What makes a movement? How will we ensure it is inclusive enough? How will we actually create the change we seek? These questions and many more are being asked by young people across the country as they organize to end gun violence after the tragic shooting and death of 17 teachers and faculty on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
On Wednesday, March 21, Teen Vogue and them. had the opportunity to sit down with three of the organizers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: Emma González, Jaclyn Corbin, and Sarah Chadwick, along with Nza-Ari Khepra — an organizer from Chicago, currently residing in New York City and the co-founder of Project Orange.
Two of the young women identify as bisexual and lesbian, respectively: Emma and Sarah. Together, we had a vibrant conversation about how to incorporate LGBTQ+ issues and create a movement to end gun violence that is as intersectional as it is effective.
The conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Samhita Mukhopadhyay: So, a Republican candidate for the Maine State House called you a skinhead lesbian. First of all, what does that even mean?
Emma González: I'm not going to even address the fact that he said it in the first place, other than what I said last night, which is, "Skinheads are bad and lesbians are good."
Emma: I don't even know what to say. Like, it doesn't matter.
Samhita: What does it mean for you to be one of the queer figureheads of this moment right now?
Emma: To be one of the leading figures in this movement, and to be of the LGBT+ community is really cool, because I really know how to interact with people who need a little bit more communication because they need to be understood in this…hopefully this a way for people to understand that it's okay to be gay. It's okay to be of the LGBT+ community. That everything is relative, nothing is binary.
Samhita: Sarah, how do you identify?
Sarah Chadwick: I'm gay, so I'm a lesbian.
Samhita: How does your identity fit into your own activism?
Sarah: In general, I've been an advocate for a lot of things like gun control, and I'm pro-choice, and I fight for LGBTQ+ rights, so it just plays all in, usually. And I'm proud. I'm not ashamed of it. I'm not gonna hide it.
Samhita: That's awesome. Do you feel that this generation is more intersectional with the way that they’re thinking about all of these issues?
Sarah: Oh, definitely. For sure, because we were raised at a time when all of these issues were happening at the same time, so we, as a generation, were kind of like, well why not just bunch them all together? We can multitask. We're good at multitasking.
Emma: We can fight for our lives.
Sarah: And we can fight for our lives! And march for them, too.
Jaclyn Corbin: As things get more acceptable in society, like legalizing gay marriage, and stuff like that, it shows us that a change from the beginning that seemed so far away can actually happen in the same lifetime. So, that gives us hope. We're kind of modeling this like the LGBT movement because in retrospect, it's the same. We're working towards a common goal as a lot [of] people and it's not party-oriented. That's marriage, and this is lives.