by Dave Parker
Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus
Photo Essay by Rachelle Lee Smith
In Speaking OUT Rachelle Lee Smith presents a series of photos of LGBT youth taken 10 years ago which include out statements by each subject . These heartfelt expressions of their identities and perspectives are written in their own hands directly on the photos, allowing the reader to feel the impact of their feelings in conjunction with their image.
Follow up statements from some of these youth help us to see how their lives have developed. They express their current feelings both about themselves and about the statements they provided 10 years ago.
The photos represent a spectrum of youthful identity. Some of their writings reflect a positive coming out experience, while others report negative reactions. Most are certain in their identity; others appear to be questioning. A few seem openly rebellious; some seem truly at peace with themselves and their relationships. They are a microcosm of queer youth.
Today’s queer youth need to know that their feelings are not unique. They are just different from many of their contemporaries. Today’s parents can read this photo essay and see that their children are not so different– whether or not they are queer.
My reaction to these photos and comments is that the subjects seem so normal. All youth go through times of stress, make choices, learn about themselves, and decide how they want to present to their peers. Those who identify differently than their social peers often struggle with rejection, name-calling, and other bullying.
Identifying differently and standing up for themselves as these young people did requires great courage.