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 Nel.
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 Nel, as told to Diana Scholl
I feel like I'm really lucky to be where I am. My parents, my friends, my teachers, everyone's accepting. I haven't lost any friends; I've gained friends. All my teachers are cool with it. They mess up pronouns, obviously. My English teacher messed up once, then emailed me to apologize.
My guidance counselor is probably my best friend in the entire world. This year it's uncomfortable for me to sit in classes where there's a substitute who'll call out my entire birth name. So if there's a substitute teacher, I'll just go to my guidance counselor's office and sit there the entire period. We'll talk about our weekends. I told her I was starting testosterone, and she's like, "Oh my God, I'm so excited for you!"
I'm three months on T. It's going great. I just think my body's reacting really well. The changes are awesome. Whenever I go to school, people will say, "Your voice is changing. Your face is changing." It's easier for me to talk to new people. Before, I was very self-conscious about not passing.
I just shaved my blonde creeperstache. It was getting nasty. I'm not that into facial hair. When my transguy friends would talk about wanting facial hair, it wasn't something I wanted. I mostly just want to pass. It's more my upper body that I'm concerned about.
Before, I used to just wear sweatpants every day. I didn't want to have to get up and get dressed. I thought girls dressed like girls and guys dress as guys. I was never a lesbian. I didn't want to walk down the street and have people see me as a girl with another girl. Obviously there's nothing wrong with that, but it's just not me.
I thought a lot about what other people thought of me. After freshman year, I'm like, "I don't enjoy this anymore." I didn't want to have to get up and get dressed. Since learning what transgender was, everything changed.
I used to hate going shopping. Now I love it. I'm always begging my mom to order more clothes for me. I waste all my money on clothes and food. I really like PacSun. I like skinny jeans, but they tend to show off your curves. I like the PacSun jeans that are straight-legged, and they completely make your hips go away.
I don't need bottom surgery. It's at least $30 grand. I could spend that money on something completely different. If I had $30,000 to spend, I'd probably buy a car. My dream car is the Maserati GranTurismo, but that's way, way above $30 grand.
I do want to make a lot of money someday so I'm financially stable. My parents moved here from Sweden, and they've done well. I don't want to spoil my future kids completely, but I want to give them at least what I have now.
I have no idea what I want to do. My mom talks to me about it every day. I don't think my mom's gone a day without mentioning college. I'm like, "Uh-huh." I think she's just worried that I'm gonna end up as a nobody. I think if she knows that I have a career in mind, it will ease her worries. She says, "You're going to end up working at Burger King or the laundromat." It doesn't stress me out that she keeps bugging me. It's just annoying.
To learn more, check out We Are the Youth's Kickstarter campaign.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in New Jersey, 2011.