More LGBTQ+ changemakers are leaving their mark on the present to establish a better future.
While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott use harming queer teens as fodder for their politica aspirations, teen activists like Abbie Garretson, Jack Petocz, Javier Gomez, and Will Larkin are fighting back–and making names for themselves.
At the 2022 Webby Awards, the four teen activists were honored with the Webby Social Movement of the Year Award for their organizing efforts against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”.
#SayGay Activists accepting the Webby Social Movement of the Year Award ✨@ProudTwinkie “We will not be silenced.”@GarretsonAbbie “We will keep saying gay.”@Jack_Petocz “We will vote DeSantis out.”@ageofjavs “This here is queer revolution!” pic.twitter.com/YdjE9mgpjV
— The Webby Awards (@TheWebbyAwards) May 17, 2022
The vaguely worded bill prohibits “age-inappropriate” discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, triggering demonstrations, stuent walkouts and Twitter diatribes.
“The language and the supporters of the bill and the rhetoric around the bill really shows what this bill is, and it’s an attempt to hurt queer people like me” Petocz said.
I wrote an OP ED for @nytopinion about my experience growing up gay and non-binary and how the #DontSayGay bill would effect people like me. https://t.co/UPjmtExjnu
— Will Larkins (@ProudTwinkie) March 12, 2022
These students are activating their communities to build a better future for LGBTQ folk–and perhaps creating platforms for their own political aspirations and careers.
“People in support of the bill always ask, “Why do these subjects need to be taught in schools?” To them I would say that if we understand ourselves, and those around us understand us, so many lives will be saved”, wrote Larkins in a New York Times op-ed.
My favorite line from the Gibbs High School Say Gay Walk out. We will not be silenced. pic.twitter.com/A6RlmWIg1M
— Abbie Garretson (@GarretsonAbbie) May 6, 2022
While the Florida bill was signed into a law by DeSantis in March, signifying a battle won for the GOP, these Gen Z change agents are looking to win the war with their spirited protests and uncompromising belief in justice.
Reflecting on the protests, Garretson stated in Teen Vogue that “It kind of gave me the perspective that even if we are feeling abandoned by our own school system, we are here for each other and going to continue to fight for each other. That was a really big comfort to me and I hope it was for everyone else.”
I organized the statewide #DSGWalkout today in response to attempts to silence and erase the LGBTQ+ community in Florida. I was indefinitely suspended from my school for organizing a peaceful rally. Read my full statement below. pic.twitter.com/R5tplMvC8D
— Jack Petocz (@Jack_Petocz) March 3, 2022
And the fight continues. A lawsuit was filed in Tallahassee on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality, arguing that the Don’t Say Gay violates the First Amendment right to free speech.
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And while DeSantis appears to be creating a political legacy that includes a potential presidential bid, LGBTQ youth like Petocz, Garretson, Gomez, and Larkins are striving to leave a legacy of justice for queer and trans folks.
“You will NOT silence us. The LGBTQ+ community is not going anywhere —we are here, we are queer, get used to it” Gomez stated for I-D.
With young people like these four leading the way against repressive legislation, the future seems brighter.