I switched schools because of bullying. There was a lot of harassment, and people calling me a lot of names. Fag, dyke, tranny. Nobody would do much about it, even my principal. I was like, screw this, I might as well go to a different school.
There’s more LGBT-friendly people at this school. I’m the only trans kid at school. It kind of gives me a little more pressure. What people see from me they kind of expect from other trans people. At the same time, it’s pretty awesome. I feel like I have to set an example in a way.
I like to go by “Mizter.” I made it up myself. I’m more male than female, but I’m not scared to feel feminine. (more…)
In the latest guest blog post, a young teacher discusses the struggles of being gay and closeted in a rural school district. Have comments? Questions? Share them in the comments section below. Do you,too, want to guest blog? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This class is so gay.”
“We have homework this weekend? Gay!”
“Get away from me, fag!”
I’d venture to guess that on any given day, I hear at least one statement like this from one of my students. And every time something like that comes out of their mouths, I can’t help but take it just a little personally. Sure, they aren’t really directing them at me, but as a young gay man teaching at a small rural school district, they all feel like arrows trying to pierce the closet door I am still behind.
I have always wanted to teach, ever since I was really little. I can recall placing stuffed animals around me like they were students in my class, and teaching them whatever I learned at school that day. All of my part-time jobs and volunteer work have in some way related to education. And finally, this past fall, I earned my teaching certificate. What an accomplishment it was to me! Finally, the chance to pursue my passion and spread the joy of knowledge and the wonder of the world to a new generation of students. I could be the one to inspire the next great inventor, politician or everyday hero. I applied for a couple of teaching gigs, but the one I really wanted was a job at my middle school alma mater. And I was incredibly pleased to accept the job when it was offered to me. (more…)
Reading through the Daily Dot’s list of the 2012 Top Online LGBT Activists got us thinking about some other online LGBT activists that we know and love. If you haven’t already checked out these projects/artists/activists/bloggers, do it now, you can thank us later.
We’ve only listed a few of the activists we follow, there are so many more online activists, projects, artists and organizations doing incredible work around the world; which ones do you follow and who should we know about?? Feel free to leave comments/recommendations here or on our FB/twitter/tumblr.
original plumbing / amos mac
coalition for queer youth
self evident truths
the visibility project
the crunk feminist collective
i’m from driftwood
enrique torre molina
Happy to announce that We Are the Youth came in at #5 on the Daily Dot’s List of Top 10 Online LGBT Activists in 2012.
We’re thrilled and humbled to have made the list — as Diana mentioned, We Are the Youth has always been a labor of love and wouldn’t exist without the (incredible) stories shared by so many LGBT young people across the country. Big thanks to the Daily Dot and all of you for your constant feedback, encouragement and participation!
Dear readers of We Are the Youth,
I’ve just arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital of Malaysia from Singapore where I stayed for three weeks. Singapore was a shockingly different place from Australia where I stayed for two whole months. In fact, while I was expecting stricter laws, within the first two days of arriving in Singapore I already felt like I had to act differently than I was used to. Singapore is a city-state known for its rather extreme laws such as no spitting, no durians (a delicious but strong-smelling fruit) on the subway, no selling gum, no walking around your house naked, etc. But beyond law-enforced actions, I felt like people were watching my every move to make sure I followed the rules. On more than a few occasions, I was scolded by Singaporeans for small misdemeanors like not putting my spoon back on the plate at a buffet.
Despite feeling watched, I can confidently say that Singapore was the most mind-expanding country I have visited so far on my trip. Each day, I learned something about the place, the world or myself that challenged me in the best way possible. It was within such a structured and rule-regulated society that many things I hadn’t thought about before became clearer in contrast. One of those things was the highly visible religious communities and the diversity of races. Never had I been exposed to so many practicing Muslims before, and I had eye-opening conversations with women who wore the hijab who identified as feminists as well.
In terms of the queer scene, I found that just below the surface was a network of artists and activists who were doing incredible things. Thanks to the artist/activist/educator extraordinaire Tania De Rozario, who was a contact from when I interviewed her on Asian, Gay and Proud, I got to know a section of Singaporean society that was critical of their government, prolific in their art making and organizing events around queer and feminist issues. An important fact I should mention is that according to Section 377A of Singaporean law, male homosexual acts are illegal and punishable. This has been a strong propelling force behind many activist groups that are working hard to fight homophobia.
One of the main events that was happening while I was there was the Slut Walk. It’s organized predominantly by queer women, and leading up to the actual event were several events where queer artists and activists gave talks, and workshops on consent were conducted. Another organization that I got to know was Pink Dot, a Singaporean rendition of the Western Pride Parade. Unlike pride parades around the world, Pink Dot focuses on being family and straight-friendly by using famous straight Singaporeans to act as ambassadors, MC-ing the day, as well as using a cute pink mascot and encouraging everyone to wear pink to show solidarity. They gather in Hong Lim Park (which is the only place Singaporeans can all gather to “protest”) and essentially form a massive pink dot! The effect is quite something:
While more radical groups and individuals on the ground think that Pink Dot is playing things too safe and promoting homonormativity, I think that their approach is one that many Singaporeans are more willing to accept. During my stay, I also visited an incredible art show called Archiving Cane at an independent art venue, The Substation, where artist Loo Zihan created a powerful installation, which included many newspaper clippings, his recent performance “Cane” and a wall that displayed the several licenses he needed to apply for from the government. To backtrack a bit, here’s some historical context. In 1994, 12 gay men were arrested and caned for soliciting on the streets. They were arrested because 12 cops went undercover and propositioned these men. The response from the gay community was obviously of anger, but one artist Josef Ng decided to do a performance art piece in protest. He set up 12 tiles, with a block of tofu and bag of red paint on each. He then symbolically caned each piece, bursting the bag or paint and crushing the tofu. Then he turned around, snipped some of his pubic hair and added the finishing touch by sprinkling some on each piece of tofu. At the end, he asked a member of the audience for a light and he took the lit cigarette and pressed it against his skin saying “maybe, a silent protest is not enough.” The media pounced, denouncing his work as an obscenity and reporting on the state reaction, which banned him from performing ever again in Singapore as well as ending public funding for performance art for the next ten years.
Flash forward to 2012, Loo Zihan re-enacted the performance but this time with a few alterations such as shaving his pubic area, and when it came time to extinguish the cigarette, he said that he would move outside because it was illegal to smoke in the building. And for his show, he wanted to make everything as transparent as possible, by including the government and by showing every last detail of what remains of the Josef Ng story.
When Zihan and I sat down for a chat, I learned about the subtleties of how the government works its censorship. For instance, his show which had to be rated R (21+), if anyone under the age of 21 entered, the $20,000 down payment would be taken away. In the 90s, when punk rock was becoming popular, they banned moshing, requiring show organizers to pay $2000 in the event that someone was caught moshing. The result of course was that the punk rock scene died down. Who would pay $2000 to put on a show that was expected to produce just a few hundred dollars?
There are many more stories and people who are doing amazing things to expose such facts in Singapore. If you’re interested in seeing all of the people I interacted with, you can check out the links under Singapore on the following page:
Last but not least, I completed my Australia zine while I was in Singapore. Check it out:
It’s been another wonderful year for We Are the Youth! We met and profiled more amazing LGBT young people, had the chance to partner with the Brooklyn Museum and host a Teen Night in conjunction with the HIDE/SEEK exhibit, we were awarded BAC’s Local Arts Support Grant, had a great interview with WDFH, participated in the Fresh Fruit Festival, expanded to the Midwest, started our partnership with the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, and had the opportunity to show our work at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Not bad.
A BIG, Special Thank You to all our friends, families, youth participants, our awesome intern Sarah, Hot Sundae, United Action for Youth, Shades of Yellow, The Brooklyn Community Pride Center, The Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, The Gay Club of MCAD, the Iowa Pride Network, WDFH, BAC, Clifford Chance, the QNYN, the Coalition for Queer Youth, guest bloggers, twitter/tumblr followers and all project supporters (whew).
Stay tuned for new work and more We Are the Youth excitement in 2013! And, if you’re feeling generous at the start of this new year, support We Are the Youth with a tax-deductible donation.
Here’s a quick look back at some 2012 highlights:
We Are the Youth on display at Leslie Lohman
What’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through? I know the answer to this. I was actually diagnosed with anorexia in 2007, a while ago. It was kind of like OCD. It started out as a diet and I just couldn’t stop because I kind of go all-out on things. It goes along with how I get fixations with cartoons; how I used to obsessively redraw Bart Simpson.
It was something where I set up a meal plan for myself that was really low on any intake, and I couldn’t break from it. I’m at a healthy weight now, and have a meal plan set up by a dietician, but it’s something I still deal with every single day. I think very obsessively about what I eat. I think it’s that I don’t trust myself.
The anorexia initiated me going to therapy every month, and I think the therapy grounded me to be a successful person. I really like the way I developed and I feel like I maybe wouldn’t have gotten here if I didn’t try to solve my problems in therapy. It helped me with my problems of religion and cynicism about the world.
I kind of consider myself a born-again-atheist. I’m kind of a fake pseudo-Buddhist despite my materialistic tendencies. I was raised Lutheran, but through my own thought found my way out of it. It was a difficult time; to feel like I was losing a part of myself. I couldn’t believe in God if I even tried anymore. It disturbed me, because something that made me feel like everything was going to be okay was gone. When I was more religious I used to feel more connected to things. I feel disconnected from it now. But that gives me comfort that I can live independently as an individual. (more…)
I’m the youngest of six kids and all my other siblings graduated from school in Colfax, but it was not the academic atmosphere I wanted to be in. In seventh grade, we had kids looking up porn and just goofing around while the teachers did nothing. So my mother allowed me to go to a private school, Pella Christian. My first impression was that it was absolutely wonderful because kids were held accountable for their actions, and I thought it was a really good learning environment.
Unfortunately, due to the religious aspects, it was extremely hateful. I was raised Catholic and the school was Protestant Reform, and I faced a lot of heat for that alone. They said I was polytheistic or my beliefs were weird. There were also instances where we had sermons that were extremely anti-gay. I remember sinking down in my chair and being so ashamed because that was when I was starting to come to accept myself as a lesbian.
I was out to my mom and online, but not to anyone in person, per se. And that was really difficult because I felt extremely alone. During chapel my freshman year, all my friends would be singing these hymns of joy and I would just be weeping. I played it off like I was so emotionally moved by God’s words, but really I was devastated because of them. (more…)
My dad and I weren’t super-close, so I didn’t feel I had to come out to him. But then September of last year I went to donate blood for the Red Cross, and I answered truthfully, and wasn’t able to donate blood. I remembering thinking, That’s a thing? It was the first time I felt discriminated against because of my sexuality.
I was so mad, and I posted a status about it on Facebook. My dad saw it, and he called me the next day. He was really hurt I hadn’t told him. He actually cried that night. I had dinner with him and my sister, who always knew. My dad said he wanted to change the fact that we weren’t close. The air between us is a lot different now.
My coming out story to my mom is kind of funny. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I was sitting upstairs in my pajamas watching What Not to Wear and my mom comes upstairs and had clearly had a little wine, and a margarita or two. (more…)
Miyuki Baker, the founder of Asian, Gay and Proud is trekking around the world on The Watson Fellowship to join the movement in creating a worldwide network of queer artists. She’ll be posting updates on We Are the Youth over the next few months. You can check out her blog, heymiyuki.wordpress.com, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MiyukiBaker.
Lots has happened since I last posted from Peru. After my stay in Cusco (close to Machu Picchu), I spent over 2 days in buses and in transit trying to get to Buenos Aires, Argentina where I plopped myself down for the three remaining weeks I had in South America. People told me I should visit Patagonia, the Iguazu falls and other famous spots in Argentina but you know what, I had had enough moving around in South America that it was okay for me to just stay put for a bit. My first few days in Buenos Aires were quite a surprise to me because not only was the city much larger than the other Latin American cities I had stayed in, but also because (in part, due to its size) the gay community seemed so spread out and at least on the surface, extremely commercial. Argentina was the first country in South America to legalize gay marriage, thus gay tourism in Buenos Aires has really taken off. Everywhere I looked, there were gay maps, gay bars and gay-friendly tourism. It was a bit off-putting actually, since a lot of what I was finding seemed to be unhealthily linked to profit.
When I dug a bit deeper though, I found that just an hour from Buenos Aires, in a smaller city called La Plata, was a strong counterculture lesbian culture and community. I met with the members of a feminist lesbian group called “Malas como las aranas” which means “Bad like the spiders” and they were throwing day long lesbian festivals every Sunday of the month of September! I went to one of them and performed a piece I developed in Ecuador about female masturbation (see my Ecuador zine for more info on the performance) and had a great response.
In the end, I had quite a diverse collection of submissions for my Argentina zine which you can see below:
The night before my trip to Sydney, Australia, I got to the airport early and stayed up all night drinking mate, (a classic Argentine drink), reflecting on the four months I had just experienced in South America and how I was about to return to an English-speaking country with all of the “comforts” I was used to back in the US. I had many difficult moments in South America where things were stolen or when I felt like I had to always be on guard as I was in transit, but I was given many wonderful opportunities to develop my art in really safe and supportive queer communities as well. There is such a wealth of activism happening in each country I visited in South America and I’m counting the months until my next visit. (more…)
I’m very into Marilyn Monroe. Yes, she was successful, but she had a lot of brokenness to her. I feel like I just put on a good face, but I’m not okay sometimes. So I kind of click with her in that way. Before I went to Boys Town, I’d take pills all the time. I could stop whenever I wanted, but I didn’t want to stop. She had that problem too.
I went to Boys Town because I was going through a lot of stuff. I wasn’t going to school, so that got me a truancy case, and then I got in a fight, so I got a couple of assault tickets. The fight was mostly my fault. I got my anger out, but she ended up winning because I got put on probation.
After the fight, my school had an evaluation done: Should you stay with your mom, should you go to jail, or go to a group home? They ended up saying I should go to a group home. (more…)
As we get ready to publish our first Midwest profile (coming soon!), we’d like to thank our Kickstarter supporters who made the trip possible. We couldn’t have done it without you and are forever grateful! – Laurel + Diana
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