Out With It: Gay and Straight Teens Write About Homosexuality

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Edited by Al Desetta
Youth Communication
2nd edition. 153 pages. $13.95 paperback.

This anthology of 25 heartfelt essays captures the gay teen experience. The editors at Youth Communication, a New York City teen writing program, worked closely with the multicultural young writers to hone these autobiographical sketches.

The title for a piece by an 18-year-old girl radiates her confidence: “I Am Religious, Outgoing, African-American, Talented – and Gay.” Being gay is only a part of her, “so if people tell you they’re gay, maybe you can ask them what else they are, like an artist or an athlete or a poet.” Her opening story sets the tone for revelations to come.

Several stories are written from heterosexual viewpoints. In “She’s Cool, She’s Funny, She’s Gay – and She’s My Sister,” Sonia’s straight sister, Sandra Leon, 17, “can’t let the dumb remarks about gay people go by.” Sonia doesn’t act masculine or want to be a guy, doesn’t hate men, and doesn’t try to turn others gay. “Open your eyes and ears, your minds, and your hearts,” Sandra urges.

Six stories are reprinted from Youth Communication’s Represent magazine for foster youth. Among them is “Trapped!” by Mariah Lopez, 14, a guy “who has felt like a female my whole life.” Never fitting into group homes (where even some staffers attacked her), Lopez finally gets into a home for gay and transgender teens. In “Overcoming My Fear of Gays,” Sharif Berkeley, 16, who always “teased and slandered” gay people, learns to become friends with the gay males in his group home.

The act of coming out is pivotal in most of the stories, but other themes abound. Two unusual pieces respond to media representations of gay life. Straight David Schmutzer analyzes the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” and gay Paul Uhlenkoff describes a “True Colors” concert where his mother shares her son’s first experience of being in a gay audience.

Although most of these young writers endure wrenching harassment and inner torment while coming to terms with their sexuality, they seem to become more stable as they speak out to others. (212) 279-0708, ext. 115, http://www.youthcomm.org/outwithit.