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Sharing the Stories of LGBT Youth: Ana, 18, From Blauvelt, New York (PHOTO)

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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 Ana.

We Are the Youth is expanding its reach and currently fundraising through a Kickstarter campaign to expand We Are the Youth to the Midwest.

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By Ana, as told to Diana Scholl

2012-08-28-Ana.jpg />

In a way, I was pissed off to even have to come out. I think it's stupid. Heterosexual people don't have to come out as straight.

And after I told my family I was gay in eighth grade, my dad didn't talk to me for two or three years. He picked me up at school, and we didn't talk. I'd wake up and say "good morning," then once in a while he'd say "good morning" back. But usually nothing.

I was born in Mexico, and we came here when I was 7. My family's very Catholic, but they work with a lot of gay families, so I always thought they'd be fine with it. I was wrong, clearly.

When I turned 18, I started telling my dad again. My mom told him, "This is your daughter; she's not gonna change," and started making my dad talk to me. The only reason I told him again was my parents have a rule: No dating until you're 18. So I told him I had a girlfriend and wanted to be honest with him.

Was Claire my first girlfriend? Bullshit. I dated people, and I hooked up with people, but my parents weren't aware of it before. They've always seen me as the good kid compared to my two sisters. They think I'm a goodie two-shoes.

But "dating" is kind of a weird word for me. I think dating is no good. I'd always been a let's-just-have-fun kind of person until I met Claire.

I met Claire at Common Threads about a year ago. I didn't really know who she was, and my then-really-good-friend was interested in Claire, so I was helping my friend get with her. But three or four weeks after Common Threads, I met up with Claire again and started talking to her, and slowly an attraction happened.

When I asked Claire to prom, that friend and I ended up not being friends anymore and have gotten into a lot of physical fights. My friend was a very special person to me, but I'm not exactly sad about it. You can't get held up on things. Grudges aren't exactly the best thing to hold. I can't help her if she can't get over it.

Claire's still in high school, but that's not weird for me. I think age is just a number. She's been through a lot. She's learned to grow up and be independent.

Like me, Claire's very eco-friendly. We both care a lot about nature. She's a vegetarian. My parents won't allow it, but when I move out, I can finally be a vegetarian.

I found a really great place in Nyack I want to move into with friends in the summer. Nyack's like "Gaytown," very gay and hippie. I'm really excited.

I don't think telling my parents right now that I have plans to move out would be the best idea. I wanted to go to a four-year college, but my mom really wanted me to stay close, because my father's sick, so I went to Rockland Community College. I don't think my father has a clue that I stayed home for him.

For me, family does come first. I want to go to Smith or Bard after next year. But two things are stopping me: money and needing to be close to home. Maybe if I was given a scholarship, I would go to one of those schools, though.

I'm going to be at RCC for another year. I was not looking forward to coming here at all, but I got involved with lots of things. I'm on student government and am president of the gay-straight alliance. Now I don't love it, but I definitely don't hate it.

Not to brag, but I have that leadership thing. I think it's because I grew up in a family of four women and one guy. I was always very strong-minded and open-minded. My grandmother always said that just because you're a woman, that shouldn't limit you in any way.

Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Stony Point, New York, 2011.

Learn more about We Are the Youth's expansion campaign.