A few months ago I was informed the student led program committee of the Youth Celebrate Diersity Conference had decided to invite me to be the keynote speaker for their 2019 conference. It would be the 26th year of the conference, and over 1000 students would be attending from over 100 Colorado high schools.
I knew I could not say no to a group of thoughtful, motivated teens. Teens do not ask a transgender woman old enough to be their grandparent to speak for their conference unless they really believe in her ability to speak to their concerns. It was quite an honor to be asked, and I quickly said yes.
I am always encouraged when I see how supportive Millennials and Gen Z are of their LGBTQ peers. These young people are fierce protectors of the journey of authenticity, and they will not be stopped. Today’s youth have grown up grasping the truth that all people deserve dignity, civil rights, equity and opportunity.
The young people were extremely warm and enthusiastically responsive. I mean, if you can’t fire up a crowd of motivated teens who worked hard just to be selected to attend the conference, you shouldn’t be a public speaker. I told those gathered that everyone is called onto the hero’s journey, but few accept the call. I also said that given the hard work they had done to be at the conference, and the hard work they were going to do, I had no doubt these young people had already answered that call.
YCD has a three-pronged mission, focusing on education, empowerment and equity. In addition to attending the keynote address, students participated in two workshops, discussion groups, and meetings with their peers to plan a course of action once they returned home. The conference is one of three similar conferences in different regions of the state.
In 2018, Youth Celebrate Diversity won the Colorado Governor’s Service Award for Outstanding Nonprofit Agency. Caleb Munro, the executive director, is a graduate of Georgetown University, and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University. Caleb has a humble spirit and boundless reserves of energy. He doesn’t talk about the prestigious universities he attended. He talks about the teens with whom he works. Caleb has a heart for the celebration of diversity and he dreams big. He sees a national organization helping schools throughout the United States continue the good work that only young people will find the courage to do.
Teah Selkin and Zoe Siegal co-chaired this year’s conference. I so enjoyed my conversation with them and the dozens of other students who spoke with me afterwards. Several young women thanked me for my TEDx talk on gender equity. They have already figured out how much harder it is for women, and they are prepared to fight for gender equity. Several transgender students shared with me their deep concerns and hopes. It was an honor to listen to them.
I am often embarrassed to be a Baby Boomer. We have become such a self-serving, conservative generation. I am glad our influence is waning. Last Saturday I had hope. Gen Z has arrived, and when it comes to celebrating diversity, they will not be stopped.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of wonderful speaking engagements over the past three years, but none has meant more to me than the 26th Youth Celebrate Diversity Conference. Thank you, Caleb and student leadership team, for the invitation. It was an honor to spend the day with you..