Queer Kids – from Photographer Mark Sharkey

Michael Sharkey’s photographs are featured in a Time Lightbox article: Coming Out in America: Mark Sharkey’s Queer Kids. The photos and statements by the kids are wonderful all on their own, but Sharkey’s own reflections on the project are quite provocative as well.

In this article he describes the difference between what he thought the pictures would be about, motivated by his own childhood in the ’80s as compared with what he found in the youth growing up now.

‘I desperately wanted to be made valid in the eyes of my peers. I’ll never forget being punched by a high-school classmate,’ Sharkey told TIME. ‘It was precisely this kind of willful, painful defiance that I wanted to capture in these portraits.’ But the photographer was surprised by what he found.  ‘What you may also see is delight’ says Sharkey. ‘That is the domain of a new generation. The sheer joy of being able to stand up and be seen without shame.’

I can see that in my daughter already. She can and does declare “I am a lesbian and I am proud!” I believe that there is a chance that this generation will have meaningfully different, better experiences than my generation have. I think the fact that my daughter felt she could come out at 10 is evidence of that. She feels supported enough and confident enough to do it. I know she isn’t alone. She is part of a new tide of children.

The photographs in his Queer Kids album on his website are also wonderful. I especially like the statements by the subjects interspersed throughout the album.

This statement by Patrick from Glastonbury, CT for instance:

I realized I was gay pretty young, maybe 9th grade. I realized I was ‘queer’ this year, actually. I view those two things as very different. I like ‘queer’ a lot more. I feel like it’s a more confrontational identity that’s necessary when you are in such a marginalized position. It’s got a tough attitude about it that I like. ‘Gay’ is really nice and friendly and, you know, you’re friends with all the really nice girls and you look pretty and wear your v-neck sweaters and you want to maintain your privilege. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and your don’t want to be in-your-face. “Queer” is in-your-face and calling people out and not being afraid to speak your mind and that’s more me, more of what I am about. I like ‘queer.’ I am queer.

I like that fact that Patrick is not willing to be someone he’s not. He’s not willing to conform to some polite heteronormative simulation of gay manhood.

I also love the fact that many of these kids are gender queer as well. So gorgeous!  Queer Kids album.

On his website he also has a Queer Kids video including a sequence that I take to be the gay prom. My daughter often talks about whether she’ll be able to take her hypothetical girlfriend to the prom. I look forward to that night!

Queer Kids Video

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