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
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Huffington Post, Gay Voices, November 2011
Read the Original Story
I’m lucky I already had my kids before I got HIV. I became HIV-positive June 16, 2011, in Florida. It was with a real female and the condom popped. She knew she was HIV-positive but didn’t tell me. I was so angry.
Then I came to New York in August, because it was too slow with the medicine in Tampa. My homeboy said he’d get me one of his private doctors, but then someone told me in New York they have a program to help with benefits.
When I came to New York, my girlfriend Honesty and I were looking for a shelter. I stopped at Housing Works because I heard there was a shelter on Pitkin. I met Johnny and I asked if it was a homeless shelter. He said it was for people with HIV and AIDS, and asked if I was HIV-positive. I said, “Yes, I am.” After my test results came back, he got me signed up for HASA — a program in New York City that provides housing for people with AIDS — to get me into housing and offered me a job. He said I can do outreach to the youth.
My goal is to be an outreach specialist. My Plan B is to drive trucks. My other Plan C is to be a good daddy to my kids. I came a long way from where I was when I was a little boy. My life story is a whole different thing. When you live without a mother and your father passes away when you’re five, staying in the city of Tampa is rough.
I ran away from foster care at the age of 10. I didn’t like my foster care people. They didn’t treat me right. I stayed on the streets, sleeping on benches. How I survived was stealing from Wal-Mart to get clothes and soap to wash my body.
I learned how to sell dope at the age of 11. I didn’t want to sell at the time, but I had to do what I had to do to get my money. After that, I started getting in trouble. I got my first gun, a 9-mm, and started using my gun to break into people’s houses. We used to take the TVs and take them to the pawnshops.
I didn’t care about my life. I didn’t have no family. I didn’t have no brother, I didn’t have a mom, I didn’t have a dad. I kept on going to jail. I went to a juvenile program in Tallahassee at the age of 12.
When I went to jail, my first day in Orlando I got stabbed on the side of the ribs. I did the five years, but it felt like I was doing 20 to 25. I didn’t have nobody to talk to, nobody to send me canteen. It was like gang banging.
I got my GED in prison, because when I was a youngin’ I wasn’t attending school like I was supposed to. But I didn’t want to get locked up again. I didn’t want to be the type of person who keeps coming back.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Brooklyn, NY, 2011
To tell your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you haven’t been to the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art to check out the Window Gallery, man, do we have GOOD news for you! Leslie-Lohman has extended our stay and the eight We Are the Youth portraits and accompanying quotes will now be on view until June 22, 2012!
So hop on the subway, board the Metro North, jump on your bike, take a stroll (the weather is getting nicer, no excuses for taking cabs, New Yorkers), and go check out the Window Gallery! If you do make it over to Wooster Street, be sure to check out The Piers exhibit, on view inside Leslie-Lohman until July 7, 2012.
*Above photo by Stanley Stellar
The Big Day is Almost Here! Come one, come all (seriously — parents, friends, strangers, youth, senior citizens, you get it…) to the opening reception of We Are the Youth’s Window Gallery display at the Leslie/Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Friday April 13, 2012. 6-8pm. Drinks, snacks, raffles, art, good company, sweet tunes will abound! Check our our upcoming events page for more information. Thanks to everyone involved. Hope to see you there.
We Are the Youth work will be on view at Leslie/Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art until May 12, 2012.
You’ll have to visit The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art to see the full show, but here’s a taste of what’s in store when you do! Be sure to check out our Upcoming Events page for all Leslie-Lohman updates and hope to see you at the reception on April 13!
We’re thrilled to announce that We Are the Youth will be showing work in the Leslie-Lohman Window Gallery from March 12 until May 12. The reception will be held on April 13, 6-8pm and all updates on the L-L show will be posted on our Upcoming Events page.
The Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation, established in 1990, morphed into the the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in 2011. Its mission is to provide an outlet for art work that is unambiguously gay and which is frequently denied access to mainstream venues. The Foundation’s Leslie-Lohman Gallery mounts exhibitions of work in all media by gay and lesbian artists with an emphasis on subject matter that speaks directly to gay and lesbian sensibilities, including, erotic, political, romantic, and social imagery and providing special support for emerging and underrepresented artists.
Special thanks to Leslie-Lohman and curator, Julia Haas!
My mom said, “All artists are male and female. To be an artist you have to be psychologically hermaphrodite.” I don’t know if I agree with that. A lot of artists are really boring. I don’t necessarily think everyone who painted a ceramic mug on Etsy is a hermaphrodite.
But I really just want to use myself in my work.When I came to New York for my freshman year of college, I knew I wanted to do drag. In my early performances I played banjo. All the other drag kings were trying to be the cute boy, and I was the creepy uncle. I was more like Pete Seeger than ‘N Sync.
It’s great being in New York, just being able to be in drag and not get questioned. There’s so much freedom in being anonymous. There are times when I want to be passing as a guy, and times where I want to stop people a bit and slow ‘em down.
Thanks to everyone who came, danced, performed, volunteered, helped with clean up, tabled, installed, and in general, supported We Are the Youth! MC-ed by (ever-charming) We Are the Youth participant, Kaden and with DJ AngelBoi spinning some hot jams, the Brooklyn Museum Teen Night Event was an enormous success! With 150+ teens in attendance, Archie Burnett kicked off the evening with an amazing Vogue tutorial, followed by 2 great performances by Shadow Lover and Julia Weldon.