"Pariah Personals" Feature Coming Out Stories By Youth of Color

This week, Salon.com teamed up with New America Media to run a series of coming out stories by LGBT youth of color and LGBT immigrant youth.  Titled "Pariah Personals," the series is inspired by the recently released film "Pariah," a coming-of-age story about an African American teen named Alike, who is embracing her identity as a lesbian.  The film opened today in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles with positive reviews.

"Pariah Personals" kicked off on Monday with a piece by GLAAD National People of Color Media Institute participant Jamilah King, news editor for ColorLines.com. King's story focuses on her process of coming out at age 21 to her single mother, fearful of how her disclosure would affect their relationship.  She states, "Over the years, I’ve come to understand that 'coming out' is more of a daily commitment than a singular event. It’s the resolve to live openly and honestly; an affirmation of self-love that needs to be repeated with nearly each encounter. For my mom and me, it’s been a commitment to at least start a conversation, and to remember the pride we have in one another."

Tuesday's installment featured the story of Jean Melesaine, a Samoan American who struggled to find acceptance within her family once her parents became followers of the Mormon church.  Melesaine explains that there is room for her identity within her indigenous culture, stating, "Samoans always had two-spirit people in our culture, meaning people who were in touch with both masculine and feminine spirits. In Samoa they use the terms 'fafa’afine' (like a woman) and 'fafa’atama' (like a man)."  However, once her family converted, Melesaine did not feel that acceptance any longer.  She states, "One day when I was 5 years old, someone handed me a youth pamphlet. On the cover were young white people with big smiles, dressed in white. I started flipping through it and reading the passages. There were two things I learned that moment that changed my life. One, I now had language, a word for what I always thought I was; and two, that I would not enter the kingdom of God."  This lack of acceptance led her to engage in acts of property theft beginning at age 7, culminating in a jail sentence two weeks before she graduated from high school.  Now 26, Melesaine is the associate editor and community organizer for Silicon Valley De-Bug, a media collective in San Jose. She states, "Coming out was always like coming home to myself, and at 26, I’m grateful to finally feel at home and I applaud those who are still fighting to find their way home."

Wednesday's essay features the coming out story of 17-year-old Andres Garcia, a high school senior.  Garcia states, "With my own family, I was in the closet for six long years. Coming from a Catholic Latino family in the small agricultural town of Lamont in south Kern County, California, I just figured they’d be close-minded." Garcia's sister, Isabel, is an out lesbian, and Garcia was also worried that his father would not take the news of his sexual orientation well, given that he did not react well to Isabel's disclosure at first.  In the end, Garcia was able to come out to his brother and his father, and now encourages other youth to do so as well.  He states, "What I would say to other youth in situations where you’re questioning whether to come out or not is this:  Build a circle of trust with your family first, not your friends. Friends come and go, but your family is there with you, always."

GLAAD commends Salon.com and New America Media for amplifying the voices of LGBT youth who are living at the intersections of oppression.  We encourage our readers to continue following this series at: http://www.salon.com/topic/pariah_personals/.

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GLAAD Southern Stories will elevate the experiences of LGBT people in six of the nation's southern states. The initiative amplifies stories of LGBT people thriving in the South, ongoing discrimination, as well as the everyday indignities endured by LGBT people who simply wish to live the lives they love, including stories of family, stories of faith, stories of sports, and stories of patriotism