“I was a gay teen myself, and it was sort of a tough time, in the ’80s, to be a gay teen,” photographer M. Sharkey tells Queerty. “I wished things had been different, and that I had had the opportunity to be more open about my sexuality. And I felt like this was an opportunity for me to give voice to some of these kids who were demanding to be heard.”
Queer Kids: Coming Out In America is a documentary photography exhibit by M. Sharkey runs through January 4, 2015 at Stonewall National Museum in Wilton Manors, FL.
Sharkey began shooting the editorial portraits in the early 2000s. He found his subjects through LGBT organizations like GLSEN or high school GSAs, as well as online networks like Myspace.
“As far as I’m aware, we’ve never had ‘queer kids’ in human history,” he explains. “And by ‘queer kids’ I mean a self-identified group of young people that fall outside the normative expressions of sexuality and gender. It is wholly new and because of that I felt — and continue to feel–an immense amount of responsibility to portray this radical — I would even say revolutionary — community in the most honest and thoughtful way possible.”
Sharkey says he hopes audiences walk away with a better basic understanding of queer youth today.
“There is nothing terribly complicated about the project,” he continues. “It is simply a portrait of a group of people that have come to a point in history, in their history, where they insist on being seen and heard for who they are. That’s it. Take it or leave it. Where you once perhaps didn’t have a clue about who these people were or what their lives were like, now hopefully you do.”
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