Brentin, 20, White Plains, NY

When I was planning the Center Lane prom, people said I could pass as Michelle Obama, so I went for it. I really respect her. She has very good fashion taste. She’s a serious woman but knows how to let her hair down.

But I’m not into drag. This was only the second time I did it. I think that it might be a little weird to say because I’m gay, but I think if you’re born a man, you’re supposed to be a man. If you’re born a woman, you’re supposed to be a woman. But that’s just my own stuff. My thing is, to each his own. I’m not going to judge you or mistreat you. I love everyone. I just don’t have to love what you do, like the way a lot of people might love me but won’t love that I’m gay or black or whatever.

I organized the whole prom. Myself and Alfred. No one else wanted to be a part of it. You know how it is: you try to get a lot of people together, and then they say “Yeah” and don’t do anything. Then they’re not a part of it. And you get it in place, and they start to complain. It was a very rough couple of months, but I’m very much happy with how it turned out. What made me happy was that the youth were very happy.

Center Lane has done a lot for me. When I was about 14, my parents and I weren’t having such a great relationship when I came out. Center Lane gave me what my parents couldn’t give me: the support and nourishment to help me be who I am. My parents made my life a living hell. Something as simple as taking out the trash became a drama. They thought, “We’re going to make him as miserable as possible so maybe he’ll leave or change.” Things were so difficult, when I was 16 I moved in with my grandmother.

My parents have come around and they’ve not come around. They come around when it’s convenient. Recently I ended an eight-month relationship in April, and they invited him to dinner. With my parents, you just never know. It’s hard.

The guy I broke up with, he wasn’t who I thought he was. I thought he was an honest, really caring person and he turned out not to be. He’s not faithful. He’s not really goal-oriented. I could go on and on. We were just two different people going in two different directions.

I’m going in a direction of positivity, of focusing on my goals and becoming a social worker. I just completed my first year at Mercy College very successfully. I used to work for a foster care agency, and I saw how manipulative the foster care system can be. I know one person can’t save the world, but I can make change.

I’m very comfortable with who I am now. It took a while, and it took a lot of work. When people say “I’ve always been great,” I think they’re lying. With anything in life you always have to struggle. I did my work. I had people, like at Center Lane, who helped me.

I’m very grounded with what I believe in, and my personal belief in God. I’m Christian Baptist. I was raised with it, and I believe in God very much and that you can’t do anything without Him. I’ve never felt any conflict between being a Christian and being gay. The God I believe in doesn’t judge.

As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken at the Center Lane Gay Prom, Yonkers, NY, 2010
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