Adam Polaski

New York Times Multimedia Package Highlights Teens' Coming Out Stories

Filed By Adam Polaski | May 23, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: coming out of the closet, John Albuquerque, New York Times, ROTC, teenagers, Thomas Miller

LGBT life and politics has hit the mainstream news in the past year more than ever before. That's why The New York Times is taking this week to reflect on how that increased exposure is affecting LGBT NYT.jpg teenagers with its new "Coming Out" multimedia package. The goal, according to an article by Sarah Kramer introducing the project, is "to better understand this generation's realities and expectations, and to give teenagers their own voice in the conversation."

The package, which started on Sunday, will feature a new photo slideshow and accompanying audio story each day this week. The overall message of each, Kramer writes, is that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender shouldn't be the most interesting part about these teenagers. She writes:

In the face of competing messages, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths just want to be teenagers. While they envision a world where they can get married and have doors open to them, they do not want to be defined by their sexuality, regardless of how they are received by their community. It is just one part of their identity.

The two stories so far have been pretty solemn portraits of the gay teen. The first tells the story of John Albuquerque, a 19-year-old from the Bronx who was recently attacked and now feels unsafe and isolated from his community. The second piece depicts 17-year-old Thomas Miller from Mandeville, La., a cadet sergeant in his high school's R.O.T.C. program. His personal reflection is especially interesting because he feels "weird to someone" in whatever group he's in - his friends, he says, think he's weird for being in the R.O.T.C. program, and his R.O.T.C. buddies don't fully understand his gay identity.

The stories are definitely worth a listen. Future pieces include tomorrow's "Gaining Confidence from God" and Wednesday's "'I Told Them: I'm Transgender.'"

img NYT screenshot

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Reading through all the comments attached to the stories was also incredibly encouraging. Most opinion articles, and other stories on the mainstream press get a spectrum of responses, some very anti-gay and even hateful as everyone knows. It was beautiful to see only positive and encouraging messages beneath these beautiful stories.

It goes to show again that when people see gay as a human story and not simply an idea, attitudes change.

hopefully since I write this there wont be some idiot out there to contradict me.

I am always fascinated by mainstream representation of queer youth. On the one hand, I feel like any visibility of gay youth is worthwhile. On the other hand, these stories are all so closeted and miserable -- what about the gay youth who came out despite the odds? Who aren't Mormons, or Christian fundamentalists, or from the middle of Alabama? I know we exist, so why aren't the stories there? Is the problem in the representation, or have I just surrounded myself with my wonderful NYC QT community for so long that I've forgotten how hard most queers have it? Makes me think.