When you were young, did you ever feel invisible? Probably.
The photo journalism project, We Are the Youth, takes aim and addresses this quinessential youth feeling and specifically address the lack of visibility for LGBTQ youth.
This new book is a culmination of numerous interviews and photos by childhood friends and Brooklyn-based artists Laurel Golio and Diana Scholl where youth are able to share their stories with their own voices. Focusing mostly on the U.S., the project aims to become more geographically diverse as it expands.
In this excerpt, several youth from Canada and the U.S. share their stories. Some discuss their experience transitioning to a different gender, others discuss what their home and community life was like as an LGBTQ youth and all have their unique story told in their own voice.
"Antigonish, Nova Scotia, is also known as the Little Vatican. It's extremely Catholic. My family members are "CFAs" -- "come from aways." My mom's from Calgary and my dad's from England. We moved there when I was in Grade 6 because my dad got a job running the live theater.
Even though it's a small town, the religious stuff is the older generation. Though I was in one class and my friend's boyfriend tried to tell me I was diseased because I was gay. I just looked him right in the eye and told him to fuck off. I told him it's pretty shitty how many people have fought and died over the years for gay rights, and that an ignorant kid sitting in class telling me I’m diseased should shut the fuck up."
"I go back and forth if I should tell people I'm dating right away. I've only dated girls, though I found out one girl I dated is transitioning to male. I met Molly at Queer Prom in Halifax in July of last year.
When I was younger, I first identified as gay. But I'd been feeling a little bit off in my gender identity. I went to a Catholic girls' school in Halifax. I wore knee socks, kilt, the whole works. When they added a separate boys' school, a few girls asked if they could wear the boys' uniform and the administration said no. So I wasn't exposed to different gender expressions in high school, apart from my own research. I was reading some things online like GenderFork and Original Plumbing. It's strange being in New York now and everyone is suddenly genderqueer."
"I was two years old when I came to the United States. My visa expired and I didn't know I was undocumented. I only realized once I saw all my friends had their driver's licenses and I couldn't get one. I'm working on getting my work permit so I can finally work. I don't let it bring me down whatsoever.
I'd like to focus my degree on homeless youth and just help them out. I'd do that for five or six years and then learn how to own a hair salon and do makeup for movies and celebrities."
"I'm taking the steps that need to be made for progress among the transgender community. I'm just trying to make the T in LGBT not so silent.
Being a black trans man is an especially unique experience. When you transition from any gender to another gender, that affects you. I went from a black woman to a scary black guy. My white trans guy friends say they get all these great privileges. I've had a lot of experiences where people look at you differently. It's scary."
"One of the things my parents did was advocate for me when I was banned from the girls' soccer team and I had to play on the boys' soccer team. My family knew I had the skills for soccer and should be playing. My mom and dad spoke to a lot of people. I don't know how they did it, but as a result they passed a trans-inclusive policy for all transgender people in America. When you're eight years old you're not talking to the U.S. Soccer Federation.
That changed me a lot, playing with the boys. It lowered my self-esteem and made me feel like I was a boy all over again. I really just didn't like that. A lot of times I would just be sitting on the field chewing on my nails or twiddling my fingers. Normally I'm better than that.
Now that I play with the girls, I like soccer again."
Laurel Golio is a photographer and visual anthropologist. Her work revolves around the examination of community and its various subcultures, with a focus on using portraiture to investigate issues of self-presentation and identity. Laurel’s work has appeared in The Oxford American, Printed Pages and the British Journal of Photography. She graduated from Smith College. laurelgolio.com
Diana Scholl is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in New York Magazine, POZ, and City Limits. Her City Limits article, "For Transgender Homeless, Choice of Shelter Can Prevent Violence" was recognized for Excellence in Newswriting by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association. She currently serves as a communications strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union. She graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
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