These Teen LGBTQ Activists are Fighting for a future that Queer and Trans Folks Deserve
More LGBTQ+ changemakers are leaving their mark on the present to establish a better future.
As headlines highlight how right-wing conservatives—like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott—are relentless in their efforts to control, harm, and erase the LGBTQ+ community, teen activists like Abbie Garretson, Jack Petocz, Javier Gomez, and Will Larkin are ensuring that the rights of LGBTQ+ folks aren’t eliminated.
And while this generation of teen activists works to change our world, we love to see these LGBTQ+ changemakers receive their flowers. 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.
The vaguely worded bill prohibits discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, resulting in many Floridians protesting the bill and taking legal action. These four LGBTQ+ teens are doing just that.
“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 stated for NBC.
From op-eds denouncing the bill, to organizing massive student protests against the bill, to writing and speaking to Gov. DeSantis and lawmakers on the harm they are perpetuating by supporting this bill, these students are activating their communities to build a better future for LGBTQ folks all over.
“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 their New York Times op-ed.
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 for 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.”
The fight continues as families and organizations rally behind a lawsuit against the Don’t Say Gay bill. The lawsuit was filed in Tallahassee on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality, arguing that the law illegally discriminates against LGBTQ+ people and their families.
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, not just in Florida, but around the world.
“You will NOT silence us. The LGBTQ+ community is not going anywhere —we are here, we are queer, get used to it” Gomez said to I-D.
With young people like these four leading the way against repressive legislation, the future seems brighter.