We Are the Youth: Celebrating Queer Brooklyn is a series of portraits and interviews showcasing the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in Brooklyn, New York. The ongoing series will be available on wearetheyouth.org, and four of the profiles will be on view from July 17 – July 28, 2012 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival.
We Are the Youth: Celebrating Queer Brooklyn has been made possible through the generosity of Brooklyn Arts Council’s Local Arts Support grant, funded by the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program (NYSCA Regrant), and through a partnership with Housing Works.
When I was younger, I first identified as gay. But I’d been feeling a little bit off in my gender identity. I went to a Catholic girls school in Halifax. I wore knee socks, kilt, the whole works. When they added a separate boys school, a few girls asked if they could wear the boys uniform and they said no. So I wasn’t exposed to different gender expressions in high school, apart from my own research. I was reading some things online, like GenderFork and Original Plumbing. It’s strange being in New York now and everyone is suddenly genderqueer.
When I came out to my mom, it was a storm of awfulness. I feel like she’s slowly come around to it, though. It’s been exactly two years since I’ve come out to her, and I think she’s finally accepted it, even though she may not be happy about it. Every now and then she’ll say something sexist and passive-aggressive. For example, if we can’t fix a shelf, she’ll say “see, this is why you need a man in the house.”
I was also on an MTV reality show. It was kind of like Fame, and it was produced by Nick Lachey. I was just a background dancer, but people would notice me. I hosted a party for Cincinnati Gay Pride. I chose to wear these very bright orange stilettos and bootie shorts. I was walking in the Pride parade, and I wasn’t aware a news camera was filming me. My father was watching the news, and saw me walking in my orange stilettos. He had no knowledge prior to that of me being gay.
Sarah, 19, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
In Japan if you have tattoos, you’re in the mafia. When I saw my grandmother in Japan I had to cover mine up because she’d reject me as part of the family. I also couldn’t tell my grandmother I was gay. Having tattoos and being gay and going to art school? She’d be like, “What are you doing with your life?”
Elliott, 21, East New York, Brooklyn
I’m lucky I already had my kids before I got HIV. I became HIV-positive June 16, 2011 in Florida. It was with a real female and the condom popped. She knew she was HIV-positive but didn’t tell me. I was so angry.
Joey, 19, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Joan Rivers made an absolutely ridiculous comment that there are no gay men at Occupy Wall Street, because we care too much about how we look, or whatever. She might just be trying to be funny, but it got on my nerves a little bit. When people say things like that, sometimes I want to be like “Oh my god, shut up. I know you’re trying to be funny. But it’s incredibly disrespectful.
Isaac, 16, Coney Island, Brooklyn
Coney Island is definitely my favorite place in New York City, if not the world. I live in TriBeCa, and in the summer I try to go once or twice a month to Coney Island. It’s such a great place to spend the day. You can go on the rides, go to the side show, get food, go on bumper cars, go to the arcade. I love the arcade. I don’t go alone. That would be a little awkward. I’d just be sadly eating my hot dog alone. I go with friends.
Chase, 19, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
The tattoo on my arm is my transition tattoo. I was blossoming into the person I am becoming, so I thought of orchid flowers. Pink and blue are symbolic colors for gender. The blue flower is bigger than the pink one, because it will never go away that I was a girl, but this is who I am now.
Raciel, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
I was never on-the-street homeless. I did my research. I wasn’t going to stay at a regular men’s shelter. It’s very dangerous. I stayed at the Covenant House for 40 days. That’s when a bed opened up at Ali Forney. There’s only so many beds. There’s 4,000 homeless kids who identify as LGBT. If you don’t know about the services you’re out of luck.
Magda, 17, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
I was born in Poland, and I’ve lived in Williamsburg most of my life. There used to be nothing here but factories. I used to hate it. But now there’s so much going on, I don’t want to leave for college next year.