When Ella Briggs came out in her first elementary school, she was bullied by students and reprimanded by a teacher for being inappropriate. Years later, she successfully persuaded over 6,400 of her fellow 5th graders to elect her as Connecticut’s first openly gay Kid Governor. At only 10 years old, Ella had demonstrated an uncanny ability to inspire others in the face of prejudice.
The Connecticut Kid Governor project is a civics program for 5th graders, organized by the Connecticut Democracy Center (CTDC). The goal is to give children a hands-on education in the democratic process by participating in a statewide election. Students who wish to hold office must develop a three-point platform and film a campaign video explaining their plan to address issues in their community, and each participating school runs a primary to nominate their candidate for the general election. Once elected, the Kid Governor serves a one-year term, enacting their platform promises with support from the CTDC.
At only 10 years old, Ella demonstrated an uncanny ability to inspire others in the face of prejudice.
Out of the 87 participating schools, Briggs was elected Kid Governor in 2019. But before then, Ella’s drive to change the world around her was born out of necessity.
She has known since she was around four that she would not be interested in boys. But her earliest expressions of her identity were often met with hostility. “I just told some kids and then kaplouie,” she told The CT Post. “Kaplouie” meant kids moving their desks away from her, calling her lesbophobic slurs, and even telling her that she was bound for Hell. It got bad enough that her parents had to withdraw her out of class and try homeschooling for a while before landing Ella in the much more accepting Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary Magnet School.
Of course, not every queer kid in Ella’s situation would have the option to change schools. Knowing this, Ella decided to run for Kid Governor in order to make a school a better place for kids like her. She expressed her plan through a three-point Pride-Hope-Love platform: to establish Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in schools across the state, to promote adoptions for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, and to train teachers on how to better support LGBTQ+ students.
Once elected, Ella enacted this platform by visiting schools, along with her Kid Governor team. She created a webinar with the Department of Education that provided training for teachers. She ran a poster contest with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, asking participants to draw what pride, hope, and love means to them. The winning poster was used for Family Day in advocacy for the LGBTQ+ youth in need of a home. Ella also participated in a collection drive: she brought nonperishable food items to East Hartford and Hartford food pantries, and collected toiletries for Mercy Housing and Shelters Corporation in Hartford and the Winifred House Southington.
When Connecticut’s adult governor, Ned Lamont, swore her in at the Old State House back in January, he told the assembled school children, “I just want you to remember, as Ella knows only too well, you’re never too young to stand up and tell people what you believe in. Roll up your sleeves and get involved.” During her term as Kid Governor, Ella spent the ensuing year setting a prime example for doing just that.
“I’m just going to continue to go to pride parades. I want to continue to start jump-starting GSAs at the schools that I go to.”
With Ella’s term over, she is now largely focused on her schooling and just being a kid. But that does not mean an end to her advocacy work. She told the WNBA blog for the Connecticut Sun, “I’m just going to continue to go to pride parades. I want to continue to start jump-starting GSAs at the schools that I go to. I want to make new friends and I just really want to make people feel loved.”
This also does not mean the end to her political aspirations. As Kid Governor, she managed to make her first political contact with congresswoman Jahana Hayes, who later invited Ella to visit her in DC. “I’m so proud of you,” Hayes said at Ella’s swearing-in, “and you did it being you.”
One way or another, DC is Ella’s ultimate goal—she aspires to one day become the first-ever lesbian president.♦