Audri, 15, Laurel, MS
I’d always been that weird kid in class who no one really liked that much. I was called He-she, It, Dyke, Transvestite, Sir. This is from people I went to school with since kindergarten. I got pushed up against a wall in eighth grade by a girl I’d known since third grade.
From the time I was in school until my mom pulled me out to be home-schooled, I was really, really, really angry. I acted stupid. After I left school I started to calm down more, and was happier. Less punching holes in walls and throwing hissy fits about everything. I didn’t have to deal with people calling me names. I felt more free.
One morning about two years ago my mom tried to wake me up to go to school and I refused to go. And she’s like, “If you don’t go you’re grounded, blah blah blah.” I told her, “You don’t know what it’s like to go to that hell every day.” Every time I went to the bathroom someone was calling me a man or tormenting me.
My mom went to the school and called me back 30 minutes later. She said, “Well, you’re not going there anymore.” I was living with my dad before, and I don’t think he realized the extent of the bullying. He basically laughed at me and said, “You’re gonna deal with high school like everyone else.” My mom realized a little bit more.
I came out at, like, 12 years old — first as bisexual. I thought I liked guys a little bit but I really did like girls a whole lot. I came out to my mom before I came out to everyone at school. I was like, “I have something to tell you,” and I couldn’t get it out. And she said, “You’re not sexually active, are you?” And I’m like, “God, no. I’m kind of bisexual.” She’s like, “You’re 12. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Go back to sleep.” But now my mom is a PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) mom and has rainbow stickers all over her car.
And I was kind of scared to tell my dad. But he was like, “Whatever tricks your trigger. Just don’t be tricking it too early.” Then we’d be checking out girls at Wal-Mart. My dad died last year, so he didn’t get to see all of the activism I’m doing and what I’ve accomplished.
When I came out, I dated all these girls and maybe two guys. Being the only gay person out in school, girls would come up to me and say, “So I’m gay.” Even if I was just friends with someone and walked them to their locker, there’d be a rumor they were gay.
The girls I dated weren’t out, and they were very feminine. I dated a cop’s daughter and the youth group leader’s daughter. That was when I was in school. I was kind of a little player, confident and cocky.
The year after I left, a lot of girls at my school came out. They didn’t really get teased because they dressed feminine. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with a girl who dresses like a guy. I know I’m a female, I just look like a guy. I know I’m not transgender, and that’s what people around here don’t understand.
I got involved with gay activism last year. I watched the TV network LOGO a lot and I saw a movie, I can’t remember what it was about, but they mentioned PFLAG in it. And I was like, “I wonder if that’s real?” So I went and Googled it and I found a chapter in Laurel. Then, at the second meeting at PFLAG, the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition came. I wanted to get involved more and help people not have to go through what I went through. I want other kids to be able to go to football games and pep rallies and have the high school experience.
I’ve gotten to go around Mississippi and speak to people. I’m 15 years old and talking to college kids, and I’m like, “This is the problem and here’s how we’re gonna fix it.” It made me grow more and learn.
There are some things I missed out on by being home-schooled. Me and my friends drifted apart a little bit. I did think about going back but I don’t regret being taken out of school. I’ve done so much at 15.
I want to start college next year so I can get out of this stupid town, which I can’t stand. I’m ready to get started and get on with the rest of my life. And this is gonna sound bad, but it kind of warms my heart that all these people who picked on me are idiots who are barely passing. They’ll be starting 11th grade and I’ll be a freshman in college.
I want to stay in Mississippi for college. There’s gay flight in Mississippi because everyone thinks it’s so horrible, so they leave. And nothing ever changes when all the gay people leave. Conservative people will never be used to a butch lesbian holding another girl’s hand, or two guys holding hands, if they don’t see it. There’s lots of work that needs to be done and it really makes me happy to get to do it.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Laurel, MS, 2010
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Anna, 19, Tuscaloosa, AL
When I was little I wanted to be a boy, and I would call myself Sam. I’d go to Sunday school and people would be like, “Is that a little boy or a little girl?” My mom would be like, “Why does it matter?”
My older sister Genny told me, “Mom and Dad didn’t think you’d be a lesbian. They thought you were going to be transgender.”
As I got older I realized I was comfortable being a female. While researching the gay community, I realized what I was feeling was the butchness of being a lesbian. I like short hair and hate dresses. It’s more of a masculine appearance than a masculine action. If I’m anything, I’m a soft butch. It’s more common here for lesbians to be more feminine. I don’t know if it’s societal or what.
I never try to do anything just to be weird or individual, but people have come up to me and told me I’m brave for dying my hair. I’m like, “Soldiers are brave. Firefighters are brave. I just dye my hair funny colors.” But so many people are scared to do strange things with their appearances.
I started dyeing my hair when I went to high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (AFSA). I felt so pent up at middle school. It was all a football culture, and everyone was wearing Abercrombie. It was like the University of Alabama but it didn’t have the small, artsy community to be part of.
I had wanted to be out in middle school, but I was scared because when my girlfriend Brittany first came out teachers had to walk her to class. Brittany and I dated for, like, a month, but I wanted to keep it a secret. I started hearing rumors about us, got ticked about it and broke up with her.
But my high school was such an open place it was easy to be out. You were seen as uncool if you were discriminatory to gay people or if you were really religious. Anything seen as cool in Alabama is seen as weird at ASFA. It was awesome.
When I started high school, I was 14 and shouting that I was a lesbian from the rooftop. I became the big lesbian on campus and the big activist. I helped found the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and started my school’s participation in National Day of Silence.
I realized I was gay when I was in fourth grade. I had seen a music video for the band t.A.T.u. I looked them up on the Internet. It was the first time I had seen the word “lesbian.” Then I went to a Girl Scout sleepover at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and I had t.A.T.u. written on my hand because I thought writing on my knuckles was really cool. This girl said she really liked them. Then I started staring at her all night. I realized, “I don’t just want to be friends with her. I think I have a crush on her. I think I’m gay.” People say that t.A.T.u. are fake lesbians, but hey, they helped a lot of people!
I came out to my parents and my sister when I was 13, and they have been incredibly supportive. My mom is very active in the community, and she went to Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) meetings. My dad wants to be more of an activist than me. He goes off on anyone who says anything anti-gay. My parents are liberal for Alabama. They met on a Democratic political campaign.
I’m part of the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition, so when I came to the University of Alabama everyone kind of expected me to take a leadership role. And I’m like, “I just got here. Chill.” But I found gay people very quickly. I marched in the homecoming parade with the gay group, Spectrum. We were holding hands so we wouldn’t get separated, and someone wrote a letter to the school paper saying, “I’m a fan of free speech but I don’t want to see guys kissing and holding hands.” And no one was kissing! You can’t kiss and walk at the same time.
But the environment here is surprisingly alright. I haven’t walked around holding a girl’s hand yet, but I’ve had my “Legalize Gay” shirt on. I know there are homophobes because I hear about them, but I think it’s a generally accepting campus.
I’m excited to be here and take courses that will help me have a career in zoo education. My mom forced me to volunteer somewhere in high school since I spent all summer watching TV. My friend volunteered at the zoo, then quit, and I ended up volunteering there for five years. I love pretty much any animal. Except sharks.
When I was in high school, usually when I was with a large group of people my age, we were there to talk about diversity. It was nice that at the zoo, instead of talking about how different we are and how much we loved each other, we were there to talk about the animals.
So many people in my senior class of high school had this drive to get out of Alabama. But I feel like if all the liberal-minded people leave, it’s a haven for bigotry. But I don’t know if I’ll stay in-state after I graduate from college. I want to work in zoo education, and when it comes down to what I want to do, the Montgomery or Birmingham zoos are my only options. Surprisingly, my dream zoo is in San Francisco.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Tuscaloosa, AL, 2010
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Sarah Covers Dyke March: NYC PRIDE
Dyke March, NYC Pride, June 25, 2012
New York, NY
by Sarah Nakano, Photo by Cara Howe
This weekend was a whirlwind! This was my first time in New York during Pride Month so there was a lot of new experiences for me– most notably the 20th Annual NYC Dyke March on Saturday, June 23rd. As a volunteer marshal, my job was to basically just to help block traffic, make sure the march went as planned, cheer people on, high-five people, etc. I had been going to planning meetings occasionally for the past couple months in preparation for Saturday. We marched from Bryant Park, near the New York Public Library to the fountain in Washington Square Park. Overall the march went really well with no obstacles, issues with the police, or fights. Technically the march is a protest without a permit, so it’s illegal and an arrestable action. However, the march has been happening for 20 years now so it’s really become a historic event. The police that I encountered were all pretty supportive and understanding.
At the core of the Dyke March mentality is the idea of protest – against discrimination, harassment, violence, and inequality in various settings: schools, workplaces, family, social, in the streets, etc. It is a declaration of our right to exist, to own the street, to feel liberated and to be oneself in an environment of inclusivity and community. It’s the day that the minority seizes the center. Gabrielle Korn, who is on the planning committee said to the Huffington Post, “It’s important for dykes to claim space and to take up as much space and be as loud and as visible as possible. I think you have to be as public about what you’re fighting for as you can be.” You can read more of what she said here.
My experience of marching was incredibly powerful and surprisingly emotional.This time last year I was living in the Midwest (where I grew up), and on Saturday I was surrounded by 20,000 women taking over Fifth Avenue– what? If you didn’t come march with // support from the side this year, be sure to come next year!
Exciting News For 2012!
We are thrilled to officially announce our partnership with the Brooklyn Museum in presenting a Teen Night Event in conjunction with the HIDE/SEEK exhibit currently on display! The event will be FREE to all LGBTQ Teens & Allies and will include a rad DJ (to be announced), a photo booth (presented by yours truly), voguing lessons, refreshments, gallery activities and much more! We’ll be posting all updates here as the event draws closer, but in the mean time, GET EXCITED, TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND GO WORK ON YOUR DANCE MOVES.
Thanks to Steph Peller for her (as always) great designs!
Kat, 17, Brooklyn, NY
I love me some comedy. I’ve always loved watching comedy, but I didn’t discover how much I love performing it until I went to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. My very first experience with long-form improv was a show called Death By Roo-Roo: Your F’d Up Family. It was really screwed up and morbid. I was like, “Sign me up for a class!” When I started taking classes, I became funnier, more quick-witted, but most importantly, more confident. I finally had an outlet in which I could truly be myself.
I definitely want to go into comedic acting. I’ve wanted to be an actress since I was five years old. If we pretend that my GPA hasn’t been completely screwed over by my not being able to go to school most of this year, I’d like to major in drama in college.
I’ve missed so much school that I have to make up four months of work over the summer. I was in an acute psychiatric hospital — in layman’s terms, the wacky shack. I have major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. I’ve attempted suicide before. This time I knew I didn’t want to die, but I was just in so much pain that I couldn’t find any other way to escape. I was in danger and didn’t want to hurt the people around me, so I checked myself in. Much of it is chemical imbalance rather than environmental. Actually, none of my mental issues come from the fact that I’m queer, so maybe that’s a somewhat screwed-up sign of progress? I’m very comfortable with my sexuality.
Parts of my anxiety were exacerbated by some religious indoctrination that I underwent when I was young. Religion comforted me and made me feel a little better, even though it was harmful in the long term. As I grew older, I realized that I cared more about truth than I did about comfort. My faith slowly began to fade as I learned more and more about the real world. Eventually I realized that I was an agnostic atheist. Some people get confused when I say that, because they assume that the terms “agnostic” and “atheist” are mutually exclusive, but they aren’t. Gnosticism deals with knowledge. Theism deals with belief. I can’t “know” that there is no god, the same way I can’t “know” that there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster. That’s why I am agnostic. But I don’t “believe” in a god. That’s why I’m an atheist.
I’m really into queer politics, too. I’ve recently become interested in gender politics as well. I call myself queer rather than lesbian or gay because not everyone I’m involved with identifies exclusively as female, if at all. Sometimes people don’t expect to hear something like that from me, because I’m very feminine. I like frilly dresses, makeup, heels and all that jazz. I love to cook, I love to look after little kids and pretty much every other stereotypically “feminine” thing. That’s me. I’m more or less comfortable in this gender role that society has assigned for me, but I know so many people who aren’t. The idea of a gender binary, sexism and cissexism just makes me want to throw up.
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.” But she’s a really good person at heart, and I love her so much. We all have our bigotries; we just need to be aware of them and try to educate ourselves as much as possible.
Aside from Staten Island, Bay Ridge is probably one of the most conservative areas of New York City. People aren’t exactly gungho about Pride. My school, however, has been absolutely awesome. In the last couple years, my friends and I organized the Day of Silence and held a bake sale to benefit the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). I’m starting a Gay-Straight Alliance, or a Q&A — Queers & Allies — as I like to call it, because I don’t want to limit the club to gay and straight people. My school has been really supportive of our activism. My school is an amazing place overall. I really don’t know where I would be without it. Of course, you’re going to find homophobia almost everywhere. In my school, though, it’s addressed. If someone gets bullied, my school does something about it.
I’m trying to change things. Right now, it’s little things like bake sales and school clubs, but I’m branching out more as I’m growing older and gaining more independence. I went to the Dyke March for the first time this year, and was really blown away. I definitely want to volunteer next year. We all have the power to change the world, even if it’s one step at a time.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Brooklyn, NY, 2012
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Ana, 18, Blauvelt, NY
In a way, I was pissed off to even have to come out. I think it’s stupid. Heterosexual people don’t have to come out as straight.
After I told my family I was gay in eighth grade, my dad didn’t talk to me for two or three years. He picked me up at school and we didn’t talk. I’d wake up and say good morning, then once in a while he’d say good morning back. But usually nothing.
I was born in Mexico and we came here when I was seven. My family’s very Catholic, but they work with a lot of gay families. I always thought they’d be fine with it. I was wrong, clearly.
When I turned 18, I started telling my dad again. My mom told him, “This is your daughter, she’s not gonna change,” and started making my dad talk to me. The only reason I told him again was my parents have a rule: No dating until you’re 18. So I told him I had a girlfriend and wanted to be honest with him.
Was Claire my first girlfriend? Bullshit. I dated people and I hooked up with people, but my parents weren’t aware of it before. They’ve always seen me as the good kid, compared to my two sisters. They think I’m a goody two-shoes.
But dating is kind of a weird word for me. I think dating is no good. I’d always been a let’s-just-have-fun kind of person until I met Claire.
I met Claire at Common Threads about a year ago. I didn’t really know who she was, and my then-really good friend A was interested in Claire, so I was helping my friend get with her. But three or four weeks after Common Threads, I met up with Claire again and started talking to her, and slowly an attraction happened.
When I asked Claire to prom, A and I ended up not being friends anymore. We’ve gotten into a lot of physical fights. My friend was a very special person to me, but I’m not exactly sad about it. You can’t get held up on things. Grudges aren’t exactly the best thing to hold. I can’t help her if she can’t get over it.
Claire’s still in high school, but that’s not weird for me. I think age is just a number. She’s been through a lot. She’s learned to grow up and be independent.
Like me, Claire’s very eco-friendly. We both care a lot about nature. She’s a vegetarian. My parents won’t allow it but when I move out, I can finally be a vegetarian.
I found a really great place in Nyack. I want to move in with friends in the summer. Nyack’s like gaytown. Very gay and hippie. I’m really excited.
I don’t think telling my parents right now that I have plans to move out would be the best idea. I wanted to go to a four-year college but my mom really wanted me to stay close because my father’s sick, so I went to Rockland Community College. I don’t think my father has a clue that I stayed home for him.
For me, family does come first. I want to go to Smith or Bard after next year, but two things are stopping me: money and needing to be close to home. Maybe if I was given a scholarship, I would go to one of those schools.
I’m going to be at RCC for another year. I was not looking forward to coming here at all, but I got involved with lots of things. I’m on student government and am president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. Now I don’t love it, but I definitely don’t hate it.
Not to brag, but I have that leadership thing. I think it’s because I grew up in a family of four women and one guy. I was always very strong-minded and open-minded. My grandmother always said that just because you’re a woman, that shouldn’t limit you in any way.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Stony Point, NY, 2011
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National Coming Out Day
Today is National Coming Out Day! National Coming Out Day was declared in 1988 in celebration of the Second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights which occurred one year earlier, in which 500,000 people marched on the capital. In honor of National Coming Out Day, We Are the Youth will be posting coming out interviews in a continuing effort to combat stigma, highlight the diversity of the LGBT community and give queer youth a space to share their stories.
The premise of National Coming Out Day is simple:
Political and social change towards freedom and equality comes from people speaking out about their support for freedom and equality, being proud of who they are, and putting names and faces to the LGBT community and the friends and allies who support that community.
Why? Because it’s harder to be a bigot or a homophobe or a bully when you know that some of your closest friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors – and some of your favorite actors, artists, athletes, musicians, politicians, and cultural leaders, as well as many of the military servicemembers defending your country…are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. (Gayapolis News)
To share your story contact: firstname.lastname@example.org