listen to the amazing new youth voices in gender activism

At The Representation Project's Global Youth Summit in San Francisco last weekend, young activists met to discuss gender equality.

by Azha Ayanna
|
09 August 2016, 8:00pm

Name: Shaun Ross
Occupation: model and activist
What's your definition of gender?
Of course gender exists. It's something that your parents tell you. But as I grow older, I don't think gender means anything. And it shouldn't mean anything, it shouldn't define you as a person.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
I want to talk about how kids of today need to learn history. I feel like no one really knows anything about before 2010. People don't actually understand the essence of history, and why history was made. It reminds us of why we are where we are today. 
What is the change you want to see in the world?
I want to see more equality, especially amongst sexuality. We're getting there, though. People need to understand that the people around you are your sisters and your brothers, and we're not as different as we think we are. I want to see equality of the soul.
What does your activism look like?
I speak bluntly about the things I want people to hear.
How can young people break down gender stereotypes?
It's important to have different friends. It's important to make yourself uncomfortable. You're the most alive when you feel uncomfortable. 

Related: Shaun Ross: In His Skin He Wins

Name: Akilah Morrison
Age: 17
Occupation: student
What's great about being young in 2016?
The youth has so much power and I feel like the world is my oyster; I can truly be myself.
What is your definition of gender?
What one identifies as - man or woman, boy or girl.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
I want to discuss intersectionality.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
I want people to be cognizant of the struggles of people around the world, even if they don't identify or are expected to be allies.
What does your activism look like?
It looks like listening, holding people accountable, and being an ally.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
First, by recognizing that gender is a social construct and consciously differentiating gender from sex. 

Name: Dian Blusummers
Age: 20
Occupation: youth advocate
What's great about being young in 2016?
Not much, the world's a spooky place.
What is your definition of gender?
It can mean whatever you want it to mean, it's everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
How we can stop transphobia and fight against cis-white-male patriarchy.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
People getting access to their most basic needs, really.
What does your activism look like?
It's really difficult, but I just try to show up, speak out, and show solidarity.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
One solution: revolution. Recognizing they exist, and creating spaces where young people can be themselves while fighting against the norms. 

Name: Jess Rodriguez Williams
Age: 24
Occupation: Lorkia Street Youth Advisory Board/radical organizer
What's great about being young in 2016?
Seeing young LGBTQ people of color own their identities and be one with their power.
What is your definition of gender?
Gender is however anyone feels at any one second. Gender is self-defined.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
That LGBTQ people of color face different amounts of discrimination in the gender binary.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
QTPOC are not a threat; we are divine.
What does your activism look like?
Radical, coalition community organizing, holding institutions accountable, and intersectional feminist radical organizing.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
Be who they are no matter what. The only reason people are uncomfortable is because you awaken their desires and fears. 

Related: 9 Women on Feminism and Reproductive Health

Name: Brenda Belén Alvarez
Age: 20
Occupation: student
What's great about being young in 2016?
That you finally begin to find yourself, you get to explore who you are, what you like, and that if you fall, you got tomorrow.
What is your definition of gender?
That it's your decision and it's a spectrum that extends, and you get to pick where your gender lies. It can vary.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
I want to have a conversation on gender equality but most importantly that it remains intersectional. That our feminism includes women of color.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
I want children to grow up without a molded expectation, I want everyone to do what's best for themselves, and by doing so it benefits everyone.
What does your activism look like?
Intersectional, inclusive, radical, respectful, and unapologetic.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
It starts by making people uncomfortable, by starting conversations and calling out friends and family because that's how we begin to grow. 

Name: Jordan Doww
Age: 21
Occupation: comedian/actor/content creator
What's great about being young in 2016?
Passion for change.
What is your definition of gender?
A broad social construct, a way of identifying comfortably.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
Break away from the limiting stereotypes and be a human being.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
Acceptance, love, and peace.
What does your activism look like?
I use my platform online to inspire and teach the youth to chase their dream, be 100% yourself, and accept human beings.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
It starts with yourself. Nothing can change until we have a passionate movement within ourselves. Inspire your peers, family, and most importantly yourself. 

Name: Sam Soon
Age: 20
Occupation: photography student
What's great about being young in 2016?
Conversations about combatting inequality (be it sexism, racism, heteronormativity, etc) are becoming more commonplace.
What is your definition of gender?
Gender is a social construct designed to classify people into simple roles.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
I'd like to talk about inclusion and representation in imagery.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
Those perpetrating violence against POCs and LGBTQ folk and women can be brought to justice.
What does your activism look like?
Using photography to amplify and represent a broader narrative focused on women, especially WOCs and LGBTQ women/non binary people.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
Listen! 

Name: David Quintero
Age: 18
Occupation: Going into AirForce.
What's great about being young in 2016?
You have a variety of options and jobs.
What is your definition of gender?
There is no definition, it's just a category.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
Anything where I can learn.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
Diversity and people's dreams coming true.
What does your activism look like?
I planned a youth summit.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
By going outside the gender "roles."

Name: Apoorva Handigol
Age: 18
Occupation: student
What's great about being young in 2016?
Through social media, we have more platforms to actually make tangible change against social constructs.
What is your definition of gender?
A category that need not exist in the first place that attempts to tie qualities to biological sex.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
How can we remove the categories and identities that cause so much pain for so many today?
What does your activism look like?
Taking steps in speaking up for those who voices aren't heard.
How can young people help to break down gender stereotypes?
Understand and practice (if comfortable) gender fluidity. 

Name: Maria José Vides
Age: 20
Occupation: student
What's great about being young in 2016?
It's great to see young people engaging with each other and systems of governance to bring change and acknowledge the existence of intersectional oppression.
What is your definition of gender?
The binary construct we are socialized to subscribe to.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
I want to discuss the intersection of identities that impact our lives in different levels. I want to discuss the origins of sexism and racism as a product.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
I want to see a world where we embrace our differences and re-learn humanity, where we strive for liberation and equity.
What does your activism look like?
I'm a student activist who gets involved in conversations and demonstrations. I try to use social media and personal relations as platforms for discussion.

Related: Los Angelenos Discuss Gun Control

Name: Heisel Paredes
Age: 18
Occupation: student.
What's great about being young in 2016?
There are many more resources and a lot more open mindedness surrounding what we choose to become.
What is the conversation you want to have today?
One that is raw.
What is the change you want to see in the world?
People striving for a world where everyone feels safe and valued.
What does your activism look like?
It looks like education and creating awareness and places where people can come together.

Learn more about The Representation Project on its website.

Credits


Photography and interviews Azha Ayanna

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activism
Gender
Shaun Ross
the representation project
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the representation project global youth summit