Join The–Dots

‘Young people are angry’: the teenage activists shaping our future (The Guardian)

I came out at 14. When you’re a young LGBTQ+ person and you come out, you’re put in this position where you are suddenly expected to educate your peers. I’d be in a lesson and someone would ask me an incredibly inappropriate question. People feel like they have permission to access all of you when you’re still figuring things out for yourself.
At the same time, someone in my class was sending me online anonymous, violent messages, telling me to kill myself. My school didn’t know what to do with it. At one point, they had contacted my parents, pushing me to come out to them, too, and it all became detrimental to my mental health.
I don’t come from a political family, but I’ve always had a strong sense of fairness. After coming out, I started making educational YouTube videos on LGBTQ+ issues and people watched them. I also worked with my school to establish support systems and visibility for LGBTQ+ pupils. I got together with teachers to set up a group. We held events and assemblies, and suddenly others wanted to join. I worked with the school to run surveys of the staff and students, so we knew the issues that needed addressing.
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As part of a Stonewall youth programme, I started a YouTube series called Queeries. I invite anyone to submit questions, however inappropriate or silly, and I sit down with another LGBTQ+ person and we answer them. Part of that is creating space for difficult questions, but also to give others a platform. I am very aware of the fact that I am white, middle-class and able-bodied, and there are a lot of things I feel I can’t speak to. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and autism, but campaigning is always something I’ve felt able to do.
I was happy to do the work with my school, and I know that education resources are stretched, but schools shouldn’t rely on pupils to affect change. That puts pressure on young people to challenge things adults should be addressing.
Many young people think they aren’t going to amount to anything because of all the headlines we read. But that’s designed to discredit our concerns about how the world’s being run. A lot of people in control are invested in the world as it currently stands; to suggest that things aren’t great the way they are scares them.

Read the whole article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/13/young-people-are-angry-meet-the-teenage-activists-shaping-our-future

Credits

Ellen Jones

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  • Activist, writer & YouTuber
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