Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages 14 to 24, identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Portraits are presented without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject's personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. With more than sixty-five portraits photographed over a period of ten years, Speaking OUT provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth.
Rather than a slick coffee-table book only available to those who could afford to pay $40 or more, we decided to crowd-source the funding of the first print run so that the book would only cost $14.95. Thank you to all the people who donated over $25,000 to get this book out into the world.
Speaking OUT gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced. The collaboration of image and first-person narrative serves to provide an outlet, show support, create dialogue, and help those who struggle. It not only shows unity within the LGBTQ community, but also commonalities regardless of age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.
With recent media attention and the success of initiatives such as the It Gets Better Project, resources for queer youth have grown. Still, a void exists which Speaking OUT directly addresses: this book is for youth, by youth.
Speaking OUT is an award-winning, nationally and internationally shown and published body of work. These images have been published in magazines such as the Advocate, School Library Journal, Curve, Girlfriends, and Out, and showcased by the Human Rights Campaign, National Public Radio, Public Television, and the U.S. Department of Education. The work continues to show in galleries, universities, youth centers, and churches around the world.
"Queer youth have a powerful story to tell and Rachelle Lee Smith has given voice to them through her stark, gorgeous photography. Speaking Out captures the essence of LGBTQ young people - proud, visible and with something important to say. Smith's collection offers a glimpse of Generation Equality you won't easily forget." -Candace Gingrich, Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) Associate Director for Youth & Campus Engagement
"Rachelle Lee Smith has created a book that is not only visually stunning but also gripping with powerful words and even more inspiring young people! This is an important work of art! I highly recommend buying it and sharing it!" -Perez Hilton, blogger and television personality
"It's often said that our youth are our future. In the LGBT community, before they become the future we must help them survive today. This book showcases the diversity of creative imagination it takes to get us to tomorrow." -Mark Segal, award-winning LGBT journalist
"The power of a look, a pose, and a story can be seen through Rachelle Lee Smith's photography and the youth who opened up their raw emotions, insecurities, and celebrations to us all. Sharing stories saves lives, but also reminds us that there can be continual struggle in finding identity and acceptance." -Ryan Sallans, author of Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life
"It's wonderful to see so many happy kids. You wouldn't have seen such a crowd fifty years ago. Sometimes things do get better."-Ed Hermance - Owner Giovanni's Room, the oldest LGBT book store in America
"Rachelle Lee Smith's photographic project presents us with the face and the voice of this generation of LGBT youth: they are passionate, angry, funny, and committed. As an openly gay educational leader, I think this project is critical-not only for young queer people, but for their teachers, parents, mentors, and friends. We need to put this project in libraries and schools across the country!" -Sean Buffington, President and CEO, The University of the Arts
"These are portraits of a revolution. Photographer Rachelle Lee Smith gives lesbian and gay youth an outlet to speak for themselves. Simple, yet powerful photos of queer youth speak reams." -Advocate
"The young people profiled in this remarkable book represent the tip of the volcano of a new generation transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities related not only to sexuality and gender identity categorizations and hierarchies, but they are also making links in the various types of oppression, and are forming coalitions with other marginalized groups. Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people across gender and sexuality spectrums will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender and sexuality." -Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, Ed.D. - Professor, Iowa State, University of Massachusetts
"The perfectly executed photographs, the passionate handwritten text, the insights, secrets and revelations all combine to make this a powerful body of work. Ms. Smith has shown a light on a group of young people and illuminated the world in which they live."-David Graham, Award-Winning Photographer
"This is a STUNNING book. And it's important. It's important that the next generation is SEEN the way it sees itself. We rightfully put a lot of emphasis on being heard-on words. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and this book's striking focus on the AESTHETICS of this group of queer youth is thoroughly refreshing. Bravo!"-Innosanto Nagara -Author, A is for Activist, Co-founder, Design Action Collective, Oakland
About the Artist:
Rachelle Lee Smith is an award-winning, nationally and internationally shown and published photographer. Rachelle's work in Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus combines her passions for activism and photography to tell the stories of, and provide a rare insight into, the evolving passions, confusions, prejudices, fulfillment, joys, and sorrows of queer youth.
Book Foreword by Candace Gingrich and Afterword by Graeme Taylor:
We're thrilled that we get to feature perspectives from an activist who has been working on GLBTQ issues for decades and a youth who stood up for a teacher and then took the world by storm as the start and finish of this book.
At age 14, Graeme Taylor skyrocketed to international attention when he confronted a school board for not defending gay rights in it's schools. In the process, Graeme became one of the youngest and most widely known openly gay teens in America. He was interviewed on MSNBC's Jansing and Co. and the Ellen Degeneres Show and is now the subject of a short film, "Shrug."
Candace Gingrich is an LGBT rights activist with the Human Rights Campaign. Her involvement in the movement for queer equality began when her brother, Representative Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, was elected House speaker. She lives in Hyattsville, Maryland.