New York City PRIDE events are well documented affairs. The parade, costumes, the festival on Hudson street, the pier dance and everything in between are recorded by the million spectators in attendance. So this year, as in years past, I decided to forgo the parade to stay on mission and focus on LGBT teens and adolescents of color who were out among thousands of celebrants displaying their pride.
Since 2005, I’ve been documenting the many facets of the black LGBT community which touch on themes of protest, love, HIV/AIDS, aging , homophobia, hate crimes, outreach and community celebration to name a few. Recent news stories have brought attention to the devastating effects anti-gay and lesbian bullying can have on teens and adolescents, who in many recent cases turn to suicide to escape the taunting, bullying and other abuse they faced because of their sexual orientation. In fact, preliminary results from a major 2012 survey of black gay youth, conducted by the National Strategy for Black Gay Youth in America, reveals that 43 percent of black gay youth have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of issues related to their sexual orientation. According to the results, over half of those surveyed fear or have experienced family disownment as a result of coming out of the closet. Many black and Latino LGBT youth have found themselves homeless since being “thrown away” by their families.
Young black gay men particularly face a unique challenge when coming out given the deep-rooted anti-gay stigma in the African-american community. In an article published in the 2012 Journal of GLBT Family Studies by Rutgers University School of Social Work’s Michael C. LaSala and Damien T. Frierson from Howard University, LaSala explains some of the unique complicating factors faced by young, gay black men, including a “one more strike against you” mentality that he says makes acceptance difficult for relatives of gay youth:
“The world already sees you as less than others. By being gay, you’re further hurting the image of African-American men,” LaSala says was a common reaction among the male relatives of the black youth when they learned that their relative was gay. “Parents of African-American gay youth said, ‘You have everything going against you as a black man. This is one more strike against you.’ Conversely, parents of white gay youth stated, ‘You have everything going for you — and now this!’”
To black and latino LGBT youth I spoke with at NYC PRIDE, many expressed that they simply want to “be” who they are. “My life shouldn’t be threatened just because I love other guys.” 17 year old Trevor said.” I just want to live and love whoever I want.” he affirmed.
In this age of CHANGE, my intention as a photojournalist documenting the LGBT community of color is to provide positive imagery and disseminate information of the issues affecting this marginalized group to filter into our collective consciousness, and realize that we are all ONE. I AM, therefore WE ARE.
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