Check out the amazing video I just linked to on the Raising Queer Kids Facebook page. It is both a work of art and so touching. Watching it made me feel so clearly the importance of supporting kids, our own and others.
I so appreciate Randy Potts’ sacrifice and courage to go public. His story gives birth to real understanding, empathy, and conversation. Thank you Randy, even if I never meet you.
My daughter knows her type. When we were playing with the FaceYourManga application a while back she said she was going to make a picture of her ideal girl. After careful creation this lovely gal was created.
Dreamgirl X is definitely a variation on a couple of girls that caught my daughter’s fancy over the years.
In fact this girl looks like every doll (Barbie and otherwise) that my daughter picked out for herself between years one and three. I guess age four is when you learn from god-knows-where that you are supposed to choose dolls that look like you, not dolls you like the look of.
Interestingly, this imaginary girl also looks suspiciously like her biological dad’s long-time girlfriend. I have heard numerous declarations of how pretty, nice, affectionate, and good smelling the girlfriend is.
When I asked what this girl is like as a person she said, “she’s nice and she loves me.” That sounds like a good start to me.
Our daughter, like so many other kids her age, uses her bedroom door to express her viewpoints. Since going to Pride her door has been covered in the stickers that she picked up at the parade. Then I printed a map of the US that identifies the different conditions for same-sex union in each state for her and she taped it to her door.
Recently I saw her taping a notice, written on painters’ tape, to her door. It states: Being gay is awesome. Anyone who thinks otherwise GET OUT!
Then she used the Get Out notice made of tape to tape her rainbow flag* to the door.
Now that’s a message!
Please note the purple DON’T BE H8N ON THE HOMOS wristband from FCKH8.com hanging on the doorknob. Why be subtle?
*This dirty, wrinkled rainbow flag deserves a post of its own because it has some history. It is the rainbow flag she asked me to buy for her when she was two and a half years old and we were at the Pride parade in NYC. I saved it all these years and recently it has come to have new meaning for her.
We were messing around with the Face Your Manga application and my daughter wanted to make her self portrait. I was curious about how she sees herself.
I like what she sees!
She understood the idea that she needed to make herself look an appropriate age – not too mature or overdone. I love the t-shirt she made for herself which actually says: I’m gay. I’m proud. It all wouldn’t fit in the photo, so you have to just imagine it.
Another thing that is evident in this picture is that she looks more feminine than she has in the past. This is very accurate.
When she was in third grade and new to the school the kids harassed her about her very short hair and said they couldn’t tell if she was a girl or a boy. In response to what she regarded as incredible stupidity and narrow-mindedness, our little radical cut her hair even shorter and started wearing ties. On special occasions she even wore suits and ties to school.
We have some photos of her dressed for our friends’ wedding where it is really difficult to identify her sex. She was invited by our awesome and aware friends to be an usher in their wedding. This invitation to the wedding party came with the offer that my daughter could wear whatever she wanted.
She wore a pink and green plaid dress and flowery sandals to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner and a gray pinstripe suit to the wedding and reception. (Sometime I’ll tell the story of the lesbian bartender who worked both nights of the wedding weekend and just doted on our girl.)
My daughter look so handsome! In her gray pinstripe suit, blue shirt, and purple and blue striped tie, she was the only usher of the cadre of child-ushers to match the colors-of-the-peacock inspired wedding party outfits perfectly.
Our wonderful, aware friends helped provide her with a wonderful memory of being herself in the best fancy, looking gorgeous way. I also have to raise a note of appreciation to our neighborhood moms for helping put together the special wedding outfit. One dear friend and neighbor donated her son’s black leather dress belt and some ties. Another mom, the mother of my daughter’s arch-nemesis no less (more on him later, for sure) donated her son’s first confirmation suit(!). I love the fact that the elementary school moms in our southern, bible belt city got on board with my girl’s desire to look handsome and play with expectations of gender performance. Of course, if they weren’t the kind of people to get on board with this, they wouldn’t be our friends, right?
My girl’s desire to undermining her classmates expectations of gender performance was her mission throughout third grade. The wedding took place in June after school let out.
When fourth grade commenced playing with gender performance was done. Fourth grade was about educating her classmates about the existence of lesbians and gay men, and raising awareness about marriage inequality.
Fifth grade is about being OUT! And about the existence of lesbians and gay men, and raising awareness about marriage inequality.
I think the intensity of this fifth grade mission is evident in the serious look on the face of the self portrait, especially when coupled with the I’m-queer-I’m-here-get-used-to-it style slogan on the t-shirt.
She’s a lesbian and she’s proud.
I’m proud too.
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.’
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!