NY Times Coming Out Project

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In the face of a society that is still deeply divided over LGBT issues, the New York Times has a new Coming Out project. Here is a description of the project from the accompanying story:

The New York Times embarked on the project “Coming Out” as an effort to better understand this generation’s realities and expectations, and to give teenagers their own voice in the conversation.

The Times spoke with or e-mailed nearly 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender teenagers from all of parts of the country — from rural areas to urban centers, from supportive environments to hostile ones. The newspaper contacted them through various advocacy groups, as well as through social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

The Trevor Project, which provides counseling to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths in crisis, among other services, posted a call for teenagers to tell their stories to The Times, resulting in nearly 250 responses. At times, young people led The Times to others.

The youths who participated were in different phases of coming out: some had come out only to themselves, some to people in certain realms of their lives, some to only one trusted friend or family member. Some had come out to their family or community, and then, realizing they lacked the support they needed, rescinded the declaration — and came out again a couple of years later. Others spoke of hating themselves in the process of accepting who they are.

Some flaunted their sexuality, while others adhered to traditional gender norms. In English, Ind., one boy said that when he first came out, he wore eyeliner and skinny jeans. “But then when I stopped it and decided to be myself, it was like I no longer fit the stereotypes,” he said.

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.

-Tony Infanti


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