Sarah Kramer’s Coming Out, a multimedia project for The New York Times, is powerful precisely because of its ambition. Kramer asked teenagers across America to share their experiences as young gay and trans people. Along with photographer Nicole Bengiveno, they went into the homes of kids who, mostly still in high school, were eager to publicize what is typically a private experience. Starting this past Monday, each day this week the Times published one audio interview set to a photo slideshow, with tomorrow’s being the last. For gay youth, the fear of speaking out and belittling of their voices is perhaps the hardest part of high school life. Kramer’s story subverts that routinely oppressive narrative. These are young people telling their own story—no one doing it for them. Click through to read our interview with Kramer about the process of putting together the project.
How did you find these kids? Each of the kids came from a totally different place. We fanned out to multiple organizations like, “This is what we’re doing, can you spread this to the kids you’re involved with you?” Some of it was much more word of mouth. Sometimes it was through teachers. Sometimes kids led me to kids, like the Cadet, Thomas Miller. I was on the phone with a lovely kid in Mandeville, Louisiana, whose mom had heard about our project through PFLAG. Her son told me, “You know, honestly, I could tell you my story, but I have friends who have more going on than I do. Do you want to speak to my friend Thomas? He’s in the ROTC.” And that was a story I wanted—I wanted to know what was going on in the ROTC, but that was a hard story to find because you can’t call the ROTC chapter and say, “Hey, can I speak to any kids on your team that are gay?”
Since publishing the project, you’ve had a big response from other kids who want to tell their stories and you’ve been cataloging them on the site, as well. It’s been an outpouring. I didn’t know so many people would just, you know, elect to do it and do it quickly. We have something like 270 still to go through.
How long has this whole process taken? About five or six months.