimination law in order to prevent hate crimes like this from occurring. However, Infante says that discrimination is still a big issue. She outlines 3 main issues that she sees in the country: 1) immense lack of education on the subject, which leads to 2) discrimination in work places, schools and the family environment, and 3) lack of support for the LGBT community in laws and public policies. According to Infante:

“Since there is a big gap of knowledge and many incorrect beliefs about being LGBT, families still struggle with their children, and children still are extremely afraid of coming out. Bullying is an extremely big issue in schools. Being bullied because you act different or you are perceived as gay or lesbian is still more accepted than being bullied for other differences, such as weight, race, or social status.”

Infante says that in comparison to the U.S., Chile still has a long way to go in terms of public policies, support for youth, and general societal acceptance. She believes that as an intern with Todo Mejora, the work she is doing is surprising to the people around her, since it is new, there is little knowledge about the subject, and “working with the LGBT community is entering a new world in Chile.” Compared to the U.S., Chilean youth have very few openly LGBT role models in the media.

However, Todo Mejora is certainly making life better for LGBT youth in Chile. Over the last three years, the small organization has been providing workshops and diversity trainings for health professionals, school teachers, and students to create knowledge of the issues facing LGBT youth in the country. In addition, through their website the organization provides information, news, resources, and of course videos to inspire youth.

GLAAD's very own Monica Trasandes, director of Spanish-language media, is currently traveling to Chile to work with Todo Mejora on media trainings with the country's leading advocates.

Although it will take time, Infante believes that education is fundamental for changing the society. Todo Mejora will continue to create this change. Infante says, “It’s a process and being part of it as an ally is extremely rewarding and fulfilling.”