It does get better -- but we need more than social media videos, memes, and assurances.  We need

Rainbow Quest!

In the aftermath of the May, 2016 Orlando, Florida LGBT club massacre, Dan Savage's highly visible social media campaign, "It Gets Better" offered much needed words of hope to bullied and marginalized LGBT individuals of all ages. The project was created in 2010 following the suicide of a 15 year-old Indiana boy, Billy Lucas who took his life after having been relentlessly bullied by classmates at school for his perceived sexual orientation. The campaign uses social media in a positive way, countering the reprehensible use of social media which 'outed' Rutgers University student Tyler Clemente and drove him to his tragic suicide, also in 2010.  In the 2016 "Pride Issue' of OUT in New Jersey Magazine, award-winning journalist Mike Rox, commented that 'It doesn't get better, and we need to stop pretending it does.' I personally have the utmost respect for Dan Savage and the It Gets Better project which has raised awareness and money for anti-bullying efforts. Mike Rox goes on to say "Dan Savage's rainbow-tinted approach to LGBT discrimination helped ease our pain a few years ago when LGBT suicide was a top story in the news cycle, and while that non-profit marketing gimmick wasn't even true back then, it's practically non-existent now. No matter how much progress we make in terms of legislation for our civil liberties, the conservative right and its radical cohorts continue to establish us as demons. As a result, there are proverbial bounties on all our heads -- and we need to get our heads out of our a**** about it.  We are all Orlando -- this could've happened to any one of us -- and it we don't wise/rise up, it will."  So yes, while the 'It Gets Better' campaign provides assurances and hope to the LGBT community, we clearly need actionable remedies, to further the efforts which make our community more resilient. Where It Gets Better is a passive, spectator mode, Rainbow Quest! is an immersive, uplifting, and experiential event -- the 'power tool' for ensuring that for those who play it, 'It does get better! -- even after just one game!'

Rainbow Quest! has been in development for several years, and I believe it is the 'power tool' which will turn the 'it gets better' platitude into a reality -- just one game changes the 'playing field' through players having the opportunity to enjoy a guided experience of LGBT culture and history. The validation Rainbow Quest! brings offers the important, and often profoundly surprising reassurance that the LGBT community has always been here, and has always made important contributions to humankind in spite of unthinkable obstacles, systematic oppression, and the ever-present fear of physical, emotional, and economic harm.

Rainbow Quest! was developed to meet the need for a truly fun and educational resource for the LGBT community.  A great activity for a group of friends after dinner, or a great game to play with your kids, there's not a more fun, more inclusive way to get to know LGBT history, culture, yourselves, and one another. 

Another reason the game was created was to help sustain and invigorate the ever-important social support groups  for LGBT individuals in the face of unpredictable attendance and programming challenges. Whether you have 2 or 24 people at your gathering, all can enjoy raucous fun while creating a more cohesive community.

In four decades of working with community social support groups and GSTAs, I've seen the excitement and promise of fledgling groups as they become established, the pride and hope as membership slowly grows, and then watched as many groups experienced what is often a predictable decline in attendance for some of the following reasons:

  • Everybody wants to check out what's going on, but may not be interested enough to come back a second time if they don't feel especially welcome, involved, or needed. I've been amazed at how many groups complain about needing new people to come and participate, only to basically ignore new arrivals without so much as a 'think you for joining us!'
  • Many will come to a group just to see who's there -- and once they are certain they've taken their census, they realize they either already knew who's who locally, or they just don't especially like those people. This happens disproportionately in small communities where many people already know of one another, and it is those small communities which often are the most in need of safe and inviting places for LGBT folks to gather.
  • Some will attend the group until they establish a good friend or relationship with another group member, and often they both stop coming, producing an abrupt decline in attendance. It is an understandable development as they now seek to spend precious time pursuing life adventures together without the need for a larger group, but it leaves the group with fewer personalities.

It is easy for leaders and organizers to feel unappreciated if participation plateaus without continued growth and they may begin to put less energy into programming, which can result in the start of a downward spiral leading to the eventual folding of the group. Sometimes the belief is that new leadership is needed, but those new leaders who are recruited can be left wondering if the effort and trouble is worth it when the group attendance isn't meeting their measure of success. For those groups where growth is unlikely, it is essential that those who do attend will have their needs met and not be punished for those who, for whatever reason, are not there.

Many groups maintain the purpose of providing informational or entertaining programming, which is often expensive when paying honoraria or travel fees to cover expert presenters, paying for the use of documentary or video exhibition rights, or arranging for 'field trips.' Again, attendance may be standing room only for some of these, and for other events of merit participation can just not materialize for various reasons.  With this sense of 'purpose' -- the idea that programming must be 'worthwhile,' informative, and entertaining -- the opportunity for attendees to actually get the interpersonal connections they seek are overlooked.  Passive programming leads to the sense that showing up really doesn't matter, since individuals are spectators and won't be missed if they stay home. 

Activities like Rainbow Quest! provides the 'trifecta' -- information, entertainment, and the opportunity of attendees to BE a part of the program, to SHARE of their own experience, and to VALIDATE the experiences of others.

With the variety of challenges, each group sees that no one player has 'all the answers.' The player who seems the most capable and confident may still struggle to draw a picture, pantomime an idea, or answer a question correctly.  Conversely, players who hold low self-esteem may learn they have a gift for drawing, for sharing  their experiences, for charades, or for holding knowledge of LGBT history and culture.  In a situation where all players are truly experiencing the proverbial 'level playing field,' learning and comaraderie are bound to flourish. The game is full of congratulatory moments, laughter, and newly formed alliances.

Add goofy prizes from your local discount store and you have a recipe for strong and continued group membership!

 

With Rainbow Quest!, it really DOES get better!

As we reassure LGBT youth, 'it gets better,' we now have a real tangible tool to ensure that it really DOES get better!  Every time you play Rainbow Quest!, you educate and elevate yourself and your community at the same time. 

When you play this madcap game, review and learn about contemporary milestones in LGBT pop culture and history and even build interpersonal skills and relationships

  • Roll the dice to land on one of the nine rainbow spaces and follow the instructions on the color-coordinated card you pull from the box. 
  1. 1. Will you have to draw a picture?

  1. 2. Communicate through pantomime?
  • 3. Answer a trivia question?
  • 4. Invite the other players to guess how you'll respond in a hypothetical situation?
  • 5. Disclose something about yourself to others?
  • 6. Identify the source of an LGBT quote?
  • 7. Advance or retreat along the board when your fate lands you in an 'Un-Pink-Able' situation?!
  • 8. Land in the closet and share a coming out story to get out!
  • 9. Land on the 'rainbow' and you get to choose your challenge!

 

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