Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 27, 2014

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Photos explore dynamics of youths' sexual identity

JAY REEVES, Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — For many, it's difficult to understand Foster Noone's sexual identity. The 17-year-old uses the labels of bisexual, trans and gender neutral all at once.

A photography exhibition that opened at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on Wednesday night seeks to put a face on such young people while exploring the difficult dynamics of family acceptance of their identities in the Deep South.

The exhibit "Family Matters" features images of a dozen lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth ages 15 to 23 who were photographed by Carolyn Sherer. She previously displayed photographs of lesbians and their families for a 2012 show called "Living in Limbo."

Sherer, who photographed each young participant before a plain white background, said she didn't have any trouble finding subjects for the projects, even though living openly as a LGBTQ person can be difficult in Alabama — like many other places.

"The 12 youths who stood for these photographs are fearless, and they give me great hope for the future," Sherer said.

Noone, of suburban Pelham, laughed in delight when viewing the exhibit for the first time with two other people who posed, Ali Massoud and Lauren Jacobs, both of Birmingham.

"With only 12 portraits it's impossible to show the entirety of such a huge community, but I love that it gives voices to young people and it's a start for us to begin telling our stories," Noone added.

Jacobs, who calls herself queer, is one of the older participants, at 22. She hopes the display — hanging in a hallway beside old black-and-white images from the civil rights movement in the 1960s — will be affirming for both the people who posed and for viewers. Beside each photo is a short personal narrative describing that person's relationship with family members.

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