We Are the Youth is photographic journalism project that chronicles the individual stories of LGBT youth in America. The enterprise is a collaboration between award-winning journalist Diana Scholl and photographer Laurel Golio, who set out to create portraits paired with “as told to” interviews in the participants’ own voices that capture the diversity and uniqueness among today’s queer youth.
Since its inception in 2010, We Are the Youth has profiled more than 80 young people from all walks of life and from across the country. Now, what began as a web-based project four years ago is being turned into a stunning new book, released by Space-Made, an alternative media company, in conjunction with Interrupt Magazine. The book will be released in July.
Check out these powerful excerpts from the book, which is available for pre-order now.
Dohyun, Age 19, Atlanta, GA
I come from a very, very traditionalist, conservative Korean family. Growing up, I never knew what gay was. The concept was entirely foreign to me. I actually haven’t come out to most of my family. I’m pretty sure if my dad found out, he’d kick me out. My siblings know, I think, but we never talk about it.
Izabela, Age 19, Lincoln, NE
I’m very into Marilyn Monroe. Yes, she was successful, but she had a lot of brokenness to her. I feel like I just put on a good face but I’m not okay sometimes, so I kind of click with her in that way. Before I went to Boys Town, I’d take pills all the time. I could stop whenever I wanted, but I didn’t want to stop. She had that problem too.
Julius, Age 19, Las Vegas
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 license, 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.
Trevor, Age 20, Montevallo, AL
When I told my mom I was gay, she said, “When you were three years old you put a bra on your head and walked out in my heels and said, “Mama! I want to be a woman.” She always thought I’d be transgender. And now that I’ve been doing drag a little bit she’s like “You’re gonna like it too much. You’re going to want to be a girl.” But I assured her that, no, I don’t want to be a woman.
I feel more comfortable when I’m in drag. I’ve always been more feminine than my male peers. It’s not that I’m transgender or anything, but in the society we live in, I feel more anxious holding hands with my boyfriend as another boy than I do when I’m in drag. When I’m out of drag I dress kind of androgynous, in tight pants and a v-neck t-shirt.
Blake, Age 17, Charlotte, NC
Becoming homecoming king is kind of the only normal teenage dream I’ve had. I was really surprised, though, that I was nominated. I didn’t think it was attainable because I’m trans. But now I feel like I could get it. 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.
Braxton, Age 20, Auburn, AL
I highly hold on to my evangelical roots even though they sort of slapped me in the face a little bit. But I grew up believing certain things, and just because I’m gay doesn’t mean they don’t make sense to me anymore.
There are some things I have to rethink and put different spins on. And people will say, “Well, you didn’t think homosexuality was right until you came out of the closet.” Well, I wasn’t open to discovering new things, and this puts the Scripture into a different light.
Carter, Age 19, Oakland, CA
I don’t know what I could do to make me seem gayer. Even last night I was talking to a girl I’ve known for a while. I said something about some girl, and she was like, “Oh, are you bisexual?” She jumped to thinking I was straight to thinking I was bisexual. I’m like, “No, I’m pretty fucking gay.”
Michelle, Age 20, The 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…
Tom is 43. Some of my friends grill me about the age difference. Age isn’t 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.
Photos and text reprinted with permission from We Are the Youth.