Youth at the Forefront: Championing LGBTQIA+ Rights and Inclusion

Youth at the Forefront: Championing LGBTQIA+ Rights and Inclusion

Across the globe, adolescents are taking the lead in pushing for LGBTQIA+ people's rights, dignity, and inclusion. Although acceptance of sexual and gender diversity has improved in recent decades, LGBTQIA+ adolescents continue to endure disproportionately high rates of discrimination, bullying, homelessness, mental health difficulties, and other challenges. Young advocates strive to change this through education, community development, policy reform, and spreading the message that LGBTQIA+ people deserve respect and equal treatment. 

Youth Pride marches and groups. 

Inspired by the early Pride marches of the gay liberation movement in the 1970s, the young have formed their own Pride events and clubs to raise awareness, bring youth together, and campaign for change. Every year, cities around North America host Youth Pride marches and celebrations. These vibrant, joyous gatherings provide a tremendous statement about young people's support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Aside from marches, several groups, such as the Queer Student Union, organize on high school and university campuses to create safe spaces and raise awareness. The It Gets Better Project also promotes young voices, with over 60,000 user-created videos sharing stories of hope with LGBTQIA+ youths. 

Making School More Inclusive 

Student groups are leading the way in making schools more accepting of gender and sexual diversity, with gay-straight alliances and gender-sexuality alliances (GSAs). These clubs provide crucial support and community for LGBTQIA+ students, who are far more likely to feel lonely or bullied. GSAs have also undertaken several educational projects, including Pride Week programming, staff training on LGBTQIA+ identities, gender-neutral restroom campaigns, and policy changes to make schools more inclusive. Students, for example, have lobbied for updated codes of conduct that prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Following the hearings from student delegations, school boards around North America have moved to enact similar modifications. 

Advocacy for curriculum reform 

After years of near-silence on gender and sexual diversity in class materials, youths have succeeded in incorporating important LGBTQIA+ history and positive portrayals into school curricula. After a decade-long youth-led effort, Ontario became the second province in Canada to compel all public schools to teach LGBTQIA+ history in 2015. Youth lobbied the Ministry of Education, created video presentations, and expressed their own experiences with homophobia/transphobia as a result of the lack of representation. This curriculum change was a huge success, with other provinces looking to follow suit. Similarly, grassroots efforts in the United States have resulted in more inclusive sex education guidelines in some regions. 

Changes in Policies and Politics 

Youth activists push for policies, laws, and political representation to cement LGBTQIA+ rights and protections. For example, trans youth leaders were instrumental in the historic 2020 Supreme Court decision that outlawed workplace discrimination against LGBTQ employees. Young advocates shared their discrimination stories and pushed politicians on the life-altering consequences of uneven treatment. Youth have also successfully advocated for increased legal protections against conversion therapy and battled against legislation aimed at restricting transgender rights, such as "bathroom bills." Young campaigners with intersectional identities that span racial, economic, and disability justice issues are demonstrating how LGBTQIA+ rights and empowerment relate to more significant social change movements. 

Online Activism and Global Connections 

Youth are using social media and internet platforms to expand LGBTQIA+ visibility and connections in powerful new ways. Young YouTubers, bloggers, artists, and others are sharing their stories, fostering community, and spreading messages of self-love and pride. Twitter campaigns like #IllGoWithYou support many trans people who face restroom discrimination, while viral art projects like Trans Student Educational Resources showcase the diversity of trans lives. Online relationships make LGBTQIA+ youth feel less alone while also allowing for advocacy that crosses regional constraints. Global Youth Pride activities, as well as International Pronouns Day, which encourages the use of gender pronouns, are bringing together young activists worldwide. These digital spaces offer several opportunities to advocate for global change. 

The young voice is an essential aspect of the ongoing campaign for LGBTQIA+ rights and inclusion. Young champions have already changed attitudes, policies, and futures through inventiveness, perseverance, and determined efforts. Their campaign reflects previous generations' pleas for justice while also addressing the particular circumstances of today's LGBTQIA+ youth. Youth will continue to drive positive change for many years by delivering many messages of empowerment and demanding a world where all identities are treated with dignity. Whatever direction the movement takes next, one thing is sure: the children are doing well. 

Presented by SHAVA, this article is part of our commitment to embracing the diversity within the transgender community. SHAVA stands in solidarity with transgender people of color, advocating for acceptance and allyship that recognize and celebrate the richness of their diverse experiences.

Visa Mastercard PayPal Shop Pay Google Pay Amazon Venmo American Express Discover JCB Sezzle Diners Club Elo Union Pay