Writing an article out of thin air is no easy task. That is why for this particular article, I took two weeks to determine what I was going to write about. I had to decide not only a topic, but length and journalistic style. Being the newest board member to One Million Kids for Equality (OMK), and being a youth member as well, despite nearing the tail end of what I consider youth, I found myself in a rather peculiar predicament of needing and wanting to write an article, but no idea how to start. It wasn’t until about two sentences ago I realized the reason I was asked to write an article for ProudYouth.com, and the reason the publication exists, is the exact topic I need to write about. Youth are the voices for the future of the world.

As a member of this world’s youth, I was told time and time again my voice was the voice of the future. Why then do many youth voices struggle to be heard, more specifically the voices of LGBT youth? More often than not, LGBT youth are shut down by adults in power simply for being too young to know what’s going on in their lives or the world. At least, that’s what those in control wish to claim.

Here’s a story heard all too often. A youth, 14 or 15 in age, recently coming into puberty, begins to find other people attractive. However, this youth is noticing that they are attracted to the same gender, and not so much attracted to the opposite gender. Feeling different from their peers, they keep it hidden for years hoping the attraction “corrects” itself, but it never does. Then around age 16 or 17, the youth decides to tell his or her parents about their same-sex attraction. Instead of being supportive and willing to help their child work through these feelings, the adult tells the youth what they are feeling is a phase; they are too young to understand or know what they want.

Listen To The KidsThis same story permeates the LGBT community, whether it be a person identifying as trans, asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, etc.  It’s this mindset, one where if you are not established in life with a job, you can’t stand on your own two feet, therefore, you cannot understand the world the same as an adult would. To some extent this is true, the brain is still developing, and many synapses are still connecting. However, youth do understand themselves better than anyone else, and they also understand right from wrong. 

Looking back at my own coming of age story, my feelings about myself and the situation have not changed. I considered myself a gay man then and still do today, despite being told it was a phase.

When saying the “youth are the voices of the future,” the mindset I described is the same reason it’s difficult for young people to get their voices heard. It is cast aside as a mixture of hormones and misconceptions. I’m sure I’m making some adults angry with my argument. But I do understand, not all adults are the same.  I am certain, though, any adult can think back to a time where they shared this mindset. I too am guilty of it – and I’m a young adult!

Yes, sometimes young people do not understand certain aspects of life, and sometimes things are hormones and misconceptions. I can think back to a time I let my emotions obscure my perception of events, but this is also true of me today.

11182077_1572787832985493_8319071783528742208_nInstead of silencing youth of today, adults need to have a conversation about young peoples’ feelings and conceptions about the world. Have discussions. Learn how young people feel about things, and grow from one another. Sometimes, I find people who are younger than me have a clearer view of the world. Mainly because they do not have all the stress most adults do, and can think more clearly about the subject matter. This is why it is so important we as a society start listening to our youth. If their new ideals are suppressed, then how can change ever take place?

As a member of this world’s youth, I am very happy to finally have my voice elevated, and to have an outlet like OMK’s ProudYouth publication, where I can share my views, as well as discuss other young peoples’ views. I hope OMK and ProudYouth.com continue to grow so others can learn from what the organization and it’s programs have to offer – then they, too can be better advocates for youth.

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Curtis Galloway
Curtis Galloway, 21, is a senior at Monmouth College in downstate Monmouth, IL. Curtis is from Benton, IL and has spoken before the Illinois legislature as a survivor in support of a ban on conversion therapy for minors.

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