We Are the Youth is a photographic journalism project and book chronicling the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) 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 LGBTQ youth population.
Below is the story of Caitlyn.
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By Caitlyn, as told to Diana Scholl
It's been really hard for me to find a solid community. I always felt like I fell in the middle with all these identities. I'm always not enough or too much. Being mixed, I might not be gay enough. I might not be straight enough. I might not be Latina enough, or white enough. I felt alone until I found my group of friends and these multiracial spaces. The best thing that has ever happened to me is finding people who have loved me and supported me.
The queer community are my people. I think the word "queer" overall is a pushback [against] normalcy. My partner identifies as straight and is an awesome, awesome ally. I always say I am not in a straight relationship, because if I'm in it, it's at least a little queer.
My partner and I live in a pretty big house with a lot of queer folks. We moved in after me and my mom were evicted from my house earlier this year. I was homeless and couchsurfing. We've been through that before, but this was the first time I was on my own. My mom moved in with one of my family members, but I didn't want to complicate the situation.
My mom always taught me I could survive. Thankfully she was able to support me, albeit not in the most traditional way, and then I found a job that helped me scrape by. But trying to keep up in school was a whole 'nother ball game. All of my friends are in college, and honestly, it's been hard to figure out how to keep doing high school. I'm expected to pay rent, and then I have teachers hounding me about quizzes due last week. I've had a couple different jobs in the last couple months, and now I'm working as a caregiver and medical technician. I also work as a peer educator and really like the work I do with politics and sex ed, doing peer education around sex ed. I do know I want to end up working in nonprofits and working with youth.
Last legislative session, I had a chance to go up to lobby for a comprehensive sex-ed bill in Nevada. I was raped when I was 13. I was assaulted when I was 4. I was able to explain to legislators that when I had sex education, I entered that room as a rape survivor, and the education I got hurt me more than it helped. I never had the words to figure out what happened to me. When the first thing I heard was that if you have sex before marriage, you're unpure and disgusting, it really set me into this spiral. At that point I was questioning my identity, and I asked about girls who liked girls, and the teacher said, "I can't talk about that, because of my religion." I knew I didn't want anyone to go through that shitty sex ed.
The most rewarding parts of doing this work and being able to reach out to my communities has to be that I have been able to meet such amazing people, and particularly, amazing womyn of color. ... I use "womyn" as a rejection of the inextricable connection of the seemingly inferior femininity to men and manhood. If I can help just one of these people find the resources they need to live healthy, happy, responsible, and safe lives, I will have accomplished enough for a lifetime.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Denver, 2015