Last week, Tey Meadow of the Princeton Public Voices Fellowship Program published a stellar op-ed in the Huffington Post whose first line read: “Most of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth we saw on the news in 2011 were dead.” If that doesn’t pack a punch to knock you off your chair, I don’t know what does.
Tey’s piece, “Queer Children Are Dying… But Many More Are Living” calls attention both to the tragic one-dimensionality of the stories being told about LGBTQ youth in the media today, and to the scarcity of stories on the systematic discrimination of these young people. Tey cites the danger of painting a consistently dark LGBTQ reality, saying that such coverage “has begun to make it seem as if these deaths are unavoidable, even normative responses to homophobia in our culture.” She stresses how important messages of hope and solidarity are to youth who are struggling to assert their identities in a family, peer group, or culture that denigrates these assertions.
Tey’s piece demonstrates a nimble negotiation of fact and feeling. When trying to convince someone that we’re right, we’re often tempted to focus on the expert appeal of our opinions and forgo emotional engagement. But in some cases, being the most logical, credentialed, intellectually convincing voice on the page will only get you so far. Tey does a fantastic job of pairing statistics and expert opinions with poignant examples of real teenagers who are triumphing in their struggle to be stronger than the influences that seek to break them down. The result is an engaging, thoughtful, and moving piece that introduces much-needed complexity to a difficult conversation.
-Ravenna Koenig, Junior Fellow