By Juniperangelica Loving, GSA Network Co-Executive Director

This 2024 election year, one of the most important things we can fight for is our right to learn—our right to grow, to transform, to become, and to express our mind’s potential—this collective birthright is fundamental. It’s the pursuit in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Some students get to chase their dreams, others are chased down. While the education system has been mainly used to produce workers and profit for the rich, schools can and must be much more. Our public schools should help each generation of students learn from the past and truly shape their future, not just the children with legacy families. Sharing our schools is another way of sharing our democracy. Both are on the ballot.

Trans, queer, and Two-Spirit youth often are familiar with the connection between the freedom to learn about themselves and the doors that open up or stay closed. TQ2S+ students, generation after generation, have named these traps and demanded a fair and comprehensive education that sets them up for life. Point Six of the National Trans Youth (TRUTH) Nine-Point Platform reads: We call for comprehensive education that reflects our needs and histories. This youth-led platform was written in 2018 and continues to underline the foresight capabilities of students in real-world problem-solving. Each year, GSA Network’s Gender Justice Leadership Programs have committed to centering each point, and this year’s focus resonates just as strongly.

Share our Schools

“Knowledge is power.” 

Knowledge (

is (creates..makes possible..becomes) 

power. (choice..self-determination..freedom) 

Early education, or lack thereof, has an incredible impact on all individuals and therefore communities. For the public school students and alumni in the US, it’s common to wish that our education had done a better job equipping us for life. Schools leave most of us counting down the days until we become workers instead of teaching us how to reach for our potential as lifelong-learners. 

Part of the reason American schools feel unsatisfactory is that what they teach remains incomplete. Originally meant to teach religious and political figureheads-in-training, other youth were systemically kept illiterate for centuries. The classroom was used to teach future powerful few, while fields and factories held onto the colonized worker’s children. It has been fifty years since the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, and not enough has changed the inequity of opportunities. Our public education system today is still mostly focused on maintaining the divide between the elite and workers, with a few spots for “exceptional cases.”

Education is gatekept in order to control social consciousness. Since controlling the minds of others isn’t yet possible, other tactics are used to control the bodies of historically-oppressed communities and their opportunity to learn. We see this happening today with curriculum bans, student pushout, common core standard setting, etc. Standard setting is a common practice in Western scholarship, which draws familiar binaries, insider/outsider, objective/subjective, normal/queer, modern/backwards. The American Dream makes this illusion taste complete and sweet, like apple pie. What’s missing often is a wider perspective and full story, like the fact that apple pies aren’t American.

Share our Democracy

Like education, democracy makes new futures possible. The evolution of communities, regions, and our entire species depends on how well we can realize our interconnectedness. Once we come to know that our ME-experiences are very much part of a bigger WE-experiences, then we have the choice to learn from each other or go to war. (This is where the United States trips up.)

As long as our democracy is led by paid-off elected officials, capitalist ideals like individualism and zero-sum thinking dominate; this aspect of American culture has been venomous to the ancestral and indigenous wisdom cultivated by communities of color throughout Turtle Islands’ history. The American settler mindset has been focused on stripping this land of everything that can be consumed and sold and consumed and sold. Urban areas have distanced many of us from productions like food and waste, while online marketplaces have promised almost everything is deliverable, for a fee. 

When we move through this world as disconnected people, we feel the impacts of isolation in our body. We begin to try to get away from this feeling by cutting ourselves further away from our people. For trans, queer, two-spirit youth, unwelcoming homes, schools, communities, politicians, leave us thinking we’re truly alone, and sometimes actually alone.

Liberated, comprehensive education is a world-building practice.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

― James Baldwin

I followed the political science path in college because I needed to study the systems that kept locking up my family and taking our kids (dreams) away. In these classes, America is the center of the world (universe). The closer I got to understanding our country’s power structures, the more confused I became as to how I could use this information to keep my family free from state custody. Nothing these classes could teach me were concerned with an America that saw my people as more than a pre-determinded threat.

I’m grateful that the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley had more to add to this story building in my younger mind. My first few Chicano studies courses re-explained so much of the history that I thought I had learned about where I come from in Southern California. I learned about the ways communities of color historically built solidarity as they fought similar and connected oppressions, sharing different technologies like food, music, art, movement, and story.

I am also grateful that these classes only reconfirmed what I’d already learned in the streets: all peoples are brilliant when given the opportunity and light to shine.