January 21 marks the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. All this week, Glamour will be spotlighting the stories, people, and issues that framed the March, as well as where we go from here.
I was asked to speak at the Women’s March in L.A., and of course I said yes. I try to take any opportunity I can to be a representative for my generation (I was 15 at the time of the march), especially because during and after the election I think people forgot that there were a lot of us who had worked hard to get our parents, families, or friends to vote, even though we couldn’t vote ourselves. There was this weird feeling of being left behind in a lot of conversations. I wanted to make it clear that teenagers deserve a seat at the table. I wanted to talk about my generation because I feel like often when we are talked about, it’s not from our mouths but from adults who are writing about us.
I get asked a lot: “Why are you involved in politics? You’re so young, don’t you want to enjoy being a kid?” I really don’t understand that thought process. Let’s say you’re a teen who is an undocumented immigrant. Is someone going to ask you why you are involved in politics? And then you get deported? The idea that teens shouldn’t be interested in politics just doesn’t make sense to me. Even though we can’t vote yet, we young people are all so, so affected by this presidency. And we’re incredibly aware of it.
My generation isn’t sheltered like previous generations of teens have been. The presidential race acted as an age equalizer. We all have access to the same information because we are all on the Internet, and we are working hard to educate one another. I learned not just about feminism but about intersectional feminism from other teenagers, so I felt it was only fair to acknowledge teenagers at the Women’s March. Teenagers on the Internet explained to me what queer meant, what the word biracial really meant. I am incredibly impressed with how my generation takes the time to educate one another. When the Black Lives Matter movement started, I, coming from a place of white privilege, needed to better understand its motives. And other teens explained it to me without softening it—and in a more inclusive, straightforward, just-the-facts way that, to be frank, I didn’t learn in middle school history class. Now I take history classes and think, This isn’t all that happened! This isn’t the whole truth! I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for other teenagers breaking down the information for me on the Internet.
My generation isn’t sheltered like previous
generations of teens have been.
The presidential race acted as an age equalizer.
I will not be old enough to vote in the midterm elections. But I’ll still be working my ass off to get people who are 18 to vote. So if you want to have an influence, you need to include us! If young people get discouraged and decide it’s not worth voting, we’re going to be stuck in a Republican mess for God knows how long.
When I wrote my speech for the march, I couldn’t just say about the future: “It’s OK; we’ll be fine.” Instead, to teens I say: Reach out. You’ve got to have your “witch crew,” your people you can text and check in on. When I’ve felt myself losing hope, it’s other girls and queer young people who have kept me going. When someone checks in on me, I’m grateful, and when I check in on a friend who is a lot more affected by what’s going on than I am, I know we’re supporting each other. We have to have our own network of healing.
Speaking at the march was a way for me to remind people of all ages that if you lose teenagers, you lose the next voting generation. We saw that a lot of people didn’t vote in this election because they didn’t think their one vote would make a difference. People genuinely believe that. That’s my biggest concern. Young people are taught to believe what adults tell us, and when you act like your vote doesn’t matter, that’s the message we get. I was lucky to grow up in a household where I was allowed to question adults and engage in conversations about what I believe and learn from them. But for the vast majority of teens, that doesn’t exist—especially if you are growing up in a household that is racist or homophobic. So my biggest plea is to adults: Include us in your conversations. Give us more platforms, and don’t talk down to us when you do include us. Our voices matter.
Excerpted from Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World, available for purchase now.
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