NYT Joins Anti-Gay-Bullying Activism Epidemic with “Coming Out: Gay Teens In Their Own Words”

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?

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 762 articles for us.

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    I really liked the second story, about the boy in ROTC. It was amazing to hear the stories in audio format, recorded autobiographically. And the photos were great, too.
    I read some of the comments on the nyt site and only ran across a few that were douchebag-esque.

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    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought the line “Some flaunted their sexuality, while others adhered to traditional gender norms” stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ve found the feature otherwise interesting so far, but that line was cringe-worthy.

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