Stories of LGBTQ Youth from the Big Easy

Text by Meral Agish | Photos by Kara Khan and Meral Agish

NEW YORK — A woman pulls out a letter she has written to her younger self and dedicated to her daughter. The advice is sweet and maternal:
You are a beautiful young woman.”

Milan, one of the 6 founding members of BreakOUT!. “BreakOUT! has been nothing but amazing. It’s the best family I’ve ever come across besides my immediate family.”

But for Milan, the woman reading the letter, the source of her wisdom has an edge.

“I’m priceless yet I find myself constantly putting a price tag on my body.”

Milan is young, only in her 20s, the daughter she mentions is a teenaged friend whom she mentors. And the advice is based on her experience as a young trans woman and, for a time, as a sex worker. Milan and her four fellow cast members traveled from New Orleans to perform “Say My Name, Say My Name” at the New York Live Arts Center in Manhattan last week.

The piece transported the audience again and again to New Orleans. The city is the hometown of the five performers — and the focus of their work. The cast members are all part of BreakOUT!, a youth-led organization that works to end the criminalization of LGBTQ youth of color in New Orleans. The words they speak on stage are all based on their lives. The stories they tell, of being beaten by a grandfather after coming out or of being fired after transitioning at work, are real.

“Say My Name, Say My Name” starts with a light question: what do people think when they think of New Orleans? One by one, the cast touches on the city’s hedonistic reputation, from Bourbon Street to Mardi Gras to boozing, before settling on a darker side of the city that affects the lives of LGBTQ youth daily.

Read the full story on JJIE


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