Listening to our youth

The voices of LGBT youth are among the most silent in our community. Even though their future is our future, the ideas and ideals of our youngest are often discounted, disregarded or dismissed.

To combat that trend, PGN launched our LGBTQ Youth Supplement in 2015. The now-biannual initiative puts the power directly into the hands of our youth, turning over our pages to them for a platform through which they can explore their interests, engage with other young people’s opinions and learn about the role they can play in our community.

The Supplement returns this issue, with a new crop of writing from talented high-school and college-aged LGBT and ally youth. None of the youth has to have any formal writing experience: All we ask is that Youth Supplement contributors have an interest in writing and in LGBT issues. The rest is up to them. 

And again, these youth have proven just why we should be listening to them. All writers proposed their own topics and composed their stories with little to no input from our staff; they conducted their own research, interviews and constructed the format of the pieces independently. As media professionals, we’re used to that process, and to working against a deadline, but these young people took on those challenges brilliantly.

The subjects of their works are enlightening. To varying degrees, most of the writers explored the impact of the new political reality. Some looked at it through the lens of feminism, others through the vocation of journalism and others as LGBT youth. They all expressed a sense of fear and dismay at the election of Donald Trump, but all of the pieces were also tinged with optimism. 

These are the people who deserve to be afraid. Most of them came of age during a presidency that largely embraced LGBT rights; they don’t know anything other than federal support for LGBT issues. LGBT elders have suffered through Reagan, the Bushes and many other leaders who were hostile to our community, so they know we’ll survive. But that these young people are hopeful and committed to the causes they care about, despite the resistance, is empowering to the rest of us.

At a time when LGBT voices are being quieted across the country, we need to look and listen within our own community. Our youth have something to say.