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…)
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
Marcy Baskin, Dennis Weakley, Alex Hagen, Jonah Ronsenberg, Lauren DeMille, Tiffany Bryant, James Rorimer, Robin Rollan Leon Lukic, Tyler Aldridge, Diana Beshara, Heather Simon, Gregg Chadwick, Michael Barr, Sarah Hughes, Synthetic PictureHaus, Katy Slininger, Carole May, Julia, Peter Quin-Conroy, Alinda, Leora Fox, Sam, Heather Stone, Natalia James, Natalia Moena, Jeremy Claton, Jamie Thillman, Harriet Robinson, Cait Opperman, Yael Malka, Stephen York, Jennifer Paul, Dustin Aksland, Jillian Bevacqua, Sarah Sanchez, Maureen Butchar, Meryl Friedman, Aileen Murphy, Sara Hammer, C Reese, Margaret Menghini, Jordan Cila, Keith Mancuso, Diana Jimenez, Katherine Briskin, Madelyn M., Diana Shomstein, Camaren Subhiyah, Allison Berger, Nicholas Watson, Laura Hadden, Jennie Drummond, Ian Cozzens, Bree Abbey, Katie OReilly, Christina McBroom, Neely Crane-Smith, John Won, Dale Rothenberg, Kendra Marr, Joshua Herzig-Marx, Emily Perper, Andrew Greene, Tim Murphy, Marissa Massimo, Stephanie, Andy and Linda Krostich, Stephanie Harz, Meghan Huppuch, Alana Rogers, Harriet Borenstine, Tom Saettel, Lucile Scott, Skim, Michelle Geoga, Pete Chiarolanzio, Hilary Sims, Barbara Parshely, Carol Guidry, Annette James, Ellie Burrell, Liam Quigley, Erica O’Connor, Sanela Lukic, Eric Juszyk, Alexis Handwerker, Caroline Rex-Walker, Becca Barish (and Debbie + Elliot!), Shane, Ken Weeman, Rob Lomblad, Terry, Karen Romano Young, Ryan Jordan, Miriam Scholl, Serena Tibbitt, LP, Gerald Scholl, Naomi Cohen, Tyler Clemmens, Cat Stewart, Sabrina Yu, the Reich-Golio clan, the extended Scholl clan, and all anonymous and independent donors – THANK YOU!!!
Things are slowly getting back to normal here at We Are the Youth. Film is being processed, interviews being transcribed, laundry being done…etc etc. We’re aiming to start posting profiles from the Midwest in the next two weeks and then a profile every other week or so. Is this too ambitious!? Perhaps! But we’re excited about sharing the new work!
In the meantime, we’ll be sharing our first Canadian profile tomorrow! Just to be clear, we haven’t expanded We Are the Youth to international waters, but this participant was visiting Brooklyn at the time we profiled her.
Our trip has come to and end, and what a trip it was! Before we get nostalgic, let’s back-track:
We spent Wednesday morning exploring Iowa City and meeting Rusty the Giant Sloth at the Museum of Natural History (dude is really big!). We then hit the road for our longest stretch of driving towards Minnesota. On the way we stopped in Mason City, Iowa to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Stockman House (it was closed but we peeked in each window and Diana made up some facts about Wright that sounded like they could possibly be real).
The next morning it was an early interview with Qwill, a junior at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. The interview marked our first profile photo of a participant in a tree (yes, a tree). We then headed to St. Paul, MN to meet with two youth participants at SOY (Shades of Yellow) at the Hmong Cultural Center. Minneapolis is home to one of the largest Hmong populations in the United States. We met with two enthusiastic participants and learned a bit more about the Hmong culture.
We also met with Nhia, the SOY staffer brought on to coordinate community outreach for “Vote No on 1,” the marriage amendment bill on the ballot for the November 6 election. The bill (if passed) would prohibit marriage between two people of the same sex, essentially recognizing marriage as only the union between one man and one woman.
We then had dinner with Emiko Nakano (!!!), intern Sarah’s (wonderful) mother. She treated us to a home-made meal of sushi, tempura, soup, salad and finally green tea cake. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, if not the entire year!
Friday morning we met with Hannah, an interesting young woman studying religion and theater at Augsburg College with the hope of one day becoming a Lutheran pastor (a first for a We Are the Youth participant!)
We then headed to Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), where we met Kara, the head of the Gay Club (yes, it’s actually called “Gay Club,” how post-modern!), as well as some other rad new participants. In between MCAD interviews, we visited the Guthrie Theater and met another new participant who, ironically, will be starting MCAD in the spring.
Back at MCAD, after meeting with members of the Gay Club, we had dinner with Hot Sundae founder, Nicole Killian (a visiting artist/professor at MCAD) and her partner, Brittany (an adjunct professor at MCAD). Hot Sundae has done some design work for us in the past so it was a (big!) treat to hang out with Nicole in person!
Saturday morning was our last interview of the trip (with Sloan, another MCAD student, pictured below), after which we had a quick look around the Walker Art Center and then headed to the airport.
All things said and done, it was an amazing trip filled with amazing people. We really can’t say thank you enough to all the Kickstarer donors, friends, family, strangers, LGBT youth, community organizers, etc etc etc, who made this possible. It’s such a humbling experience to travel to new parts of the country and interview queer youth from various backgrounds. All of the participants have incredible and unique stories and it’s an honor to hear them and be able to share them with the world. Stay tuned for the new work and thank you again for all the support.
We didn’t know this before last week, but apparently Nebraska and Iowa have a bit of a rivalry. So while our new Nebraska friends had us a bit biased as to what we’d find in the Hawkeye State, we have been impressed!
After a breakfast with Eric in downtown Omaha, we hit the road to Newton, Iowa, where Dana at the Iowa Pride Network, a group that helps students in the state strengthen their gay-straight alliances, connected us with Sam and Ella. Newton Senior High School Gay-Straight Alliance, of which Ella is the president, won the award last year for best GSA in the state!
We heard their amazing stories, and after our interview, they took us on a tour of a town, and we went with them and a friend to Panda Garden, a chinese buffet. Sam had to leave for a band performance, but Ella, a member of the school bowling team, put on her bowling uniform to pose for some photos at the bowling alley that you are going to love. Then we played a game of bowling ourselves. We were not high school bowling team caliber, but had fun.
Then we headed to Ottumwa, a town about an hour south of Newton. In the morning we woke up earlier than we are use to to photograph KiRel before he started school. He was really great and friendly, and we wished we had more time to spend with him.
In Iowa City, we met with a fantastic group of high school students at United Action for Youth, profiled Jacob, Natasha, and Alex, and had a chance to talk to the great staff at UAY. Thanks Joe for inviting us!
Then after delicious sushi, we went to the Student Union to watch the Presidential Debate, where LGBT rights were absent from the debate again. But at least we got these great t-shirts.
Tomorrow is a driving day. We’ll blog again in Minnesota!
Last night we attended the Queer Nebraska Youth Network’s Gay Rack Ride at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. We were expecting a small field with some pumpkins and maybe a picnic table or two. Man, were we wrong! Vala’s holds a Fall Festival each year complete with train rides, a Pumpkin Chuckin’ Canyon, corn maze, petting zoo, food stands, a giant trampoline…you get the idea. It was HUGE and unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We interviewed some amazing youth, photographed Miss Gay Omaha, ate smores, met brooklyn boihood’s biggest fans and ate smores (I know I said that twice, there were a lot of smores).
**If you’re a queer youth in Nebraska and you don’t already know about the Queer Nebraska Youth Networks (youth-focused, peer-led groups), you need to check it out. We’ve been super impressed with the organization, commitment, and general awesomeness of the leaders and members of the QNYN — for such a young group, they’ve done some amazing things in Nebraska (a conservative, primarily rural state) and provide support and fun-times/social activities for local LGBT youth.
Now we’re off to Newton, Iowa (home of Sharon Needles, drag queen extraordinaire!). Couldn’t be happier with our time in Nebraska; we met with new friends, old friends, went to many a bond fire and even saw a mini pony (somebody’s favorite). Everyone was incredibly nice, enthusiastic and super wonderful. Big thanks to Eric, Drew and all at the QNYN, you guys are amazing.
The fun continues! After meeting with high school student, Trent in Lincoln and local college student, Austin in Bennet, Nebraska (a town of only 500!), we made the long trek (not really) back to Omaha on Saturday afternoon, stopping at the Hi-Way Diner to interview Izabela, another new project participant!
Diana and Austin, Bennet, Nebraska
Laurel photographs Izabela
Once we hit Omaha, we headed to the Nebraska Aids Project Fall Fundraiser. Complete with hay ride, home-made chili, a bond fire, delicious smores, and really inspiring people doing amazing work, it was pretty awesome.
After the fundraiser, our amazing tour guide Eric took us to the local gay bar, Flixx Lounge where we enjoyed a wild (Cher-themed) drag show, and then back to our Medieval castle-themed Best Western for some shut eye. Fun fact #1: one of us loves drag queens. Fun fact #2: Diana got a drink called the Dreamsicle (really). Fun fact #3: Nebraska has more cows than people!
This morning we met with two super cool youth in Omaha proper and now we’re headed to the Queer Nebraska Youth Network‘s Gay Rack Ride. Stay tuned for photos!
Thanks to the generosity of so many, we have embarked on our great Midwest adventure. For the next 8 days, we’ll be traveling, profiling youth, blogging and social networking our way through the Midwest.
We left New York Friday morning, and by 2:30pm were in Omaha, and by 4:45pm we were ready to start profiling youth!
Our first stop was Lincoln, Nebraska, the state’s Capital, home to University of Nebraska-Lincoln and home to Joey, our first participant, a really smart kid on leave from school to volunteer at Bob Kerrey’s Senate campaign.
After hanging with Joey, we ate what is considered by many to be Nebraska’s best wings (delicious), then passed out at the New Victorian Inn (best rated hotel in Lincoln!).
We’re up early this morning to meet with Austin, a local college student, then off to Omaha later today to continue our Midwest adventure. We’ll talk soon, stay tuned!
That’s Right. We Did It!!! We reached our Kickstarter goal and We Are the Youth is headed to the Heartland! Now we can stop clogging your news feed, twitter feed, tumblr dashboard, email inbox, etc etc… Thank you SO much to all our supporters, we couldn’t have done it without your help and we are immensely grateful.
Off to plan the Midwest trip!