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 Alex.
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By Alex, as told to Diana Scholl
What's the hardest thing I've ever been through? I know the answer to this. I was actually diagnosed with anorexia in 2007, a while ago. It was kind of like OCD. It started out as a diet, and I just couldn't stop, because I kind of go all-out on things. It goes along with how I get fixations with cartoons, how I used to obsessively redraw Bart Simpson. It was something where I set up a meal plan for myself that was really low on any intake, and I couldn't break from it. I'm at a healthy weight now and have a meal plan set up by a dietician, but it's something I still deal with every single day. I think very obsessively about what I eat. I think it's that I don't trust myself.
The anorexia initiated me going to therapy every month, and I think the therapy grounded me to be a successful person. I really like the way I developed, and I feel like I maybe wouldn't have gotten here if I didn't try to solve my problems in therapy. It helped me with my problems of religion and cynicism about the world.
I kind of consider myself a born-again atheist. I'm kind of a fake pseudo-Buddhist despite my materialistic tendencies. I was raised Lutheran but, through my own thought, found my way out of it. It was a difficult time to feel like I was losing a part of myself. I couldn't believe in God if I even tried anymore. It disturbed me, because something that made me feel like everything was going to be OK was gone. When I was more religious, I used to feel more connected to things. I feel disconnected from it now. But that gives me comfort that I can live independently as an individual.
As a middle child I've always had a little bit of an identity problem. Being gay or bi or whatever makes it even more confusing. Something I've observed of a lot of people, and definitely myself, is right when you come out, there's a little insecurity, and you maybe want to assert your identity a little bit. Usually I just say I'm gay, but I'm probably more bi, leaning towards gay. I keep it loose. I've found it's a gray area, but I never had any success dating girls. I dated one girl, and it was the most awkward damn thing ever. I had no passion and didn't put any effort into it. I never had any opportunities at dating a guy back home, in Eveleth, Minnesota, but I do know the pursuit of it came much more naturally.
I had this weird date back at home about a year ago, and he was just way too immature, so it just ended awkwardly. I was kind of lonely and desperate, because I didn't have much opportunity for dating. I haven't dated anyone at Minneapolis College of Art and Design yet. Hopefully I'm more successful.
It's basically a dream come true being here. I'm thinking of going into animation or comic arts. I've spent my whole life loving cartoons like The Simpsons and The Powerpuff Girls. I love basically anything that's animated. That's what drove me to be here in the first place, to draw. In 10 years I'd like to see myself in New York or L.A., with a secure job doodling for a living.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Minneapolis, 2012.