08/15/2012 02:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sharing the Stories of LGBT Youth: Mars, 18, From Brooklyn (PHOTO)

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 Mars.

This profile is part of the series We Are the Youth: Celebrating Queer Brooklyn, funded by the Brooklyn Arts Council. We Are the Youth is expanding its reach and currently fundraising a Kickstarter campaign to expand We Are the Youth to the Midwest.

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By Mars, as told to Diana Scholl


I decided I wanted to go to School of Visual Arts in sixth grade. I thought I wanted to do interior design. My mom had a lot of HGTV going on around the house. Then I realized that required a lot of architecture, and I was awful with math and didn't really like choosing throw pillows. So I changed my mind. But then I realized SVA's photography program was a lot better than their interior design program.

Seeing Catherine Opie's "Being and Having" series made me want to be a photographer. I'm going to try to do photography as long as I can. Going to school for photo, nothing's more apparent than how competitive it is. But I've never really considered anything else. I'm just going to hope it works out.

My work was featured on Autostraddle in their Artist Attack Spotlight. The funniest was this website Queerie Bradshaw made a list of seven semi-celebrities they wanted to sleep with while they were single, and I was number six.

My very first photo series I did was to take photos of the same people both as extremely female and extremely male. At the time, I couldn't really get past that idea of the two being very separate, though I was trying to talk to everyone else about gender being fluid. As fun as fake mustaches are, it's nowhere near the work I'd be putting out if I was trying to show the same sort of thing now. But I'm still interested in portraiture and documenting the queer and gender-variant community.

Myself, I'm definitely transgender of some variety. I'm not sure where I will stick. There are so many labels. The terminology is always shifting.

When I told my friend I wasn't comfortable with my birth name, my friend was like, "If you're going to change it, you have to make it something cool like Mars." And I usually use gender-neutral pronouns, which is terribly awkward. I generally say I can be called anything that's not female. If someone I haven't met before uses female pronouns, I don't get that upset. It's only people I've told several times; that's when it bothers me. My friends seem to feel bad when I correct them, but they don't put any effort into changing it.

I go back and forth if I should tell people I'm dating right away. I've only dated girls, though I found out one girl I dated is transitioning to male. I met Molly at Queer Prom in Halifax in July of last year.

When I was younger, I first identified as gay. But I'd been feeling a little bit off in my gender identity. I went to a Catholic girls' school in Halifax. I wore knee socks, kilt, the whole works. When they added a separate boys' school, a few girls asked if they could wear the boys' uniform, and they said no. So I wasn't exposed to different gender expressions in high school, apart from my own research. I was reading some things online, like GenderFork and Original Plumbing. It's strange being in New York now and everyone is suddenly genderqueer.

My first week in New York, I knew Amos Mac would be at TransMan 2012, so I asked him if I could shoot him for my project. Now I'm interning for him. I helped him mail out Original Plumbing. I've assisted on shoots. At first I was definitely intimidated. I was shaking.

My mom was not quite as proud of my internship with Amos as I thought she'd be. I'm never really sure how she'll react to things. The other day my mom asked if I was living as a male. I just said no, and hopefully that will keep her at bay for a little bit. My mother was very certain I would come to New York and join a cult. No, I don't have a cult-like personality.

Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Brooklyn.