The New York Times has announced its own response to the Plight Of Gay Teenagers and Bullying Epidemic, as recognized by every major news publication, social media outlet, high school or university, A or B list celebrity, and also sometimes even parents. The NYT’s reaction is an intensive series on queer youth called “Coming Out: Gay Teenagers, In Their Own Words.” They’ve interviewed about 100 queer teens, found through a variety of outreach and support organizations, and asked them to narrate their own lives and stories, both the good and the bad.
Their series will be an interactive feature on the NYT website, with “audio of teens narrating their own stories, reader-submitted stories and the option to share your own story.” (It seems like a foregone conclusion that both the solicited and reader-submitted stories will draw a firestorm of opposition, both from right-wing media voices and from irate anonymous people on the internet.) The series opens today, with the stories of two young men. Here’s some of what you can expect to see:
Today, you can hear the story of 19-year-old John Albuquerque, who was recently bullied by a teenager in his Bronx neighborhood , and the story of 17-year-old Thomas Miller, who just graduated from Mandeville High School in Mandeville, La., where he was part of his school’s R.O.T.C. program…. Kailey Jeanne Cox, 15, said in her story: “I don’t want to have myself being seen by people as ‘Oh, she’s — she’s gay.’ I want them to see me as ‘Wow, she loves God, who cares what kind of people she likes? She is a Christian, she leads by example and she’s a wonderful person.’ That’s what I want people to think when they see me.” Or Joel Brimmerman, 17, who cannot wait for the day he can begin the physical transition to male from female, summed it up this way: “I’d rather just get done with it and get on with my life. I mean, I have stuff to do besides transition.”
The hope is that since these stories are coming directly from the people who have lived through them, there will be fewer of the kind of missteps that the NYT sometimes has in its trend or cultural pieces, although there’s no guarantee. (For instance, see this sentence from the press release: ”Some flaunted their sexuality, while others adhered to traditional gender norms.”)
Either way, the coverage promises to be interesting, and it’s refreshing to see a large publication engaging with the marginalized community in question instead of speculating about them from a distance. What do you think? Could this help the current state of things for queer teens by educating the rest of the country about their situations, and by letting them see their own community reflected in mainstream media? Will you share your own story at the NYT website? Or just share your feelings about them here?