What do you do when you are 12 years old and you want to help change the world? You have a slumber party! That is exactly what my sixth-grade friends Alika, Katie, Kat, and I did. My name is Abigail Hasting-Tharp. I am a 12-year-old from Salem, Ore. Youth today do not want to wait until we are adults for the world to be a better place. We have powerful voices and active minds. We have something valuable to contribute to the world now, not some time in the distant future. Yet we need our adult allies to believe in us and help empower us to make that difference now and not wait.
What could the purpose of our slumber party be? Alika, Katie, Kat and I want the world to know that youth think that marriage equality for all is a no-brainer! Love is love. Family is family. It is really that simple. I have two moms and two little brothers. I love them and they love me. My friends and I don't see what the big deal is about same-sex couples being married legally or having children. We feel there are real-world concerns that urgently need our attention, not the fabricated ones that those opposed to marriage equality make up.
I am excited to introduce to you #OurTurnNow, a national youth-led social media campaign that highlights the voices of youth, aged 12-18, in favor of marriage equality for all. Fueled with healthy doses of giggles, laughter, excitement, and determination at that initial brainstorming session (our slumber party), with the help of advocates from several national organizations including COLAGE, One Million Kids, the Outspoken Generation, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the Rainbow Letters, our ideas evolved to launch #OurTurnNow.
With the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality hearing happening Tuesday, we are calling for youth aged 12-18 to unite their voices in the simplest of ways -- by posting messages, selfies with friends and family, and images of support holding a sign that reads "#OurTurnNow" on social media using the hashtag #OurTurnNow. We think it is time for youth to make our voices known in the court of public opinion. The collection of posts is displayed on the campaign website OurTurnNow.org.
I want to thank several leading LGBTQ advocacy organizations, including Marriage Equality USA, COLAGE, Family Equality Council, GLAAD, GLSEN, the Personal Stories Project, and Our Family Coalition, for helping us get the word out about #OurTurnNow. A shout-out of heartfelt thanks to Brian Silva and Marriage Equality USA! Thank you for believing that youth voices are important and that we can make a difference.
My biggest advocates are my moms. I don't take their support for granted, because not every youth has support. Youth are kicked out of their family's homes or their religious communities and/or bullied for being LGBTQ. I have experienced being shunned by all the children in my class, labeled as weird for having two moms. No one would play with me or talk to me. At my school now, my friends and I interrupt bullying for any reason, including homophobia, if we hear or see it anywhere. We feel emboldened by each other's willingness to be visible about what is right, treating everyone as though they matter and are of equal worth. That's what #OurTurnNow is all about, youth being visible with our support for people who are LGBTQ and for marriage equality for all.
Youth feel there are far more important issues to worry about, like that one in five children in the U.S. live in poverty or that bullying for any reason exists. We ought to feel threatened by global warming, not by people just because they are LGBTQ or black! Let us not forget that Black Lives Matter, that basically we have yet to realize the goals set out in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. We need to rally together around issues that are unfair and privilege one category of people over another based on the mythical idea of normal. The over 1,400 civil rights and protections that accompany civil marriage ought to be available for people like my moms and for families like mine. It's #OurTurnNow! Post, post, post, and then post some more!
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world!" --Anne Frank
ABIGAIL HASTING-THARP is a 12-year-old sixth-grader living in Oregon. She loves learning, swimming, and volunteering at a local wildlife rescue center. She hopes to someday be a marine biologist. At a young age, Abby joined her two moms as an advocate for the organization Marriage Equality USA.