As the Brooklyn Museum FREE Teen Night Event for LGBTQ Teens and Allies draws closer (this Thursday, January 12!) we’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the exhibition, HIDE/SEEK, the catalyst for the Teen Night Event. Here’s some information about the groundbreaking show to get you hyped up about attending the Teen Night Event! Hope to see you all this Thursday in the Beaux Arts Court in the Brooklyn Museum!

What is HIDE/SEEK all about?
HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire American Portraiture is the first major museum exhibition to focus on themes of gender and sexuality in modern American portraiture. The exhibition brings together more than one hundred works in a wide range of media, including paintings, photographs, works on paper, film, and installation art. Featuring work by artists such as George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol, HIDE/SEEK charts the under documented role that sexual identity has played in the making of modern art, and highlights the contributions of gay and lesbian artists to American art. (Brooklyn Museum)


Joey, Age 19, Brooklyn, NY

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.”

A teacher at Pratt didn’t think there was enough of an openly queer presence at Occupy Wall Street, and we wanted to show that’s not the case. That’s why I was under the rainbow banner at Zuccotti Park last week chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going shopping!” The 99% includes everyone, including us.

Occupy Wall Street has been the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved in.I’ve always been ultra-liberal, and wanted to get more involved with activism, but there were never things going on around us. I helped with phone-banking for Obama, and I was involved in queer activism at my high school in Baltimore. My high school had a gay-straight alliance, and the Westboro Baptist Church protested us. No one knows why. They do it kind of arbitrarily. But it brought the school together. The school did a huge counter-protest. But life happened and activism didn’t feel like the priority.


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
To tell your story, email hello@wearetheyouth.org


Sara, Age 19, Ardsley, NY

When I started college last year, I only knew two people out of the 8,200 students who go to Oswego. It was good to have a clean slate, and be able to completely start over and make new friends.

In high school, a lot of people didn’t like me. I’m super-outgoing and wasn’t afraid to share my views. I’m the type of person who raised her hand so much the teacher refused to call on me. Some guys in my classes would disagree with me just to piss me off. When I did talk in class, someone would raise their hand and say “I disagree with everything Sara says!”

My freshman year of high school, two guys cornered me on the stairs and one tried to slam his backpack into me. He’d already written “Let’s snuff that psycho dyke bitch” about me on Facebook a few days earlier. The guys got detention and that was it. Then they left me alone, and I never had a problem with them again, but I still got chills every time I walked past them in the hall. (more…)

Tom, 18, Red Hook, NY

My dad passed away when I was two years old of a benign brain tumor, and after that my mom started using heroin and cocaine on and off for years. When she was high, she’d always get paranoid. She’d keep me up at weird hours of the night.

If you had seen me at school, I was always the happy guy. During the day I’d be laughing and joking, but I literally created an alternate personality for myself. Then I’d come home from school, bring my dinner upstairs and not talk to my mom. I would lock the door to my bedroom.

I don’t live with my mom anymore. I left last year after I got in a fistfight with my stepdad when he and my mom were on heroin. I called 911, and the cops came. I took the train down to my then-boyfriend’s house in Croton. The first thing I did was cry on my boyfriend’s mom’s shoulder. I stayed at his house for a while. From September to January of last year, I missed 47 days of school.

But then I moved in with my aunt in Red Hook, in Dutchess County, last year. This is the 14th time I’ve moved in my life. My boyfriend had wanted me to ask my aunt to move in with her, but I was raised never to trust her. But everything I was told was wrong about her. I knew living with my mom before was bad, but I didn’t realize how bad until I left. I needed an outside image of it. My aunt actually cares if I go to school or who I’m hanging out with. I never had that before.

Since my boyfriend and I broke up, I’ve dated lots of people. All guys. I identify as bi but lean more towards the guys. I’m more attracted to guys, but I’ve had sex with both guys and girls. I had a girlfriend and the first person I’ve ever had sex with was a girl.

When I first came out to my mom, I said “I kind of have to tell you something.” She said, “I probably can guess. You’re gay.” I said, “No, I’m bi.” My mom said she supports me if I like guys or girls. She came with me to Pride before.

I’ve been out since eighth grade, but when I came to Red Hook, the first few weeks of school I didn’t come out about being bisexual. But then I brought up the subject of LGBTQ and asked my new friends what they thought. This one kid said, “I can’t stand them. They’re all fairies.” I said, “I’m bi, and you’ve been hanging out with me the last two weeks.” After that we became friends, and now he’s slowly starting to understand that. It was top news because it’s a really small school.

Red Hook didn’t have a Gay-Straight Alliance, so my aunt encouraged me to start one. I made it my mission. This November we got it approved.

Now I’m a senior and I’m in the midst of applying to college. I would like to apply for SUNY New Paltz. I’m excited. I’m also kind of worried. With my previous school record. it’s kind of rough. With my lifestyle with my mom, I’d always push everything to the last minute.

My mom and I are on talking terms. She knows I want her to go to rehab, but she says she’s fine. I said I need her to go. Right now she’s not working. Surprisingly, she’s able to convince the government to give her disability.

I have an outlook on drugs where I don’t want to go near them. I once got high on pot and it was the worst mistake of my life. I tried and felt like I was going to become my mom.

I think my life is starting to level out. I’ve realized that I’ve had trust issues, self-esteem issues, lying issues. I want to work on stuff on my past and be aware of it, but I don’t want it to come up again.

As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Stony Point, NY, 2011
To tell your story, email hello@wearetheyouth.org

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
To tell your story, email hello@wearetheyouth.org


On November 16, We Are the Youth participant Schwalb attended PrideWorks, a conference for LGBT youth and their allies in Westchester, NY. The annual conference drew over 600 people. Here’s Schwalb’s perspective:

For all of us queers up here in Westchester, Prideworks is one of those things that you and your queer/activist friends talk about even when the event is pretty far off. In other words, “How great was the keynote this year at PrideWorks?” is sure to help spark a good conversation all the way into January. And there’s good reason! PrideWorks is a day-long conference for queer youth and their allies that provides a space for us to be together and give each other the support that we all need.

This year’s PrideWorks started out with various speakers telling us, the attendees, that we have the power to effect change in our schools and communities, and that by simply attending the conference, we’re acting as pioneers. Next up was Cheryl Wright, with a keynote address that was far from your average speech.  After playing a song or two, she invited Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN, to come up on stage and ask her questions. The questions largely centered around her coming out story and how she became involved with GLSEN, until she started to invite questions from the audience. To me, this seemed symbolic of the kind of community that I want my community, the queer community, to be: one that respects and celebrates the voices of all of its members.

Workshops throughout the day ranged from topics such as bisexuality to homeless queer youth, all providing interesting looks at the queer community, the groups it’s composed of, the intersections of identities, and effective tools for activism. My personal favorite was Growing Your GSA, where I gained a wealth of practical tips for increasing the impact of my activism.

All pre-programmed activities set aside, I think I speak for a lot of PrideWorks attendees when I say that my favorite part of the conference was “the circle.” Since 2009, the circle has been a gathering in the back of the County Center, on the basketball court, where PrideWorks attendees step into the middle of a circle and share feelings, stories, songs, poems, and reflections with one another. It’s really special in so many ways, largely because it gives us a venue to share our experiences and emotions and build a community. Plus, there are some really talented people who perform! For me, one of the more telling moments of the conference was when, in the circle, I decided to leave in a line that reveals my queer identity in a poem I had performed elsewhere, but hadn’t felt comfortable performing fully. I think it says a lot about the support that the conference provides to queer youth who really need it.

To contribute a write-up of an LGBT youth related event, email hello@wearetheyouth.org

The Flash Mob

The Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In
Grand Central Station, NYC, Friday October 8th, 2010

Queer Teen Reports Back: Attending the Grand Central Die-In

We Are the Youth participant Schwalb attended the Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In at Grand Central Friday night (see video above). Hundreds protested the homophobia that led to the recent suicides by young gay men. Here’s Schwalb’s perspective:

Grand Central. 6 PM. Friday, October 8th. The main concourse was a lot queerer and a lot stiller than usual. Hundreds of queers and our allies had gathered to “die-in” and call attention to the transphobia and homophobia that’s gripped our nation since its genesis. It seemed as though the media coverage of a phenomenon that many of us had been hearing about and even experiencing ourselves for years and years had served as a wake up call to more mainstream queers and allies. Anti-queer sentiment still kills, it does so on a large scale, and immediate, committed, direct action is crucial if we want to better the situation for queers and queer youth in particular.

Despite cops proudly displaying their heavy-duty zip-ties, when the three whistles blew at a few minutes past six, we all fell to the ground, repeating the names of queer people who had either committed suicide in response to anti-queer bullying or been killed in hate crimes. When we heard another three whistles, we all stood up chanting, “Civil rights now!” Amidst these chants, I felt the same sensation in my ears that I feel when I listen to a carefully arranged six-part harmony. I swung my left arm back and forth like I had learned to do singing “Solidarity Forever.”

After many had gotten tired of chanting, “Civil rights now!” a switch was made to, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Homophobia’s got to go!” Yes, this mantra holds much truth, but I couldn’t help but think that this population dominated by 30-or-so year-old gay, upper-middle class, white cismen wasn’t thinking about the BTQ part of our alphabet cereal acronym, or the fact that when we think about any of the “ism’s,” one or more other “ism” intersects with the original ism, and we thus need to be considering rankism in addition to heterosexism and cissexism (which, judging by the chants, wasn’t really being thought about either) if we seek to combat any sort of discrimination.

To be honest, though I fully support this die-in and believe in the potential for positive change presented by actions like these, the reading of Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaws at Bluestockings that I attended after the die-in meant just as much, if not more to me, a queer teen, on a lot of levels, despite the fact that it had decidedly less media coverage. The very idea of the book as a collection of queer stories implies the idea of creating a patchwork of queerdom that, when sewn together, becomes a network of support and a powerful force for positive change.

And this was reflected in the reading: a diverse array of people came together to discuss the experiences of oppression we have in common, the experiences of oppression we don’t have in common, and how all of these experiences play off of each other in our creation of a supportive and inclusive community and society. All in all, as a struggling, queer teen, what gave me the support I need last night were the stories I heard and the email address that one of the contributors wrote in my copy of Gender Outlaws.

Veronica, 18, Highland Mills, NY

My whole family’s really musically inclined. My dad owns a DJ business. When I DJ with my dad, we’re best friends. It sucks, because I wish he was nice to me other times. He says, “You work for me. I have to be nice to you.”

I don’t think my dad hates me, but I feel like he has hatred toward me. If there was a thing where he could save either me or my sister, he’d save my sister. She’s really girly. She wears dresses all the time. She’s a cutie-patootie. He favors her, I think because he knows she’s straight. Even my mom says he likes her better.

Last year, my mom was choking on a piece of French toast. My dad didn’t care. I was so upset he was just sitting there watching her choke, so to make him mad I said, “I’m a fucking lesbian. And I like to eat pussy.” I think I wanted to make him angry to the point where he’d want to jump off the bridge.

The truth is, at that point I’d never actually done that — eaten pussy. I’m scared about putting what people pee out of in my mouth. I try to bubble myself. I’m very germaphobic. I’d have to really like someone to do that, and I’d never met anyone I liked enough. I want to believe in love. It’s hard for me to meet people. I don’t know anyone, and if I do, Ana takes them. Ana’s my good friend, but she’s my archenemy.

I’m bisexual, but I tend to only date women. If I date a man he has to be really charming. I’ve dated a lot of people. I feel like, if you’re a lesbian, what’s the point of dating someone who looks like a guy? Maybe because I am the guy one, so I gravitate toward lipstick lesbians.

I have some horrible dating stories. I haven’t met many lesbians who are sane. Maybe it’s because I have a tendency for picking up crazies. I’m dating someone now, though, who I really adore. I met her through my friend Zach. I was like, “Do you know anyone who’s gay?”

We had broken up and weren’t talking, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I was always looking at her pictures on Facebook and realized I missed her in some strange way. I ended up going to her job with my friends. She thought I was on a date with one of my guy friends, who’s gay. She flipped out. But then afterward we talked, and she said she wants to be in my life. One night she was getting out of work late, and I kissed her and asked her out again. She said yes.

We’ve been hanging out for two weeks. It’s been really different. I feel like she cares more. She really appreciates me now. I think I found someone I really care about.

As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Suffern, NY, 2011
To tell your story, email hello@wearetheyouth.org

Maddy, 16, New Rochelle, NY

The hardest thing about coming out, for me, was coming out to myself. From there, things got easier. My family is very accepting. I’ve managed to avoid getting picked on about it, for the most part. I have a girlfriend — who is amazing, by the way — and we’re an out couple in school. However, coming out to oneself is very difficult — at least, it certainly was for me. After all, society has built all these expectations up for us to fulfill, and finding out you’re LGBTQ is not one of them.

When I found out that I had feelings I would later describe as pansexual, I was really afraid. If I acknowledged and accepted this part of myself, then I could never be “normal” and I’d be denied rights.

There are people out there who are afraid of me, some of whom even publicly state that they want me dead. Of course, they don’t know me, but that only made them more surreal to me. However, I did come out, and I’m glad I did, because it takes a lot of courage to do so and I think it made me a stronger person.

Now I’m very proud of my identity as pansexual and also, though I discovered this later, my identity as genderqueer. I’ve always been too masculine to feel like one of the girls and too feminine to feel like one of the boys. And, if you think about it, just what is a girl or a boy anyway? If it was really all about what organs you had, then why should so much else be attached?

From the day you are born, and even before nowadays, people start to assume how you’ll act, what you’ll wear, what you’ll like, your skills, your goals and so much more, just from one part of your body. These concepts — man and woman, girl and boy — are so filled with assumptions that who can say what they are? Since I can’t, I’m not going to label myself as one right now, though this is just my opinion and I’m still thinking a lot about it.

While my identity as a queer person is very important to me, that’s not the only part of who I am. I’m a theater geek, an aspiring artist/writer, a lover of graphic novels and manga, a musician, a singer and actor, a total nerd when it comes to school, an optimistic pessimist, a Unitarian Universalist atheist, a liberal and a human. Just like you.

As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in New Rochelle, NY, 2010
To tell your story, email hello@wearetheyouth.org

Chase, 19, Brooklyn, NY

I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday. I’ve gotten seven since I’ve moved to New York. Tattoos are a showcase of my art and my passion. They’re so addicting.

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.

For a few weeks I wanted to go to the LGBT club at school. But I can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t want to be out. I feel like if I come out, there will be stigma attached to me. Like, “Oh, there’s Chase, the guy who used to be a girl.” Since moving to the city, I’ve been 100-percent stealth. I live with a few kids from high school and another trans guy. They’re the only ones who know, other than my trans friends. I don’t mind people knowing. I just don’t advertise it.

For most people, realizing they’re transgender takes a lifetime. For me it only took a year. Once I have an idea in my head, I run with it. I’ve never wanted to slow down with this.

A little bit over a year ago, I was in a relationship with a girl who introduced me to a world of gender I had never known before. It was interesting to see that transgender people aren’t the freaks everyone makes them out to be. I started experimenting with ideas in my head. Once I thought about it, the idea that I was transgender made so much sense. Dating back to when I was 10 years old and had such strange feelings, I had just never been comfortable being a girl. I identified as a lesbian for four years, from 8th grade to right before senior year. I identify as straight now.

I’ve had plenty of girlfriends. Sex is different now that I identify as trans. My girlfriend said when I started identifying as transgender I took a much more physical, masculine role. And since going on T my sex drive has changed. It’s increased. A lot.

Also, all sorts of things are changing down there. My clit has grown a lot. A lot lot. The sensitivity is a little much sometimes, but it’s cool. I wasn’t expecting this much growth. I think it’s a little abnormal. Everyone grows but I don’t think everyone grows two inches in four months.

The more it grows the better for bottom surgery. I’m planning on seeking lower surgery but not for another 10 years, because that shit’s expensive. But I want a penis.

I’m having top surgery in two months. My insurance covers 80 percent of it. I have really great insurance. I’m excited to not have to bind, and be able to wear tank tops and low-cut shirts. I don’t have to hide anymore.

Top surgery will make my life 1000 times better, but I’m not even that uncomfortable with my body. I’ve never had a confidence issue, which is kind of strange; I feel like most trans guys have a confidence issue. I bind for a reason, but I’m not uncomfortable. I’m just able to accept my body for what it is, and know I won’t have tits in two months.

As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Brooklyn, NY, 2011
To tell your story, email hello@wearetheyouth.org