I hella <3
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network
"...And a sweet and powerful
And engages each of us
In the greatest,
The most intense
Of our chosen struggles"
(Lauren Olamina, Parable of the Talents)
When I think of badass youth leaders, Lauren Olamina of Octavia Butler's brilliant Parable series immediately comes to mind. In the midst of societal collapse and the rise of a white supremacist dictator whose slogan is "Make American Great Again" (Butler was truly prophetic), the Black teenager takes it upon herself to build an intentional community that can adapt to chaos and shape change.
I think of Zélie Adebola in Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone. In the African kingdom of Orisha, where magic is forbidden and practioners are slaughtered, Zélie discovers latent magical power within herself and uses it to inspire a youth-led resistance movement.
I think of Hermione Granger, who, in her fight for elf rights epitomized #BlackGirlMagic. And, let's be real, where would Harry be without her? Don't get me started on Ron. (She's Black, don't @ me.)
Each of these fierce, yet fictional, characters looked at their surroundings and said "Absolutely not." They each took up space in a world that wanted to stifle them. They inspired me and countless other Black and Brown folks who've looked to fictional worlds to make sense of—and find hope in—our own.
The good news is that these valiant efforts are taking shape IRL.
Every day, trans and queer youth of color across the country are fighting the good fight. They've been told to suppress their identities and accept the status quo, but they're speaking out, organizing, and resisting instead. They're finding power in their stories and experiences and fighting for racial and gender justice in their communities—starting with restrictive school policies.
In the two months I've worked for GSA Network, I've seen trans and queer youth of color lead a rally against the Trump administration's racist immigration policies, plan and facilitate workshops on student rights and gender binaries, and use social media to build community and promote their activism. They've quickly replaced the fictional heroines I usually turn to for inspiration.
Trump may be the president (more like the Night King, amirite?), but these youth organizers are the leaders we can and should pay attention to.
Theirs is the vision we must support.
Some more good news: There's an upcoming opportunity to do so!
You can help trans and queer youth tell their stories and fight for liberation by donating to GSA Network on Give OUT Day — the annual day of fundraising for members of the LGBTQ+ community. At GSA Network, our mission is to "empower and train queer, trans, and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities."
If you, like me, are looking for a way to keep going in what often feels like a fictional hellscape, schedule a payment for Give OUT Day 2019 (April 18th).
A donation to the organization is a donation to uplift these incredible young people.