Home Commentary Vermont Must Listen to its Youths — Before It’s Too Late

Vermont Must Listen to its Youths — Before It’s Too Late

Last March, I spoke on the Statehouse lawn for Outright Vermont. I told the people gathered that our state was facing a crisis. I told them that despite Vermont’s reputation, our trans and queer youths were still suffering. 

I explained that we are more likely to suffer from abuse and that we are more likely to self-harm and attempt suicide. I told the adults gathered that far too many of us standing behind the microphone had lost loved ones, and I asked them, people from all over the state and in so many positions of power, if they believed that they were doing enough to prevent this suffering — if they would bet the lives of their children on it. 

After my speech, many adults came up to me and told me how it had moved them and how we were being heard. But every single one of them told me the same thing. “I am doing enough,” they said, “but here’s who isn’t.” No one took accountability. No one said they could be doing more. They pointed fingers in circles until I was dizzy and had almost forgotten the very question they were responding to. 

Something needs to change. Because they were right. We are being heard. Yet still, nothing is happening. It is so easy for us to be heard and yet so difficult to be listened to. 

This is because of the common and dangerous pitfall among adults in power of believing they know what’s best for youths because they know what it was like to be young. Every single adult knows what it was like to be young. None of them know what it is like to be young today. We live in an unprecedented and rapidly changing world. It is not the same as a decade ago, let alone generations ago. 

Vermont is facing many crises, not just the one I spoke about in March. Our youths are leaving in droves. Our climate is changing, every new year a record-breaking disaster. People are going houseless and hungry. Vermont’s youths will inherit the state and with it these crises. If we are to solve the issues that will most heavily impact our youths, we need to listen to the only people who know what it is like to be young today.

Act 109 was an important recognition of this fact. The act, signed into law in 2022, created the Vermont State Youth Council to advise the governor and the general assembly on issues pertaining to young people in Vermont. In the coming years, I believe the State Youth Council can become the powerful vehicle for change that it was created to be. But for that to happen, Vermont must listen. You must listen. 

Jasper Lorien is the chair of the Vermont State Youth Council. They can be reached at jasper.lorien@vtstateyouthcouncil.org. 

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