In a time where anti-LGBTQ legislation is at an all time high and bodily autonomy is on the line, exercising our power to vote is more important than ever. “Vote For Your Life: First Time Voter Surge” is a panel on civic engagement, aiming to increase voter turnout for young LGBTQ people.
In preparation for the midterm elections, GLAAD’s Jose Useche was joined by three of GLAAD’s 20 Under 20 class of 2022. These young, LGBTQ experts include Gen-Z For Change Founder Aidan Kohn-Murphy, LGBTQ activist, writer, and designer Javier Gomez, and Executive Director of the Social Equity and Education Initiative Zander Moricz.
Kohn-Murphy kicks off the discussion reminding voters what issues need to be at the forefront of their minds this election season. In addition to reproductive justice, Kohn-Murphy says, “With House Republicans just introducing a national “Don’t Say Gay” bill, it is very clear that queer rights are also a big part of what’s on the ballot this November.”
Gomez goes as far to say that “Democracy is basically on the ballot this year.”
Moricz makes it a point to remind viewers that we can’t let these hardships make us lose hope. “We always use points of tragedy and loss of rights and of life as how we fuel our movements and pain is a great energizer, but it’s not sustainable… we need to demand better quality of life for ourselves and others,” he says.
Kohn-Murphy, who has dedicated his career to getting young people civically engaged, brings up the point that voting isn’t the only power we hold. “It’s important to view your vote as just one tool that you have in your civic engagement toolkit.” He explains that “Your vote is additive and should happen simultaneously alongside protests, and organizing, and lobbying members of congress to codify Roe Vs. Wade.”
Gomez reminds us that the politicians and supporters behind these “Don’t Say Gay” bills are just “bullies.” He points out that queer people have endured fights like this before. “We are not going anywhere, no matter how much you try to suppress us.”
“The only reason queer students are being targeted is because queer students hold the key to tearing down this society.” Moricz adds. “They are living freely and challenging everything, and that is intimidating to the people who benefit from control.”
This is why it is so important to get out there and vote, to use the voices the opposition is trying so hard to suppress. But what about those of us who are too young to vote?
Fortunately, Aidan Kohn-Murphy’s non-profit has made him an expert on that topic. “Phone banking, door knocking, volunteering for local campaigns and in local elections, being a poll worker,” are a few ways he suggests of getting involved. But most importantly, young people need to be “relational organizing in terms of talking to your friends and family who are able to vote.”
Moricz’s organization, Social Equity and Education Initiative works directly with young people and gives them ways to get involved in their communities. “We want to connect you to places where you can make a difference.” He also suggests young people “Look at the problems you understand and come up with solutions. No one in the world is going to understand how to fix the problems in your community better than you.”
The mindset that “my vote doesn’t matter” is something that prevents a lot of young people from going out and voting. To that Kohn-Murphy says, “If your vote doesn’t matter then they wouldn’t be trying so hard to restrict it.” He wraps the discussion up with a call to action, “If you have not made your plan to vote yet, hearing this right now is your call to do so.”