Isaac, 16, New York, NY
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 sideshow, 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.
I like my friends in high school a lot. I hated my middle school. I didn’t really have many friends. It wasn’t my place to be. There were only 20 kids in my grade, but everyone was best friends and I was an outsider. I went to the school since I was two, and liked it a lot until I was 11. Then, in sixth grade, everyone started changing.
I definitely changed. That was the year I basically started to transition. In the end of sixth grade I watched Barbara Walters: My Secret Self. It was all about transgender kids. I tried to convince myself that wasn’t me. I didn’t want to go down that path because it seemed so difficult. But every day it was something I thought about more and more until there was no other option.
Until I saw that, I was confused about how I felt. I didn’t feel like a girl, but I didn’t feel very masculine either. I never played sports, I didn’t like cars. I didn’t like stereotypically girl things either. I liked music and making videos and things that are ambiguous, I guess.
I told my parents about the Barbara Walters special, and about how I felt like those kids. I also talked to my therapist. We came to the conclusion I shouldn’t tell people I’m having these feelings, because it probably wasn’t true. Well, they came to that conclusion.
My parents were hesitant at first. They didn’t want me to tell anyone if it was just a phase. By seventh grade they were getting that it wasn’t a phase and would have a big role in the rest of my life.
I was just starting puberty during this time. After I was on hormone blockers, there was a pill I had to take daily, and I missed it one day. I got my period, and I’d never had it before. It was pretty traumatizing and lasted for a month. I wasn’t with my parents; I was with my grandparents in North Carolina. I was terrified.
I didn’t want to tell my grandparents because I thought it would be too awkward. I was only there for three days, and kind of stayed in bed the whole time, which I felt kind of bad about. It was the last time I spent a long period of time with my grandfather before he died. It was kind of depressing, that I didn’t get another chance.
I’m sure my grandparents would have been really supportive, but I didn’t feel comfortable telling them I got my period. It was one of those reality check things, where I was living as a guy and had never experienced these things before. Then this thing that defines women was happening to me. Not fun.
I was so young when I started transitioning that I didn’t really think about my sexuality. I had little crushes on girls and stuff. Now I’m attracted to girls, exclusively, but I haven’t dated anyone. I feel like a girlfriend’s not going to happen until college.
I think people in high school are less open to having a transgender significant other. It really reduces your options. It would be one thing if I was significantly attractive. I think it’s less because I’m trans and more because I’m short and ginger and nerdy. I think I try to use the trans thing as an excuse for not having a girlfriend. College will definitely be a blossoming period.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Brooklyn, NY, 2011
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Marina, 21, Atlanta, GA
Sometimes people have assumed I’m straight because of my appearance. I date both guys and girls, and I’ve worried that people would just think that I was straight. I’m not so concerned about it now, but it’s something that I thought about when I was newly out and not really sure how I fit in. I felt like I had to prove my queerness. I’m more comfortable with it now and sort of do whatever feels right.
I identify as queer. Depending on who I’m talking to I’ll identify as bisexual, but I think the word bisexual, to me, sort of means two genders, which isn’t necessarily how I see things. I understand two genders exist in society, but they aren’t inherent or necessary. I go by female pronouns. More or less, I identify as female. That’s how I was raised to identify and how people view me. I’m a linguistics major, so I’ve thought a lot about these terms.
Being queer affects many aspects of my life beyond just sexual orientation. I work at the Center for LGBT Life, and the queer community here is very supportive. Other queer students on campus ended up being a ready-made social circle for me. Through the Office of LGBT Life, I’ve met so many people I’ve really connected with. Almost all of my close friends are queer. Emory is my first experience with any queer community. I didn’t really have that in high school.
I was only out to my very, very close friends in high school. It wasn’t something I talked about. To make my life easier, it was something I kept to myself. I knew that when I went outside of Inverness, Florida, that would change.
I had my first kiss with a girl when I was 13. She was a close friend of mine and we had a sort-of relationship, and she’d also be dating guys publicly. I was like, “I’m not cool with being your secret girlfriend.” As far as I know she doesn’t identify in any way as queer now. She has a kid and lives in our hometown. A lot of people from my high school have kids. There was a group of kids in honors classes and they’re in college, mostly at University of Florida, but I’m one of the few who went out of state.
Neither of my parents went to a four-year college, and my sisters and I all did. My parents both worked a lot when we were growing up to support us. I can’t remember them saying “You have to go to college or do well in school.” but it was always assumed that you will go to college and you will do well in school.
My dad is Mexican and my mom is white and from the South, but I’m not really emotionally wedded to one thing or another and never really fit into either category. Before I came to college I didn’t necessarily have the vocabulary for it, but I’m used to not necessarily fitting into a box. From a young age I’ve always been aware of race and ethnicity and how these things played into my life.
I told my mom I was queer a year and a half ago, but I never came around, I guess, to telling other members of my family. I decided several months ago to operate like I had already told my sister. We both use Twitter a lot, and I’d tweet that I was going to Atlanta Pride and I’d link to various queer events I was going to, so I assumed she knew. But I just officially came out to my sister yesterday. On Twitter.
My sister told my mom, “Marina’s never actually come out to me. I know, or I think I know.” But it seemed to my mom like she wanted me to tell her. So last night I sent her a Twitter direct message being like, “Hey, Mom said you wanted me to tell you this but you probably already know, so yeah…” She wrote, “Haha. Thanks, I guess.”
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, 2010
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Noah, 19, Macon, GA
Before I left for college, my parents told me not to tell anyone at school I was gay. But I was so excited about being in a gay-friendly place, the first thing I did when I got to campus was find out who was in charge of Common Ground, Mercer’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Now I’m the president.
I made the decision to get involved with a lot of different things at school. I’m the photo editor of the school paper. I’m in Amnesty International. I’m on the table tennis team. I also do my own photography, and I’m having my first gallery exhibit this winter. Plus I’m trying to keep my grades up while having a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, Kayden, in Atlanta, which takes the commitment of a full-time job. I have to force myself to sleep.
Mercer is a small Baptist school in the South, so it’s not going to be a liberal school. But it has a history of gay activism on campus that I didn’t tell my parents about when I was applying. My parents know I’m president of Common Ground, but I don’t think they realize what a big part of my life it is. I didn’t know any gay people before I came out, so I figure it’s my job and responsibility to make sure it’s easier for other people.
I was 16 when I came out. I told my friend, and he thought I should tell my parents because he was worried about my soul. They weren’t thrilled. I had to go to several Christian therapists. Not ex-gay therapy, but ones that try to work out what’s best for you.
A month later I actually got kicked out of my school. I told only two people at the school I was gay, so I know exactly who told the administration. It was a private school, and they had a secret meeting. It was about a week before my senior year was about to start. I had enough credits, so I just graduated early. It was rough. I didn’t feel like God loved me or my parents loved me. All those things happened at once, and it was intense.
December of that year I tried to commit suicide. I tried to swallow a bunch of pills. A friend called when I was doing it, and she talked me out of it. Then I decided not to feel so sorry for myself.
Looking back, I think it was a half-hearted attempt. But back then I thought I was so serious. I really did believe it was the only option. I really did.
Afterwards, I sent my parents a garbled letter in emotional language. I don’t think they know the extent of how serious it was. I think they thought I was being a hormonal teenager, which I sort of was.
That was two years ago. Everything is so much better now. At college, no one cares that I’m gay. My brothers and sisters don’t care, and my father’s trying to be accepting. This summer, my mother said she’d rather I be a drug dealer than be gay, because there’s rehab for being a drug dealer. But just recently she told my dad, “I’m not going to be one of those Christian people who hates gays.” She’s making an effort, and in turn I’m trying to be as sensitive as I can be to her needs.
Like, I try not talking about gay stuff around her, and when I’m with Kayden I try not to be handsy. It may not be the best situation, but it’s improved dramatically.
Kayden’s coming over Christmas Eve. He’s never been here on a holiday with my extended family. I anticipate that no one will say anything. It usually bothers me when people don’t talk about stuff, but in this particular case I’m kind of cool with it. I used to think that when people didn’t say anything, they were thinking all sorts of bad things. But now I realize it’s that they’re making a conscious effort to be more accepting.
Kayden and I have been together two years. We met when we both lived in Alpharetta, Georgia. Now he lives in Atlanta and I live in Macon, but we try to see each other every weekend. It’s actually good on a small campus like Mercer, where everyone’s in everyone’s business, to date someone from outside the bubble.
But we don’t have that connection you have in a relationship where you see each other all the time. But we work at it. Skype helps. I feel very lucky to be with him. He balances out of all the things I can’t take care of on my own.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken at Mercer University, Macon, GA, 2010
To tell your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jezebel, November 2010
Read the Original Story
Guest blogger Eric talks the Queer Nebraska Youth Networks
Eric Juszyk, chief administrator of the Gay Nebraska Youth Network, guest blogs a rundown of the great work his group is doing in Omaha. Follow Eric on Twitter @ericjuszyk.
Growing up as LGBTQ in the Midwest can be difficult, especially in conservative states like Nebraska. The youth in rural and agricultural communities are often isolated and have few legitimate resources for forming new friendships and interacting with the larger LGBTQ community.
In May of 2010 I learned about the Gay Nebraska Youth Network when the founder, Drew Heckman, returned to Omaha after his freshman year at Brown University. Drew was astounded at the vibrant community in Providence and sought to create an environment back in his home state where youth can interact with each other in a safe and positive manner.
The Gay Nebraska Youth Network was formed as a youth-focused, peer-led organization that seeks to connect high school and college LGBTQ students statewide with social activities, opportunities to form new relationships, and connections to resources. A secret Facebook page is used to promote social interaction and the sharing of relevant issues while protecting the identity of its members and ideas while a public page is used to publicize our organization to the larger straight and ally communities. Additionally we match the virtual interactions with real life social events held at a variety of locations across the state.
Some members from the Queer Nebraska Youth Networks
at Nebraska AIDS Project’s Condom Fashion Show,
with the dress and accessories we designed!
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!
Sarah Reports on The Transatlantic Pride Art Exhibition!
The Annual Transatlantic Pride Art Exhibition, June 21st, 2012
Clifford Chance, New York, NY
by Sarah Nakano
Last Thursday night, Clifford Chance, a law firm in midtown, had an opening reception for their in-office exhibit “Annual Pride Art Exhibition-New York,” featuring 5 portraits of We are the Youth participants. This opening reception gave me the opportunity to see lots of cool art (Cass Bird, Peter Hujar, Elizabeth Bethea, Tee A. Corinne, etc), drink Coca Cola out of a fancy glass, and also witness the wisdom of Jonathan D. Katz.
Before the reception, Katz spoke about specific “queer artworks” and explored the context and details of each piece. Katz was the first tenured faculty in gay and lesbian studies in the U.S, founder of the Harvey Milk Institute, chair of the Department of Lesbian and Gay studies at the City College of San Francisco, co-founder of Queer Nation SF, and is the co-curator of the exhibit ‘HIDE / SEEK’. Basically he’s a certified genius and he’s the king of the middle of
the venn diagram: QUEER and ART.
In my opinion the most interesting idea he talked about was the future of “Queer Art.” What is contemporary queer art, where is it headed, what will it look like in the future? From what I understood, he thinks that as LGBTQ issues + people become more widely accepted, queer art will start to focus more on universal themes like love, loss, etc. I was incredibly impressed with Katz’s insights and how incredibly informed he was. What a badass. You can check out his essays, writings, and resume here.
Overall it was a rewarding experience and it was so cool to see Magda, Trevor, Braxton, Isaac, and Patrick chillin on the wall alongside other queer art.
I don’t know what I could do to make me seem gayer. Even last night I was talking to a girl I’ve known for a while. I said something about some girl, and she was like “Oh, are you bisexual?” She jumped to thinking I was straight to thinking I was bisexual. I’m like, “No, I’m pretty fucking gay.”
I could cut off my hair, but that wouldn’t be me. I’m not one of those people who can change my appearance at the drop of the hat. I don’t have piercings, I don’t have tattoos. I guess hair grows back, but I have weird things with my hair. It’s like a security blanket. To me at least, cutting my hair so people know I’m queer would feel like putting on a costume.
I wrote a paper about hair, and when I started writing it, the point was going to be that you can’t judge people’s sexuality based on their hair. But then all the research I found showed you can make assumptions on people based on their hair, and it’s been a really helpful way for the queer community to identify each other. My paper ended up with me realizing that I am the exception. (more…)
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!