Michelle, 20, Bronx, NY

My fiancé and I had a discussion about me dressing up as Michelle. When I told him I wanted to be fully transgender, he said he didn’t want me to have the operation. Tom’s worried about my safety. I would like to start hormones, but I feel like I pass as a woman already. I have man boobs. I’ve had them since I was 11 years old.

My fiancé and I met last year when I was living at the Ali Forney Center. Ever since then, we just started calling and talking to each other. Living in a shelter, things get stolen. My money, my wallet and my IDs were all taken. When I finally told Tom, he said, “Move in with me.” I said, “Okay.” Ever since then, we’ve grown a little more. He proposed in March. It was a total surprise. I think I have a total Cinderella package.

Tom is 43. Some of my friends grill me about the age difference. Age is nothing but a number. You’re not going to pass the opportunity for having true love. He is guiding me right now. He loves me no matter what.

Other than Tom, I also get strength from my grandfather, who pushed me to take what has happened and give me a chance for freedom. He calls me sometimes, but he knows I’m kind of in hiding from my immediate family.

I can’t say I don’t miss my family. I will miss them, especially my little brother. They don’t pick up their cell phones. I’ve left emails, messages, et cetera. It really hurts, but I have to live with it.

I think my mom is upset that I left her. The fact is that I was the one who did everything for her. I’d make coffee, make breakfast, do homework, get the other kids ready. After school, I’d go to work, come home and do the same thing over again. She’s pissed because she lost the one kid who did anything for her.

A lot has happened with my family. The story starts in my hometown: Mobile, Alabama. I came out as gay to my mother at 13. She knew my stepfather wouldn’t like the fact that he had a gay son, so she didn’t tell him until I was 18. She was right. I got kicked out when he found out.

The next night I had to sleep in one of the sheds at Home Depot. I walked 23 miles to get to my grandfather on the other side of town. My grandfather paid my way to come up to New York by bus.

In New York I was living with my cousins, but we got into some arguments and disagreements and I had to leave. My grandfather had to go back to India, so I didn’t have his help in the same way anymore.

After I left my cousin’s place I went to the Belleview Men’s Shelter, but I was too young. They referred me to Sylvia’s Place, where you have to sleep on the floor. Then I got accepted into Ali Forney.

Through friends at Ali Forney, I became a member of the activist group, Fierce. It was actually at Fierce’s annual Halloween party that I first dressed up as a woman. I feel more comfortable in women’s clothes. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always played with my mother’s high heels.

Fierce has helped me become an activist and a better person. Through Fierce, I also volunteer for Queers for Economic Justice. Now I want to become a psychiatrist. I want to defend the people who can’t really defend themselves. I want to give them what I learned.

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

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 hello@wearetheyouth.org

Raciel, 19, Brooklyn, NY

I wasn’t scared to move to New York. I’d been sneaking away to the city since I was 11. My friends and I would skip school and ask people how to get to the Village. My dad wasn’t a parent who was overprotective. I never gave my parents reason to disbelieve me.

I’ve been happy since moving to New York. Not as happy as I was in the beginning, but that was during the summertime when everything was great.

I was on the beach last summer, and guys would just hit on me. It was a lot easier for me to meet people in New York. It was on the beach that I met a 42-year-old guy who was a social worker at NYU. We only dated for two months, but I really got to know him. I really fell in love with him. It was so cosmic, I guess. It was one of the greatest times of my life.

But I had to get rid of him. He didn’t know what he wanted. It was so unstable. One minute he didn’t want me, and the next minute he did.

I couldn’t possibly date someone my age. Even if they’re only a year older, they’ve always been older. I tried to date younger guys and it did not work out. Kids my age usually jump into relationships, which I think is reckless.

But my mind is so stuck on school and work now, I don’t want to date. I was always the kind of person who needed to be with someone, but I want to party and be free. A boy would take too much away.

I’m smart and very creative, but academically I have my moments. I dropped out of high school in ninth grade.

The biggest problem was my mother’s instability. She had a boyfriend and it was all about him. We were constantly arguing. I was going to move in with my dad, but then he called me up and said, “I don’t want your gayness in my house.” So I got in contact with my aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania. If I had my own car I’d probably still be there, but I don’t like depending on people.

So I told my dad I couldn’t stay with my aunt and uncle and he said, “You are my son and you are coming to stay with me.” When he said I could stay with him in Newark, New Jersey, I couldn’t believe it. But I didn’t find myself going anywhere there. That’s where my homelessness started. I could go home if I told my parents I was done with this struggling, but then I would be at step one. I didn’t come this far to go back now.

I was never on-the-street homeless. I did my research. I wasn’t going to stay at a regular men’s shelter. It’s very dangerous. I stayed at the Covenant House for 40 days. That’s when a bed opened up at Ali Forney. There are only so many beds. There are 4,000 homeless kids who identify as LGBT. If you don’t know about the services, you’re out of luck.

I got my GED at Hetrick Martin Institute. My teachers helped me out so much. I totally felt comfortable being around so many gay kids, and it helped me accept myself even more. I never say that out loud, but it’s true. Growing up with my parents throwing it in my face all the time, it was really hard for me to accept being gay.

But since moving to New York, I act how I want to act. I have an internship in PR and am going to school at Kingsborough Community College. I’m so proud of myself. I’m kind of surviving. It’s not New York City unless you struggle.

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

Ryan, 17, Long Island, NY

I feel like this isn’t my body. In my mind right now, walking around my room, I feel like a boy. Then I know when I walk in the shower I’m going to totally freak out. I try to shower in the morning when I’ve just woke up, because I’m focused on what’s going to happen in the day and my eyes aren’t really open yet.

Once I get my top surgery I don’t think I’ll feel that way. Bottom surgery isn’t the top priority for me right now. Everyone has to wear pants. It’s not like it’s hard to hide, and right now bottom surgery is really terrible and expensive. Technology is always advancing, so maybe I’ll have bottom surgery some day when it’s better.

I’m starting hormone blocker treatments next week, so after I have top surgery I’ll stop having female development. I was supposed to get top surgery in June and then I found out I couldn’t get it until August. I got really upset about it, because I’m going to miss the whole summer and not be able to go to the gym or swim. It’s just a pain, swimming with a binder and everything.

Because I’m not 18 yet, I have to get my parents’ permission to have top surgery. My dad signed the paperwork, but the other day he asked me, “Are you 100 percent sure?” And I’m like, “Duh.”

I don’t know if I’ll go on testosterone. I’m really nervous about how it would affect my singing voice. I’m waiting to see what happens with my music career. If I were to go on T, it probably would be later on in my life. If I have a totally different voice, I might lose fans or I wouldn’t be as good. It would kind of be like starting a whole new career. But when I picture myself in three years, I’m on T and I have a really awesome beard.

Being transgender and being a musician go together for me. I’ve been doing a lot of speaking gigs. I just spoke at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and then I sold 40 CDs afterwards. I’m recording an album, which is coming out in May. This summer’s going to be big for me. In June I’m playing at Milwaukee Pridefest with my studio band in front of 10,000 people.

When people find me through my music, a lot of them know I’m transgender and some of them don’t know. But when they friend me on Facebook, they find out. I don’t think they know while they’re watching me perform.

I love playing solo, and also love playing with my studio band. The energy is bigger and better with a band. I’ve played almost 200 shows. I’ve been on tour a few times. Everything’s DIY, which is “do it yourself.” The music industry is dying. You don’t make much money these days. That’s why some start learning about investing, such as roth ira uk, to make money. I book everything myself. I do all my promotion myself. My mom drives. Usually I’m supposed to pay for gas on tours, but on the last trip she was like, “It feels like a vacation. You don’t have to pay for gas.” She’s that rock ‘n roll.

When I first started performing, a lot of girls would hit on me after the shows. One girl wrote my name all over her notebooks at school. Another girl pretended I was going out with her. Some really weird things happen when you’re performing.

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

Schwalb, 15, Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Last summer I decided to stay home from the camp of my Zionist, socialist youth movement, and I hung out in the West Village on the Pier with a lot of queer kids. In some ways I regret it, since my youth movement is where I’ve met most of my closest friends, and it means more to me than really anything in my life. But in some ways I don’t. That summer allowed me to be around queer people I really respected and queer people that I didn’t.

But now I feel like I have a cultural disconnect with the whole Pier scene. It’s not like I don’t respect them because they come from a different background or anything like that. I just don’t really share very much with them, whereas I share a lot with my youth movement friends who are also into activism and have life experiences similar to mine, as we all come from Jewish families.

On some level I want to be involved in the environment of the Pier, but there’s a lot that’s wrong with it: a lot is centered around careless sex and clubs and drugs. I kind of approach my involvement there in the future from a place of activism, which I feel sort of bad about because it makes me feel like I’m self-righteous or something.

Activism is the most important thing to me. Above all, I believe in the equality of human value. In the first slam poem I ever wrote, the first line was, “What I want to say today is an exact call to action causing warm interaction between people of different identities, ethnicities, not based on pity or even ethics committees, a change in attitude, the conclusion of a feud gone on far too long.” It was about xenophobia and how essentially we’re all human and deserve the same rights. I can’t say I was an activist when I was five, but since sixth grade, at least, I remember giving my grade presentations on the genocide in Darfur. I guess I was kind of a strange child.

I’m leading an environmental group at school. I’m in the process of becoming a madrich, which is a guide, in the youth movement. I’ve been involved with my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance since seventh grade, which was when I first started coming out while I had this huge crush on a girl in my youth movement.

My parents have been promoting activism from a young age. My tradition with my mom used to be to go to a rally in D.C. every year. It’s like my parents are these amazing people who’ve done amazing things and want me to get involved in activism, but at the same time, I remember my mom talking about this lesbian couple, and saying, “On a political level, should they have rights? Of course. But do I agree with them on a more personal level? Not really.” To me, there’s a conflict of interest there.

Now school’s starting tomorrow and I’m feeling alright. I’m focused on homework and trying to get back into the normal swing of things. I’m very pensive, thinking about how I can facilitate my own happiness at the same time as my family’s level of comfort. If I succumb too much to their demands I feel like I’m selling out and not being myself. At the same time, I want to make it easier for them.

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

Sara, 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.

But one of the worst parts was what they called me. I hadn’t even really admitted my sexuality to myself. It scares me that they figured it out before I did.

I’ve kind of always known I was interested in girls. I’ve always felt a deeper connection with girls, but I never thought much about it. Then in middle school I toyed with the idea that I was bisexual. Then, sophomore year, I was dating this guy for nine months. It was pretty serious, and he was the first person I ever told I liked girls. Then the next year we weren’t together and I came out as bisexual my junior year. Nobody really said much. A lot of people weren’t surprised.

It was nice when I told my mom. She pulled me over and gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for trusting me with that. That must have been hard for you.” It didn’t surprise me that she felt that way. I was always raised that you don’t have to have a man to be happy. Life lessons in the cereal bowl.

I didn’t really come out to my dad until spring break this year. His response was, “Am I supposed to be surprised?” He said he doesn’t care as long as I’m happy. I realized it was stupid that I didn’t tell him before. I honestly don’t know why I made a big deal about it.

I’ve dated more guys than I have girls, but I realized this year I’m not really interested in guys. In relationships I had with guys I always felt something was missing or something was off. I like being equals. My girlfriend and I are both very small. I don’t feel like either of us need to be the dominant one, and there doesn’t have to be a power play. We’re not trying to be better than each other.

It’s more comforting for me to be with another girl. I feel like I connect better with girls. I’ve just sort of accepted I’ll never be happy with a guy. I like being with someone who understands, relatively, how a female mind works.

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

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

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

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