People often wonder why we don’t have more young leaders and advocates standing up from within our community. They claim the community, and young people in particular, are disengaged and disinterested in politics and activism. Yet do these people really do anything to encourage and cultivate our young leaders? Sadly, many times the answer is no. Instead they seem to want to attack them and put them “back in their place.”
When you put yourself in the public eye, you expect your enemies to attack you. What you don’t expect, and maybe this is just my naivety showing, is to be attacked by some in the community that you are working so hard to stand up for. Instead of offering advice or support, they seem dead-set on tearing down those that try to simply get more involved. It is hard enough for a young person to get the respect from others without this internal back-biting. It is discouraging and disheartening, making it that much more difficult for not only that young person, but for others that may be watching and trying to decide if they too want to get involved.
An example of this came to light recently in an editorial published in a South Florida gay newspaper, The Express Gay News. It is sad that the editor of a major gay publication would use his position to attack those in our community who are trying to make a difference. These people are out in the trenches fighting for our rights, not just sitting behind a computer playing "armchair quarterback." Maybe baseless attacks like this editorial are the reason why more new advocates and activists don't come forward. It is bad enough that those that hate us (and make no mistake, they do hate us and everything about our lives) attack these new leaders, but now they must be attacked from within our own community? There are much more constructive ways to help fledgling activists than a public attack like this. Since the editor seems to be an expert in how advocates should act, maybe he should stop trying to bring others down and do something constructive, like offer media training or advice. I guess that would take more effort and involvement than just criticizing others.
As someone who has recently been pushed to the forefront of activism here in South Florida, I can say first hand that some from within our own community are the harshest critics I’ve had to face. I am by no means a trained, experienced political strategist. I am just a young person who got sick of seeing what was happening to the LGBT community and decided to try to step up and do the right thing. It has been a trial by fire, but something that has hopefully made a difference in the lives of people in our community.
We must stop the baseless attacks on the next generation of leaders. While we may not be perfect and are still gaining experience, we have the heart and the determination to make a real difference. Maybe instead of just blindly criticizing, we should be cultivating and supporting these people. Our community needs to come together and get behind these young fighters, not attack them. By doing so, maybe we can inspire a whole new generation of activists, something our movement desperately needs.