The kids are all right

For updates on protests against Proposition 8, go to

Knocking young folks has been a pastime of the middle-aged for, well, generations. But call ’em what you will—Generation Next, the hipster brigade, slacker babies, the barista boomers—it’s the under-30 crowd providing the energy, the organization and the bodies for the anti-Proposition 8 protests.

Seven 20-somethings with an e-mail list and a Facebook page put together a demonstration and rally at the Capitol on November 8 with the largest turnout since the anti-war rally in 2003. Elana Metz told me that she and her friends had founded their organization, Californians Against Prop. 8, the morning after the election.

My wife’s favorite barista, Matt, has been meeting his friends at 15th and K streets every evening since November 5. With or without a permit, using homemade signs, they spend a couple of hours on well-traveled streets near the Capitol making sure that people know that Prop. 8 is “unfair and wrong.”

And Jovi Radtke and Jade Baranski, both in their early 20s, put together a group of about 100 young people to march silently through the streets of downtown and Midtown from midnight to dawn on November 13. They wrapped it up with a piece of guerrilla theater-slash-performance art depicting the battle over Prop. 8.

It’s the sort of persistence that I can admire, combined with the youthful energy that I remember with envy.

There was no way I could join them for the march, even if I’d had time to take a nap in preparation. Midnight to 4:30 a.m.? I’m pushing 50 now, and all-nighters are a distant memory of my undergrad days, so instead, I set my alarm for 4 a.m. and met the marchers on the west steps of the capitol in the bone-cold pre-dawn.

Based on the energy, commitment and passion I saw, all I can say is that my generation raised their kids right.

A friend’s daughter took him along to one of the rallies against Prop. 8’s passage. She’s neither gay nor old enough to vote, but she and all her friends are in the fight for equality. She told her father that this was her generation’s civil-rights issue, and she didn’t want to have to tell her children that she hadn’t done her part for full equality.

I must confess a wee twinge of sadness at the way the kids are taking over, if only because it’s proof positive that those of us in the first wave of gay-rights activism are passing from the scene. But, along with the other instances I’ve seen of youth, both gay and straight, standing up and saying a resounding “No!” to discrimination, I’m mostly grateful.

I’m also optimistic. This generation doesn’t make the distinctions mine did. Gay, straight, bi, whatever—they really don’t seem to care about the labels all that much. And race seems less and less an issue—not irrelevant, exactly, but more an interesting rather than a defining difference. The vibe is definitely more “we’re all in this together” than “me, gimme, mine.”

Baranski told me it was her generation’s turn to make the sacrifices. At 23, she’s got the energy for it.

I’ll have her back. But I’ll need nap breaks.