Hot Sause, 17, Nyack, NY

I got my nickname when my friends and I were taking hot sauce shots one day. It became some craze, and now everyone calls me that. I spell it “Hot Sause” since my name is Keana, but it’s not spelled like other names. People can still refer to me as Keana, but I feel like the name puts me into a box. I like that my nickname is gender-neutral.

I feel like I’m not really a boy or a girl. I don’t think people understand that. I’m performing in Guys and Dolls in my high school musical. I’m playing the character of Big Jule, who is supposed to be a guy. But since I’m playing it, they changed it into a girl’s part and changed the pronouns from “he” to “she.” I wish they had just kept it a guy’s part, though. I don’t know why.

But it’s the director’s decision. I love being in the show. I love practicing and acting. I’m very musical. I’ve been writing music since I was in the third grade. I started rapping recently and I’m actually performing at my school this Sunday. It’s a song I wrote called “Breathe.” It’s a rap inspired by all the things I’ve heard on the news about kids getting bullied and facing violence. In one of my verses, I say, “Stop the violence.” It’s really a radical poem.

I love music and I love helping people. I think I want to be a music therapist. It goes hand in hand. I want to bring joy into the lives of people who feel like they’re forgotten.

At Common Threads, I just grabbed the mic at the dance and started DJing. It was my first year going, and I was nervous when I got there. But then I felt so comfortable. Everyone in the whole place hugged me and I felt that love. At the end I cried because I couldn’t stay there. If it was a town, I’d want to live there. I had to leave all those good people who care about me and go into a world where people are not as nice.

I have friends at school, but not anyone I can relate to. Most of my friends at school are straight. They’ll talk to me about my issues, but they won’t get into detail. We don’t really talk about who I like. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable asking me about it.

I go to Rockland County Day School. I’m not sure if there are any queer-identified people besides me. That’s what a Gay-Straight Alliance should be for. It kind of upsets me that they don’t have one. They should have a queer-safe and friendly place. I’d love to talk to other people like me, and maybe they could introduce me to people. It’s kind of hard for me to date. I’m kind of shy when it comes to talking to other girls. There aren’t a lot of people I can talk and relate to. I can’t just walk up to a girl and know what her preference is.

I was in a relationship that was unhealthy. I met her online, and it’s not really good to do that. We were going back and forth and back and forth. She was confused about her feelings for me. She didn’t like the way I was referring to myself. She hated when I referred to myself as “he” sometimes. She didn’t really understand that. But I stayed with her, on and off for five months, because I had feelings for her.

That relationship took a lot out of me emotionally. Maybe if someone comes along, it would be cool. But now I’m just focusing on school and performing and acting, and just trying to get out of high school.

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

Is This Heaven? It’s Iowa

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.

After the hills of Iowa made us glad we love women, and after a quick stop for lunch at Myers Grill & Catering (a great Yelp find), we were off to Iowa City.

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!

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!


Alex Reports on Chicago Pride

Alex, (a Chicago-based writer and We Are the Youth guest blogger), attended Chicago Pride on June 24, 2012. Friend Alex on Facebook & Follow Alex on Twitter

 With a record attendance of 850,000 people, a new and improved parade route, and a later start time, this year’s Chicago Pride Parade was a time for exploration and improvement. For the participants, this translated into having enough room to walk safely alongside the parade route and a more comfortable parade watching experience.

From me, this was my third Pride in Chicago, and I was marching near the beginning of the parade with Pride of Links, a youth group for queer teens in the Northern suburbs of Chicago run by a wonderful woman named Erchell.

I arrived early and spent a few hours talking to people, taking photos, and soaking up the wonderful Pride atmosphere. (more…)

Alex Reports Back on White House Reception

Alex, (a Chicago-based writer and We Are the Youth guest blogger), attended the LGBTQ Pride Month Reception at the White House. Friend Alex on Facebook & Follow Alex on Twitter

My name is Alex Sennello, and I’m from the Chicago area. That’s my mother and I on a couch in the White House with the presidential seal.

I was there last week for President Obama’s LGBTQ Pride Month Reception for my work with GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, at the 2012 Safe Schools Advocacy Summit. While at the summit in Washington, often referred to as SASS by its attendees, I learned skills that I can use to be a political advocate for safe schools legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a bill that would work to address bullying from the federal level, or the Student Non Discrimination Act, which seeks to give the same protections that prevent discrimination based on sex and race in school to sexual orientation and gender identity.

My work isn’t limited to the national level; at home, I work as a community journalist reporting on queer youth issues, I’m leadership for my school’s QSA, and I work to help create safer schools in my state with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance.  (more…)

Leslie-Lohman Reception A Smashing Success!

Thanks to everyone who came and supported We Are the Youth on Friday at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (special thanks to DJ Dani DeLuna for spinning dope tunes and to Sarah and Mars for manning the raffle station, helping set up and break down and being generally rad!). It was great to see both familiar and new faces at the reception and we couldn’t have been happier with the way the night turned out. We Are the Youth work will be on view until May 12, 2012, so if you missed the reception, you can still check out the work. In addition, The Piers exhibit (THE PIERS: Art and Sex along the New York Waterfront), is on view until July 7, 2012, and as Diana so eloquently mentioned at the reception, where the Piers exhibit looks to the queer past, We Are the Youth looks to the queer present and future, and it’s an honor for us to be showing next to such an amazing body of work.

Again, thanks to the staff at Leslie-Lohman for all their support, it’s been a pleasure being part of the Window Gallery Project and we’re excited about future collaborations.

Check out more photos from the opening reception here.


  • AfterEllen – news, videos and reviews on lesbian and bisexual women
  • AfterElton – news, videos and reviews on gay and bisexual men
  • AutoStraddle – “news, entertainment, opinion and girl-on-girl culture”
  • – an online destination for social change
  • Queerty – centers on gay issues. “Free of an Agenda. Except That Gay One”
  • The Slope – the home/blog for the hilariously charming web-series, The Slope, which follows the lives of a lesbian couple navigating their way through modern-day Park Slope, Brooklyn

Why We’re Wearing Purple Today

We Are the Youth is wearing purple today. After the recent rash of suicides among gay youth, the LGBTQ community and allies are coming together today to show solidarity with each other and to remember the lives lost.

According to event organizers, “Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality.”

This isn’t the end. This is the beginning. When you’re walking down the street others will see you and remember that they’re not alone.

As an endorser of the Make It Better Project, We Are the Youth believes that we all must join together to change the culture so queer teens aren’t afraid. To continue to tell queer youth they are not alone, please share your story with us. Email to tell your story.

The Vigils Continue

The LGBT community has stood together through many vigils as of late, realizing the power to unite under a common cause — to acknowledge those that are no longer with us and to increase visibility of our community — is more important than ever. We went to a wonderful vigil last night at the New School during which attendees introduced themselves to the crowd stating their name and the way in which they identify; having strangers stand up around you and proudly shout who they are for all to hear was so very moving.

We Are the Youth was started to provide a space for LGBT youth to share their stories. Over the past few weeks, it’s become clear just how crucial it is to fight stigma, increase visibility and let others know that they are not alone. The small action of coming out (even as an ally) can have a huge impact on those around you, in ways you may not realize, and can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

To share your story, please email

My Coming Out Story: Ryan

In honor of National Coming Out Day, we’ll be sharing unique coming out stories all week. Ryan tells We Are the Youth how the Larry King Show aided in his coming out process:

When I came out as transgender, I came out very slowly. My brother was the first person I told, then I told my mom when I was 14. I told my dad when I did because he went away and brought back this really girly necklace for me. I just had to tell him that day because I felt guilty. I came out as trans to the world when I was on the Larry King Show. I was telling one person at a time at school and if I weren’t on the Larry King Show it would have taken years to come out. It’s easier just to be out. When you’re trans, it’s different. If I didn’t come out people would still be calling me “she,” or by my birth name and I’d be extremely uncomfortable. In some cases it’s not a good idea to come out, if your safety is in jeopardy. For me it was just a convenient time to come out

Check back next month for a full feature on Ryan!

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:

Wake Up Call

On September 19, 2010, thirteen year old Seth Walsh attempted suicide after relentless anti-gay bullying at his California middle school. He died on September 29th, after nine days on life support.

aLater that same day, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after being outed on the Internet by fellow classmates.

Clementi and Walsh’s tragic deaths follow those of Asher Brown and Billy Lucas, both of whom took their own lives earlier this month after enduring anti-gay bullying for far too long.