In June 2008 I started a job where I primarily work with teenagers. Since then, I've been so impressed and humbled to see the passion most of them have for their queer friends and the bravery of the ones that are coming out so soon! I didn't come out until I was 18 and in college – I'm meeting kids in 7th and 8th grade who are saying “I'm bisexual” or “I'm gay”. And their friends support them, stand up for them, wear rainbow buttons for them, sometimes get into fistfights for them (I don't condone that, but it has happened).
I think that a lot of us read studies that say younger people support gay marriage more, and we think that's great or we anxiously wait for the day these kids can vote or something. But when you see them, when you know them, you realize that it is more then just statistics or percentages. These are real teens who have so much naive and wonderful energy, who believe that they are entitled to the same things as everyone else, who face bullying and family problems but who still stand up there and are proud of who they are. I try my best to be a progressive queer adult mentor figure to help them out and encourage them but in all honesty, they teach me more then I teach them.
So when I saw this video up on Shakesville this morning, I fell a bit in love with it. Not just because the tune is catchy and cute, but because in the young people in this video I see reflections of the teens I know and care for. The flip of hair, the style of glasses, the cheeky wink. The bravery to stand up for what they believe in, to say “fuck you” to anyone who is going to hold them down. These aren't my teens, but in a way they are, they are so similar that I can't help but smile.
I look back with a bit of envy, I wish I had this kind of outcast anthum when I was that age. But overall I feel so hopeful, that with every passing generation, a few kernals of homophobia die out. And they die out because these kids are willing to be honest, be brave, and demand to be counted.
There is this pervasive bias against teens in our society, and I feel it personally every time I tell someone what I do and they say “ugh why would you do that? Teenagers are evil/lazy/rude/nasty/mouthy/immature/annoying”. You know who I find to be all those things? Certain adults. Give me a pack of Twilight obsessed 13 year old girls to a group of republicans my age any day.
However I've noticed that in queer circles, I don't get those responses. I sometimes get some waxing about how much it sucked for that person to be a teen, but queer people get what I do. They get it. They understand why I feel called to do this kind of work because they don't see teens as trouble, they see them as our salvation in a way. They see teens like themselves, whose struggles to fit in were often marred by shame and violence. They understand what motivates me to help these people through one of the most difficult transitions of their life. They wish that they had someone like me. Hell I wish I had someone like me.
And you know what, the kids are going to be ok. They really are. They are smart and passionate and don't take shit from anyone. And I'm so proud of them for that.