RK Popkin Profile picture
Feb 25, 2018 24 tweets 7 min read
THREAD. Emma Gonzales is president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. [1]

I was president of my GSA too, then organized LGBTQ youth on the early internet, then studied adolescent psych at Harvard. I've got something to say about high-school GSAs in America. 1/
A GSA serve three purposes: support, education, and activism.

SUPPORT means it is a safe place to be yourself if you are LGBTQ. You can meet other LGBTQ kids and allies there, as well as safe adults. You can make friends who will love you for who you are. 2/
This is important because LGBTQ youth are at higher risk than their straight peers for drug abuse, sexual exploitation, and suicide [2] largely because they are far more likely to lose parental support before they have the maturity and resources to make it on their own. 3/
40% of homeless youth in the US are LGBTQ. [3] Having accepting friends can be the difference between a place to stay and survival prostitution, and in dark moments is the difference between life and death. 4/
EDUCATION means teaching your fellow students who aren’t in the GSA - and let’s be real, usually your teachers and even counselors - what it is like to be a young LGBTQ person. 5/
People have weird ideas about this: they could think bi means you’re trying to have sex with everyone, or that gay means you are going to prey on children. You can lean on statistics and expert sources, but the most effective education is putting yourself out there. 6/
You have to allow yourself to be seen so that your entire being can make the point “I’m more like you than you realize. My life has value just like yours does.” And GSA kids do this in conversations, newspaper columns, and in-class speeches all the time. 7/
Sidebar: I’ve spent the last 10 years working in the tech industry, and I've been sent to “leadership narrative” classes where executive coaches explain the value of storytelling to create empathy and motivate change. Duh. I learned that lesson at 16 in the GSA! 8/
ACTIVISM, the most important purpose of the GSA. It’s not enough to console each other about the indignities or violences of being LGBTQ in high school, and it’s not enough to explain yourself to others and ask for their kindness. 9/
Activism means seizing the reins and changing things. Because when you are LGBTQ, changing things is a survival skill. 10/
The same tactics you use to convince the Winter Formal Committee to be inclusive of same-sex couples will serve you in adulthood when you have to convince your employer to extend benefits to your partner, or convince your corporation to adequately cover trans healthcare. 11/
You can organize for changes in your school and your community, and in doing so you can understand yourself in the context of other human struggles for civil rights and dignity. You find solidarity with other marginalize people whose struggles are the same but also different. 12/
You learn to organize across race and class to form stronger movements that include everyone. You learn that you get better results by pushing those most directly impacted to the front, and passing the mic to those whose voices we hear the least. 13/
I see this strategy in how the #ParklandStudents were able to be everywhere: in DC, at the Florida state house, at Rubio's town hall, in the NYTimes. They always passed the mic around and used their diverse personal stories to hammer the same point over and over again. 14/
Student activism in GSAs builds lifelong skills, but it’s also about survival because **activism is a way through trauma.** And here’s the thing: everyone I know who came out in their teenage years experienced trauma. 15/
I saw friends lose their homes and their families. I lost friends to suicide. I knew a girl who was raped in order to “cure” her of being gay. I knew a boy who was beaten, nearly to death, for holding hands with another boy. All before I was 20. 16/
The core teaching of GSAs is that in these moments of pain, when you feel powerless and beaten down by the brokenness of the world, you can do something. You can take your pain, your grief, and your rage, and you can roll it out into the world as change. 17/
When you take unfathomable losses you can’t undo what’s happened but you can fight on for your fallen friends, in their names, until you fix it for younger people. You can save someone else. And in saving them, you can save yourself. 18/
I see this in the #ParklandStudents and I understand what is fueling them, and because of that, I believe in them with all my heart. Those of us who are older can form up behind them with our resources and our networks, or get out of their way. 19/
From this 31 year old former student activist to @Emma4Change, @davidhogg111, @sarahchad_ and all their friends and classmates: ride on you beautiful survivors. Take your pain, roll it out into the world, and show us the way. [end]
ps I'm an "old millenial" and this is my first thread, I hope it all works
Whoa, this is getting attention!

Follow the youth, here's a list:

Donate to #MarchForOurLives:

Sign up for your local march: facebook.com/pg/marchforour…
Read Emma in her own words:

“We want to fix this problem so it doesn’t occur again, but mostly we want people to forget about us once this is over. We want to go back to our lives and live them to the fullest in respect for the dead.”

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