How different would our society be if we treated each other with a little more kindness? This is the main thought and driving force behind writer and activist Adam Eli’s first book and queer manifesto, The New Queer Conscience. A text that has been released as part of the Pocket Change Collection Series by Penguin House, which features books on teen and young adult issues.
Even though he is based in New York City, Adam has become, thanks to his social media presence, one of the most influential and important queer voices of our generation. He’s founded Voices4, a non-violent activist group committed to advancing global queer liberation, and he utilises his online platforms to educate, inspire and call to action young people on pressing social issues affecting queer youth around the world. As a result, he has created a real sense of global queer community which is glued together by his reworking of Martin Luther Kings Jr.’s phrase: Queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere.
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To anyone who might not know who you are, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I am a writer and community organizer based in New York City. My first book, The New Queer Conscience, was released by Penguin Teen on June 2nd. I’m also the founder of the international queer activist group Voices4. I'm the editor-in-chief of a zine produced by Chime for Change and Gucci called Chime Zine.
Tell us a bit about your background in activism.
I grew up with grandparents and a mother who are activists and so I became engaged in activism during high school. What really brought me into queer activism was the Pulse Orlando attack that happened in 2016.
How have your own experiences as being gay and Jewish influenced your work?
That’s a great question and something that you'll definitely have to read more about in the book. I will say that when we hear stories about queer folks growing up religious, we usually hear about how difficult life was because their faith was in some way unaccepting. And that is true. And those stories are important, and that did happen to me. However, the story that I want to tell now is about how now that I'm older, I firmly believe that my queer activism is enriched by my Jewish roots and where I came from.
Do you have any role models or people that have inspired you in a way?
One of my role models is Troye Sivan. I think that he is an extraordinary person and I love that he creates space for young people to be queer in a way that didn’t really exist when I was growing up. I'm also incredibly inspired by two young activists in New York named Joel Rivera and Qween Jean. They run a protest at 5.00 pm every single Thursday outside Stonewall for Black queer lives and Black trans lives.
My other big inspiration is someone who really gave me permission to be queer and Jewish, and was an example to me that we could be successful. His name is Howard Ashman, and he wrote the music for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast before dying of AIDS. Disney just released a documentary about him if you want to check it out.
You are one of the founders of Voices4. What actions are you guys doing now?
The principle of Voices4 is that queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere. So if you're queer and you believe that you have an obligation to show up for other queer people, Voices4 is certainly a place for you. And right now, we have chapters in New York, London, and Berlin, and we have a youth chapter as well.
Something that just happened the other day that I'm so proud of is that Voices4 Berlin went to Frankfurt, which is right on the border with Poland. Right now, the queer community in Poland is under such dire attack. They had a pride march where they marched from Slubice, Poland, across the river to Frankfurt. When we say queer solidarity is international and we say queer solidarity smashes borders, that’s what we mean! It was incredible to watch a group of people literally host an international pride.
What is social media's role in activism in your opinion?
Social media plays an integral role in contemporary activism and life. Social movements are about taking a message and explaining it clearly to a variety of people and activating them to action. And we've seen social media do that a billion times over.
But most importantly, right now, the Black Lives Matter movement, part of the reason it's happening is because of those graphic videos, because white people don’t understand or don't want to believe the violence. When everyone was locked up in their homes in the United States and had this intimate relationship with their screen, and then on screen comes this violent killing of a Black man, they couldn’t ignore it. The police are not out there releasing videos, it's people taking videos and putting them on social media that helped to start this movement. So yes, social media can be performative, but it is also a catalyst to change the world. And we need to accept that and move forward.
How does your queer activism align with the Black Lives Matter movement?
Thank you for asking this question. There are many reasons. At its core, the queer rights movement is about human rights. Everyone, everywhere – especially those concerned with human rights – must support the Black Lives Matter movement. It should go without saying that the state murdering people in cold blood, with impunity, is a deep violation of human rights.
The second reason queer people must show up for Black Lives Matter is, simply put, there are many Black queer people! The core principle of my work is that queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere. This means that queer people should show up for each other across identity, cultural, racial and geographic lines.
It is also important to mention that Black queer folks face disproportionate discrimination within the queer and Black community. Racism exists in every corner of our society, including the queer community.
Queer Black people also face disproportionate violence at the hands of the police. It is no secret that the most marginalized members of the queer community are Black transwomen. It is also no secret that Black queer people, especially Black trans women, have a tremendous and unusual impact on the queer rights movement and queer culture in the United States. They have been our leaders culturally and politically since day one. They have done so much for us, and we must show up for them.
Furthermore, one of the principles in my book is that queer people are in solidarity with all other oppressed people. Queer people know what it is like to be marginalized, especially by the government and especially by the police. For all of these reasons and more, everyone, but especially the queer community, has an obligation to show up for the Black Lives Matter movement.
So what can people expect from your book The New Queer Conscience?
What I want people to take most from the book is the idea that you are not alone. Being queer means that you are part of something greater than yourself. That comes with a huge amount of beauty, privileges, history and wonderful things to enjoy. It also comes with responsibility. In the book, I outline a vision of the queer community and make ten suggestions on how we can get there. 
In your career in activism so far, what have been the best moments you've lived through?
The best moments have certainly been for me after actions with Voices4 and watching the success of the international Voices4 groups. Also, once Barbara Streisand reposted a video of me talking about intersex rights, so that was a pretty big moment for me.
Finally, what are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of 2020?
Seriously, I’m just taking it day by day. We have the most important election of our lifetime coming up, and right now, I am putting all my focus, time, love, and effort into making sure young people are voting and supporting my Black trans and queer friends as they continue to lead us in showing up for Black queer lives.
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