we’re millennials 2.0 and we’re coming to get you — lauren stocks on generation change
Teenager Lauren Stocks blew our minds with her speech at the Labour party conference last year. Voice trembling with emotion, she spoke out for every “spaced-out, stressed-out, depressed kid in a battlefield where they can’t afford pens and paper".
This article originally appeared in i-D's The New Fashion Rebels Issue, no. 352, Summer 2018.
I’m from Ashton-under-Lyne in Tameside, a borough in east Manchester. There’re a lot of people who’ve retired here. A lot of old people from Cheshire. It’s probably one of the most affluent and deprived areas of Greater Manchester, all at the same time.
I went to a Catholic school. We weren’t allowed to wear trousers, you had Catholicism rammed down your throat, that sort of thing. As someone who’s LGBT, I just didn’t need it. I identify as bisexual. I’ve got gay parents, two mums. Gay godparents. A gay hairdresser. A gay next door neighbour. Coming out at 12 or 13, it was generally never really an issue at all. School though, left a lot to be desired.
We’d have assemblies where a teacher would tell you if you didn’t do well, you’d be sat at home, unemployed, watching Jeremy Kyle all day. We had one councillor for 800 people. The pressure they were putting on us was just incredible. There’s a total disconnection between what we are studying and what we are engaged in.
If you want to prepare people for the adult world, you don’t go about it by teaching them about trigonometry three times a week. You teach them proper life skills. Teach them personal development rather than make them sit endless exams. The problem is that everyone who is in a position of political power has forgotten what it’s like to be at school. They say, “calm down, we’ve all been through it”. No! We shouldn’t have to all go through it. If you have the power to change something, you change it.
People who are disadvantaged, people who are disabled, people with mental health issues, people who do not fit the rigid idea of academia are being failed, and we are not dealing with that as a society. No wonder teenagers are disillusioned with school! If there was more opportunity for students to have a voice in what they wanted to learn, I think you’d see a big difference.
"We’re the gayest, most socialist, most aspirant for change generation that this planet has ever seen. We are millennials 2.0 and we are coming to fucking get you."
The day I made the speech, I was surviving on adrenaline and nicotine alone. I never expected it to get picked up! I just went on stage. Even though I wasn’t able to get out as much as I’d have liked, it was still one of the best days of my life. The reaction was a little bit mental. A very mixed reaction. Some of the comments were, like, ‘Oh, she doesn’t look like a girl.’ All that kind of stuff. A journalist from the BBC said to me, ‘How did you react reading all the comments about people saying you didn’t look female?’ And I was like, ‘Mate, I checked last night, I’m definitely female.’
Generally I don’t really like getting a lot of attention, but one thing I have enjoyed is people, many of whom are younger than me, leaving comments on Instagram saying I was bang on. There are so many people in schools that feel as though they don’t have a voice. If there’s one thing I can take away from it, it’s that.
I’d been getting into politics really heavily in my early teens and I joined the Labour Party on 3 August 2015, after Jeremy Corbyn got on the ballot for leadership. It was like, oh my god, a person offering us something that hasn’t been offered for years. I liked what he stood for, so two weeks later I started volunteering.
I come from quite a working class background. My mum’s a staff nurse for the NHS and she’s been working nights and working hard ever since I can remember. She hasn’t had a pay rise since 2010. They’re all feeling it. I was never from a hugely political household but, since I joined, my parents have really got behind me.
Today, I’m Young Labour’s Under 19s Officer and I plan to stand for council next year. They asked me, what difference can we make to next year’s conference? And I was like, gender neutral toilets! I don’t want to have to wait half an hour to go. Beyond that I don’t really have any political ambitions, though I quite like the idea that I might be able to help at some point and not piss my life away, try and get some change. That’s the thoughtful, hippy answer anyway.
I think my generation is fucking incredible and it’s got a lot to do with social media. You’ve basically got a very high-speed processing computer in your pocket. If you want to know about something, all you’ve got to do is search for it. It’s the accessibility that social media has created for people in the last decade and that kind of connection that people have in checking their own opinions and being able to evaluate them and change them. That’s probably something that separates us from earlier generations. I hope to god that when we all hit 30 and 40 and become middle-aged losers that we don’t lose it.
I want to see change that makes future generations happy people. I want to see change that means I can buy a house in the future and means that I won’t have to worry about student debt. And I want it to come within the next parliamentary term. The fact that I’m too young to vote for it is a disgrace. It’s abominable and I want that to change too. I’m legally old enough to pay tax. I’m legally old enough to have sex with an MP, and I can’t vote. No, no, no.
My generation is waking up and realising that there are alternatives and there are things we can do to change and make people’s lives better. Homelessness does not have to be rampant in every major city that you go to. We can change things and all you have to do is vote.
We’re the gayest, most socialist, most aspirant for change generation that this planet has ever seen. We are millennials 2.0 and we are coming to fucking get you.