We Are the Youth is a photographic journalism project chronicling the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in the United States. Through photographic portraits and "as told to" interviews in the participants' own voices, We Are the Youth captures the incredible diversity and uniqueness among the LGBT youth population. We Are the Youth addresses the lack of visibility of LGBT young people by providing a space to share stories in an honest and respectful way. Below is the story of Magda, age 17, from Brooklyn. This profile was originally published in 2010, before the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Portraits of Magda and other We Are the Youth participants are currently on display at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York until May 12, with a reception open to the public on April 13. To celebrate this exhibit, we'll be sharing all their profiles on The Huffington Post.
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By Magda, as told to Diana Scholl
I was born in Poland, and I've lived in Williamsburg most of my life. There used to be nothing here but factories. I used to hate it. But now there's so much going on, I don't want to leave for college next year.
I'm going to Poland this summer to stay with family for six weeks. I definitely won't tell them I'm gay. Poland is one of those places where being gay is really not tolerated. My mom's really cool about it, though.
I came out to myself my sophomore year, and to my mom recently, two months ago. I wasn't really worried about telling her because I knew she'd accept me. But I just didn't feel like I needed to tell her before that.
I do Junior ROTC after school. I have two uniforms, the regular one and the camouflage one. They had Junior ROTC at my school, and I always saw them in uniforms. And I've always loved uniforms. All the sergeants want me to join the army, but I don't want to. Mostly because, can't you get kicked out if you're gay? That would be kind of bad. And I don't want to serve. I kind of like living. All the sergeants know I'm gay, indirectly. They joke around about it, but they love me, so they don't care.
I'm one of the team leaders. I can do 80 push-ups in two minutes and run two miles in 13 minutes. I don't want to brag, but, you know, that's pretty good. I also play basketball, and this year the soccer team wants me. I like basketball. It's fast-paced, and I'm good at it.
When I'm not in my uniform, I've always dressed in boyish, baggy clothes. My mom used to dress me like that when I was a kid, even. It's my comfort zone.
I love high school. It's awesome. Everyone at school is accepting. I go to a big school with 4,000 people. It's overcrowded. There's a lot of diversity, so there's a lot of gay people, I guess, but there's a lot of everything. I have a lot of friends. And the thing with me is I flirt with everyone, I don't know if they're gay or not.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Brooklyn, 2011.