The Power of YOUth conference was held on the weekend of November 17th and 18th in Middleton, Wisconsin. About 100 youth from area high schools convened for a lock-in weekend of community-building, friendship-making, educating, and action-taking. YGA was the keynote speaker for the conference.
We set up shop in one of the classrooms and interviewed conference participants as they streamed in and out of the room. At times there were heated shouting matches. At others there was heartfelt support and warmth. It was all good. There were some amazing heroes that worked to put this conference together, people who dedicated so much of themselves to making this a healthy, safe, positive, beautiful weekend for Wisconsin’s GLBT youth. A big Thank You goes out to Jason Rasmussen and GLSEN who invited us to participate. We wouldn’t have missed this weekend for the world.
YGA: Light question. What was the last CD you listened to?
IAN: Korn. The first one. They’re my favorite band ever. I also listened to Manson.
ASH: You like the pissed off metal and then the punk. Me? I like Sublime, and Kitty. I just saw Kitty and Hannah passed out in the mosh and they took us backstage and I got to stand on stage with them. It was quite a great experience.
IAN: Nothing like that ever happens to me.
YGA: Josh, your outfit rocks.
JESS: Part of it isn’t his clothes, it’s mine!
JOSH: Only one thing I’m wearing is yours!
(Josh is dressed in a verrry glamorous ensemble complete with boa)
YGA: Ash, describe what you’re wearing.
ASH: Black dickies, black shirt, black chuckies. But if you saw me tomorrow I’d be wearing all colors. I vary from day to day.
YGA: Is fashion a big part of your life?
BUNNY: I put on clothes with big holes in the butts. My parents don’t approve, but that’s OK.
BUNNY2: I can come to school with bandanna on my head and nobody’ll say anything. I don’t care. If they judge me I don’t care.
ASH: I like to be judged for what I wear.
JESS: My dad doesn’t like how I do my hair. He says it’s too masculine.
LOGAN: What you should do is kill him.
JESS: Yea, but I don’t think jail time is in my future.
YGA: Let’s come up with some topics you guys want to talk about…
We decide on three topics:
1. PARENTS / FAMILY
parents / family
YGA: Raise your hands if you’re happy with the way your parents are dealing with things.
1 Sucky Right Now
YGA: Now tell us why you answered the way you did.
NICOLE: I tried to come out to them a year ago. I tried to do it subtlely and they just totally responded negatively. Now I think there’s no chance. I keep trying to bring up gay issues with them and the last time I did it they didn’t even respond at all. It took a lot of convincing to get them to allow me to come to this conference. I had to emphasize this is a gay – STRAIGHT alliance conference.
SAM: When I came out to my parents they were accepting right away, but it took a lot of sitting down for hours and hours. That was really hard for me to have to keep explaining things, opening my soul in a way. But looking back I think it’s good. It brought us closer together.
LOGAN: My parents are really cool about it and everything. But even if your parents are the most accepting people in the world you know they’re going to look at you differently.
MATT: My parents, at first, had a really hard time with it. My mom didn’t seem to understand how this could happen. She thought it was her fault. Whereas my dad was much more laid back.
BRANDON: When I came out to my mom, she was like “yea I knew.” She didn’t really care. She was kind of upset because she thought it meant I wasn’t going to have children and I was like “whatever, I can still have kids!”
TODD: When I came out to my parents about two and a half years ago, me and my mom had this great relationship and suddenly it was gone. She was threatening to kick me out of the house. It took a good nine months before anything was even remotely OK. The first two months I cried every night. My father and I never had much of a relationship before I came out and now he just uses the word “faggot” instead of my name when he talks to my mother. Now it’s just “your son” not “our son.”
ASH: I haven’t said anything to my parents, partly because I don’t really know, you know, “what I am.” But I think it’s so weird how you guys are saying your parents could be so hateful! All that’s different about you is that you like a different sex! You’d think parents would be cool and supportive, but your dad basically disowned you. That’s so weird.
VARUN: My family has been wonderful. They don’t look at me any differently.
YGA: Do you think that parents generally tend to come around with time?
JOSH: Yes I think it is a time curve. It takes time to grow and to understand.
LOGAN: I think the reason parents get so upset about it is they hear all the tragic, depressing things. They don’t know any better. We’re kind of like the first generation of gay kids so it’s still kinda new to everybody. There’s a generic image of how your life is supposed to be. Every one of our parents was raised with that image of having grandkids, the boys play with GI Joes and the girls play with dolls, you have a daughter-in-law not a son-in-law. We sorta break apart that whole image.
ASH: I can see that. And I can see why people might be sad or confused. But not… mean.
YGA: How do you have relationships?
EVERYONE: THEY SUCK!
JOSH: Men suck.
TODD: Not all men suck. My ex and I broke up a week ago. I broke up with him because he cheated on me with the girl he found on adultfrienedfinder. He came into my work on Friday WITH the guy he cheated on me with! I felt like spitting in his food.
JESS: You should have.
NICOLE: I think that even though we live in Madison which is a really open and accepting place, people may be like “Oh you’re bi how cool!” but then when you actually walk down the hall with your girlfriend they’re lke “Go get a hotel!!”
SAM: I’ve been thinking a lot about what would happen if I did have a boyfriend who went to my school. Would I feel comfortable walking down the hall, or giving him a hug goodbye. Whenever I see straight couples making out it’s always ten times more erotic than anything I would even consider doing in the hallway. It just makes me so mad I even have to think about it when people do so much more without having to think about it at all.
YGA: It puts a lot of pressure on relationships because you can’t express yourself freely.
SAM: Even having pictures of guys on my locker. I see worse pictures in other lockers, but I feel conscientious about it.
MATT: I find the hardest thing about having a relationship is just meeting the right people, meeting guys of quality, meeting people you’re compatible with at Adultfrienedfinder. It’s hard enough even just to meet people for ffriendship.
YGA: Where DO you meet people?
MATT: I don’t know. If I knew I’d be there.
YGA: Who uses the internet?
MATT: There’s a guy in La Crosse I’ve been talking to on the internet. We still haven’t met. I find meeting people off the internet is scary. Even if I feel I can trust them I’d still be scared to actually do it. I don’t think I would.
ASH: What about meeting in a public place?
MATT: Even then I’d be nervous.
SAM: I find the internet kinda scary. How easy is it for a 40 year old man to say he’s 17. A lot of people portray themselves as something they’re not.
HANNAH: Even people who are saying mostly the truth still exaggerate a lot.
YGA: Are there any “safe spaces” around?
ASH: There are gay bookstores.
LOGAN: Jamba Juice.
SAM: As far as meeting people is concerned, these things (GSA conferences) are kinda good. I’ve been to like six of these and walked away from 2 of them with boyfriends.
YGA: I think that’s an important part of these things. When I was y’all’s age, there was no place to go to meet people.
SAM: GSA’s are about support and networking. I think what it’s all about is just getting to meet each other and form alliances.
YGA: Relationships are so important. Loneliness is what makes people feel suicidal.
LOGAN: I think that if I went to a regular school dance, there’s no way during a slow dance you could dance with another guy. Here you can.
TODD: I tried that at a school dance! It was horrible. “Faggot, faggot faggot!”
LOGAN: I know. Everyone’s gonna back off. It’ll be completely awkward. Here it feels so common. A lot of people come out after these conferences because they feel safe here.
JESS: I think that, as far as dances are concerned, that’s one reason its easier to be a lesbian. We had lesbian couple in our homecoming court. I slow-dance with girls all the time and nobody says anything.
BUNNY2: A lot of times at school dances the ratio of guys to girls is low to high, so if girl doesn’t have guy she’ll just grab her best friend. Plus straight guys get off on threesomes.
SAM: You always see girls together, a group of girls going to the dance or wherever, and it’s no big deal. But the moment two guys are going somewhere together…
MATT: There were two guys that went to our homecoming this year. They were king and king! It surprised me. I didn’t think anyone could be brave enough to do that.
YGA: Logan, you suggested this topic. Why?
LOGAN: I don’t know. I feel… I’ve just started learning about things. I still have a lot of questions.
YGA: Like what.
LOGAN: Like sexually I definitely like girls and guys both. But when it comes down to ethics when I’m with a guy it feels right to me. That’s kinda the reason why I’ve been confused. It’s sorta a battle between what your instilled values are and how truly free-flowing emotional you allow yourself to be.
TODD: It’s a battle to fight everything you’ve been taught your whole life.
YGA: Who else feels in-between, or confused, or maybe confusion is fine with you?
TODD: Love is just love.
JOSH: The only problem I have is when people identify as one thing and then do the EXACT opposite. For example, when a guy who identifies as gay then goes around and dates girls it just really pisses me off.
NICOLE: I respect the confusion thing. But my last girlfirend told me she was bi but didn’t bother to tell me she didn’t really know and then she told me she was really just experimenting. I guess my problem would be using people as experiments.
BUNNY2: I really believe that some people who are in the middle AREN’T confused at all. Some people are comfortable being right in the middle, and it’s not wrong. You’re not necessarily confused.
SAM: I know this is totally living in a fantasy world but I think to get so that no one has to feel confused society should bring kids up without telling them anything about gender roles or sexuality. That way they could make their own beliefs and make their own decisions. I know it’s impossible, but in theory if there was no distinctions between mother and father, if there was a lot more balance and blur, that would be ideal.
VARUN: That was me when I first came to the U.S.
YGA: What do you guys have to say about the possibility of a gay gene?
HANNAH: How can you be born what you feel?
YGA: Who doesn’t believe it?
LOGAN: I absolutely disagree with that.
NICOLE: I think a lot of people may be born gay or bi, that’s cool. Some people can be influenced by the environment and lean one way or another and that’s fine too.
YGA: Who believes that our bodies aren’t coded are only influenced by things, that we have the potential to love just about anyone?
BUNNY: I do.
SAM: I think everybody should be bisexual.
JEAN: I think everybody IS bisexual.
HANNAH: I think you can’t be born feeling a certain thing towards same-sex or something. Maybe some people find out when they’re younger, but a lot of people don’t find out until they’re older. I don’t think you can be born gay.
JESS: Even tho I give myself the lesbian label right now that doesn’t mean I couldn’t date a guy if I wanted to.
JEAN: That’s what I mean by everyone’s bi.
VARUN: I was talking with my therapist and she said “you know most people don’t realize this but 90% of the world IS bi, just to different levels.” A guy might find another guy cute but not date him for any number of reasons.
SAM: If everyone was bisexual, that would be so cool because there’d be no limits.
YGA: Soceity forces us to make definitions.
BUNNY1: Everyone’s atrtacted to something different.
VARUN: Yea I just wish all the straight guys would realize that they’re not so hot.
TODD: They’re not some big piece of meat we can’t go without. We’re not spending every minute we’re with them looking at their big packages.
JOSH: One of my friends who is bi says, “why limit yourself when you can have the best of both worlds!?”
YGA: Are you familiar with kinsey scale? The number 1 in 10 is thrown around like it’s cold hard fact and it’s bullshit!! The study, done in 1948, said that one in 10 people identified as Purely Homosexual. But another 35% identified as sometimes or maybe. And that was in 1948!
JOSH: So really it’s more like 75% of the population is gay. Oh wow…
SAM: Sexuality is such a hard thing to survey. How do you do that? Who’s gonna say “yea I’m gay!” even in today’s society. People are going to lie or not be comfortable. How can you possibly say “the number is this.” You can’t say it. The bottom line is you just can’t believe any number. It’s not a census. I think we should just say it’s half and half, to be safe.
YGA: Any final comments?
LOGAN: I love you.
BUNNY: I love you too.