Profile: We Are the Youth

In June 2010 photographer Laurel Golio and journalist Diana Scholl formed We Are the Youth, a photographic journalism project chronicling the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in the United States. We Are the Youth has profiled more than 50 young people across the United States and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to expand their project to the Midwest.

We Are the Youth profiles have been shown at the Brooklyn Museum, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the Fresh Fruit Festival, and the Gender Reel Festival, and have also been featured in The British Journal of Photography, Change.org, and The Huffington Post.

Golio answered a few questions for us about the project.

fototazo: How did We Are the Youth develop and what are the project's goals?

Laurel Golio: I co-founded We Are the Youth with a childhood friend, journalist Diana Scholl, in 2010. It was around the time that the media began to spotlight issues that were affecting the LGBT youth community such as suicide, bullying, backlash against same-sex prom dates. Diana and I both felt strongly about creating a space where LGBT youth could share their stories. We wanted to hear from the youth, in their own words, and chronicle those stories. Our main goal is to paint a really inclusive portrait of the LGBT youth community. We want youth everywhere to view these profiles, see bits of themselves, feel empowered and know that they’re not alone.

f: How has the visual culture of LGBT youth changed over the last few decades, especially in terms of volume and types of images?

LG: The LGBT community and exposure of the community has changed drastically over the last few decades, even in the past 10 years alone. Incredible strides towards equality and increased exposure have been made. When I was in high school, there were only a handful of mainstream movies, books and documentary projects about LGBT youth. My friends and I were constantly on the lookout for people “like us.” Today there are gay characters on popular TV shows, celebrities are coming out of the closet more frequently, it’s amazing to see people in the LGBT community being portrayed as artists, teachers, friends and parents first; the fact that they happen to be gay is becoming (albeit, slowly) less relevant to who they are and how they live their lives.

f: What other visual projects working with LGBT youth should people know about?

LG: Alexis Handwerker, a friend of ours who runs the Coalition for Queer Youth recently curated Testimony, which included a lot of great work focusing on LGBT youth. Testimony featured, among others, Amos Mac, Michael Sharkey, Molly Steadman and Samantha Box, a photographer who is working on an incredible series about LGBT homeless youth. Embodiment and Self-Evident Truths are also really good projects. They both focus on the larger LGBT community, not specifically on youth, but they’re great.

f: Of the different Kickstarter projects out there to support, why should a donor choose your project?

LG: We Are the Youth shares the stories of a unique group from a unique perspective, on a platform that is easily accessible, not just to the LGBT community, but to everyone. I think that ignorance and misunderstanding comes from not being exposed to an issue and so by giving young people the chance to share their story, inspiring others to do the same, donors are not just supporting LGBT youth but also supporting the idea that sharing one’s life experiences can lead to further equality and more positive visibility and understanding of a marginalized group of people.