Queer Kids In America

Laura’s Team Pick:

 M. Sharkey‘s giving queer kids the credit they deserve in his new project called, well, “Queer Kids.”

The idea for this project arose from my own desire as a gay teenager to be given a voice. I desperately wanted to be made valid in the eyes of my peers. Sadly, coming out (and of age) in the ’80s, as I did, proved to be quite difficult.

In his series of photos, videos, and interviews, Sharkey lets every kid show just how smart, loving, complex, defiant, weird, and radiant they are. They’re you when you were 17, or the you you wish you had been. These are kids who know what they’re up against and know they can handle it.

Queer Kids 2010 from M. Sharkey on Vimeo.

Sharkey says, “I’ll never forget being punched by a high-school classmate, as I’m sure all the other kids who suffered some physical abuse because of their sexuality will not forget. It was precisely this willful, painful defiance that I want to capture in the portraits. But what you may also see is the delight that is the domain of a new generation: the sheer joy of being able to stand up and be seen without shame.”

When you look at these kids, what do you see?

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

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22 Comments

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    The interview with Liz is excellent.
    “Tell me about an average day in your life.
    Wake up, go to class, get harassed by lesbians on campus, hang out with my girlfriend, ride my horse… yell “Queer Nation!” at straight people and sorority bitties.”

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    What do I see?
    I see hope, I see kids well on their way to a well adjusted life.

    This in contrast to my own. At that age I was painfully shy. I wasted precious years, not understanding, at war with myself and my body, merely (and barely) surviving.
    I lacked the vocabulary to even ask the questions to help myself. Answers were slow in coming and some 20 years later I stumbled across the answer and ran away. As hard as I could. Luckily I derailed (at a cost) just before I hit the unforgiving wall at the sudden end of the road.

    Now I’m still struggling, with long waiting lists, with hormones that do not do what they are rumoured to be up to, on the contrary.

    Have I ever been in love? NO, unless you count a serious one night stand with the Grim Reaper last summer and he has come again, flirting and he is a handsome bastard…

    And after 44 years under this sun I doubt there will be love anytime soon. Not while I struggle and immensely hate this body that does not react well to hormone replacement therapy. I hate my body, from the soles of my feet up, with the possible exception of my eyecolour and my hair.
    The last only because the hairdresser managed to make something of it after last summers total hormonal fuck up which included a lot of hair loss that got stuck and that I couldn’t get out in time (think dreadlocks gone bad and you get the idea), severe depression and a suicide attempt. I doubt any woman is really going to find my fucked up state of mind and male body attractive any time soon….

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    Notice that the entire last section of the video was *all men*. I just kind of kept going “where are all the lesbians?” Exclusion of women within the gay community kind of negates a message for me.

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    You know what, girls_n_guys?
    We need more stuff like this.
    To show that we are not alone.
    To gain family.
    To feel you are loved.
    To give and take respect.
    To show others we are great.
    To acknowledge that diversity builds our culture.
    To see what it is like having to be strong every day.
    To understand that you are stronger than you think you can be.
    And last but not least:
    To be able to be proud of yourself.
    It’s important. Sitting here in Germany I feel a unique bond with all queer kids on earth.
    You will grow, you will become independent, you will live a good life.
    Don’t let others get you down – once you left school or highschool or your small town you can make a better life.

    Community is out here.

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    This was done at Dickinson College last Fall (I’m in the video) and it has really blown up since Sharkey released the video last Thanksgiving, which is really exciting. I’ve seen it posted in a few places (Time, HuffPo, Queerty) and I’m really glad that people find it strong and inspiring.

    And just for the record, the ratio of men to women from the Queer Kids project in this video (at Dickinson) comes solely from students who expressed interest. There was a limited number of spots that there was time to photograph and interview, but those that were part of it were the first to express interest in participating.

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