Ten’s Teen Activists: On International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, We Present Matt Kashman
You can tell a lot about a person by what’s plastered on their bedroom wall, what sits on their bedside table or even by what they leave lying around on their floor. For a teenager, their bedroom is an extension of who they are – or who they want to be. Often with a ‘Keep Out’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign scribbled on their door, teens can lock themselves away from the outside world within their own personal sanctuary, where their every need is catered for. For Issue 64, we commissioned the photographer Jermaine Francis to explore these mini universes. The inspiration was Adrienne Salinger’s ‘In My Room’, a seminal photo book from 1995 that journeyed though a selection of teen bedrooms in upstate New York. Salinger found her subjects in shopping malls and restaurants, as well as through friends, resulting in a perfectly imperfect chorus of adolescent youth to photograph in their as-yet-uncharted territories. The only rule in place before Salinger’s arrival was that the teens were not to tidy their rooms, no matter how messy they were.
Comparing then to now, the sentiment remains that no two of these personal palaces look-alike, although for today’s teens, bedrooms are no longer dedicated to their favourite boyband member or celebrity crush. All over the country, the function of a teenager’s bedroom has evolved. Within their four walls, the modern-day teen is able to plot how they will make tomorrow brighter, both for themselves and the marginalised groups that surround them. From the climate-change warriors and LGBTQI+ activists, through to young migrants battling for their right to belong, teenagers simply can no longer wait for the government to assuage their fears for the future. In celebration of such titans, we trekked up and down the country to the bedrooms of 10 teens who are taking matters into their own hands. On International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we present Matt Kashman from London.
“I’m white. I’m cis. I’m male. If I don’t use this privilege to campaign for those who have less than me at the more vulnerable queer intersections, I might as well be robbing them of their rights.” This is the mantra of Matt Kashman, a 17-year-old LGBTQIA+ activist from Enfield, North London. Kashman first felt like an activist when attending his first rally organised by Voices 4 London, a direct-action queer-advocacy group, for which he is currently a social officer. Being based in London comes as an advantage in Kashman’s activist work. “There’s so much opportunity to get involved in activism,” he says. “There’s about a march a week and always something to be helping with.”
When he’s not studying for his A levels, or volunteering for Voices 4 or the Jewish youth movement Noam, Kashman finds himself residing in his bedroom – a place to kick back, relax and channel his inner Jimi Hendrix. “I use my room mostly to destress. That might be by playing guitar, reading books or dancing about, but it’s really a safe space for me to chill,” he says. With a rainbow flag spread out on his bed and the Call Me By Your Name sequel, Find Me, on his bedside table, Kashman chooses to wear his heart on his sleeve and continues to fight for queer rights with the utmost pride.
What cause do you advocate for?
“Mostly LGBTQIA+ rights with Voices 4 London, but I’ll go on marches for anything I believe in.”
What’s your favourite thing in your bedroom?
“I’ve got two guitars on the wall – one acoustic and one electric – that I really love.”
Do you make your bed every morning?
“I try to! But when you’re late for school and struggling to get out the door, sometimes it’s impossible.”
What can young people do to make the world a better place?
“I think it’s really easy for young people to feel disenfranchised from the world and politics, and we need to realise that our voice matters. What the youth think is so important. They need to tell friends. Tell family. Tell politicians. Use our voices to engage people with what we’re passionate about in the world.”
What do you want to see change about the world in 2020?
“I want politicians to start listening to young people. Our lives and our opinions are important enough not to be trampled on by the older majority. The age of social media has us better informed than ever, and it’s time that the people in power acknowledged that.”
Which fellow activists inspire you and why?
“Prishita, one of the trustees at Voices 4 London, is one of the most driven and dedicated people I’ve ever met. She’s so powerful for the movement but also just manages to be a lovely person at the same time.”
What activism work are you most proud of?
“The community that we’ve created at Voices 4 London is full of diverse and special queer people, and to have worked on creating a social space for that to happen is really beautiful to me.”
What’s the most comfortable pair of shoes to protest in?
“I have this old, worn-out pair of Air Max 97s, which are the ugliest things but so, so comfy.”
Portrait by Jermaine Francis. Taken from Issue 64 – BEST, FOOT, FORWARD – which is on newsstands now.