This is Us & This is Me

These have been the most important days of my life. These feelings are the most important feelings I have ever felt, ever shared. These are the most special moments I have endured, and I am the most hopeful I have ever felt for those that lie ahead.

I have never wanted to share something so badso, so, bad. In every relationship I was in, I found myself being hesitant and less affectionate. My puckered lips were only pressed against his in the shadow behind a building, just before class. Our hands were only intertwined because it is what I felt we should be doing, not because it was what I felt I wanted to be doing. Kisses were for my gain of experience, rather than the beloved simplicity of the kiss itself. Kisses are much more meaningful now. These kisses are now what I have always dreamed of kisses being.  

For so long, I believed I was incapable of falling in love. The idea of committing to a person for such an extended amount of time terrified me to no end. Ironically enough, my biggest fear has always been the fear of being left by the people that mean the entire world to me. And yet, I have found myself being the one to leave some of the most willing and loving people to ever walk into my life behind. They wanted me, and I did not want them. Right people, wrong time is what I used to trick myself into believing. But I now know. I now know for sure that they were the right peoplejust the right people for the wrong person. I have found my right person. I have found myself ready to be that right person. 

It’s kind of a funny story, really. Whenever I was out of a relationship I had always immediately started to look at boys so much differently. It was almost as if I was imagining myself with them, and out of the few guys I knew, I’d pick which one I thought I could see myself with next. It felt an awful lot like things kept moving forward for no reason, and it felt an awful lot like I had absolutely no regard for the potential feelings we would share. The feelings I always imagined myself having towards these boys were only beautiful on paper and only lovely to hear because I know how to choose my words wisely. The pain that came from what I believed my first heartbreak was now looks to me as if the lust that filled my sixteen-year-old heart suddenly had to adjust to not being with my first attractive pile of testosterone. At sixteen I didn’t understand what lust was, but I now know it was purely that. Then, what seemed to be my most serious relationship to date was the one I'd just left. He'd been the first boy to really, and I mean really, go out of his way for me. It was your stereotypical pay-for-your-meals, surprise-you-at-your-doorstep, love-you-on your-terms kind of romance. I had stayed in that relationship for so many months without ever putting a label on it, because I never wanted to. I now know I never wanted to because I was never sure. And I also now know that I saw a lot of myself in him, and that is probably why I enjoyed the gestures he made for me so deeply. The gestures he made for me are the same gestures I’d make for her. 

Her. Her. I never thought I would be typing these words for anyone but myself, but somehow I find myself here, typing these words, because I cannot seem to contain them just for myself. There is this intricate divide that separates the beauty of our relationship itself and what our relationship may mean to our world around us. 

Now I wouldn’t exactly say this is the first girl I have ever imagined myself dating, because there have been times where I had to really think about why I wanted that one girl in my English class to be my friend so badly. Or why I made those extraordinary gestures for my close friends, or why I began to look at these girls I closely knew differently when I learned what having feelings for someone really meant. The emotional connections I share with people have always been the most intense out of all the other friendships they had in their lives. That’s just the type of person I am, and that’s just what I have always told myself. But there was something about this time that became far different from just wanting to mean something to her. I’d reached a point so far beyond just wanting to be a part of her life; I wanted to have a special place in her heart the same way she had found herself a place in mine. At my easiest disposal, I can proudly say my dreams have become a reality. I so gently write to her to “hurry up and finish your dinner, I have dreams to meet you in." So, so easily, I carry both of our hearts in the palm of my hand as my reality. The dreams I had about her and the dream of wanting to be with her have retired as my favorite vacation spot in my mind. 

So, I believe I could refer to this abundance of flowery language and many variations of introductions to my little love story as my “coming out." My coming out as fully myself, the best version of myself, and the most true to myself. I take full pride in the person I am finally allowing myself to be today. My coming out was not only coming out as in love, but coming out as a bisexual individual. I believe that the reason why this relationship is so special is because it was not only the first time I had really felt these things, but it was the first time I had allowed myself to. The unique thing about all of this was the fact that these feelings I'd begun to feel so deeply for her became hard for me to hide and keep to myself. As two individuals, all talk about where we fall on the spectrum aside, we had fallen for each other. Fallen for each other to the point where everything we anticipated to come our way became less important than the sole fact that we had each other. Two people that love each other become quite invincible, and that is what I have learned recently. Culturally, socially, and by influence I had always been hesitant to come out because of the reactions I could receive from people—family, friends, anyone still living with values from years before 2018. These are all powerful and prominent parts of my life and very easily have kept me hesitant in announcing my relationship the way I’d like to. Much like how my feelings were too strong to keep to myself, this relationship has been getting harder and harder to keep from everyone else.

I have quite literally swallowed my pride every day since the first day I figured out I was bisexual. I had always believed it was sort of in my cards to fall somewhere on the spectrum, but I had also always believed I would just keep it to myself. I mean, physically, historically, I have always been a tomboy, and that has always led people to conjure up their own assumptions about me. It’s hard enough growing up and thinking you have it all figured out when in reality, you never really do; it most certainly doesn’t help when you think you should know who you are even more so because of what people tell you about yourself. And for that reason in particular, the validity of my sexuality has always been put into question. For so long, it felt as if I was constantly running away and attempting to hide myself in the midst of what people either believed about me or decided to tell me about ME. The journey to get to who I am today has felt an awful lot like me being afraid to admit to the suspicious assumptions about me, and finally learning how to claim my full identity. 

It was almost like everyone knew me before I even knew me, and I think I had turned what they noticed about me into this idea of “giving in” to the fact that they were right all along. The small world around me prior to these past two very open-minded and welcoming years, I surrounded myself with people who made me believe that being who I was was a bad thing. I remember a vivid moment around the age of seventeen when I had become so out to myself, although it was so hard to be out to anyone else. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and looked myself up and down, and into my own eyes. It felt as if I was looking at a different person. She sure looked like me, but I wasn’t completely sure if it was me at all. Maybe it was because the person that was staring back at me in the mirror was the fullest form of herself, and the person standing on the other side had been so hesitant and confused in the youngest years of her life. But I can finally say that I have found myself being the very best version of myself today. I am constantly reminded that I have become more outgoing and more open to the world around me, because I can honestly say that I'm finally able to be who I had always wanted to be.

Four months ago I made a decision unaware of the effects it would have on my entire well-being. I thought I knew exactly how this relationship would go. But each day, I fall deeper and deeper in love. Each fight, each conversation, each mile we are forced to live apart, I learn something about us that I had never even anticipated. You never really think about what a person can do to change your life and what a relationship can really do to you. You kind of just go in blind and hope it all doesn’t fail. There’s something so special about this one. We are not only finally allowing ourselves to grow into who we’ve always needed to be, but we’re loving each other the way each of us have always deserved to be loved. I guess love is supposed to be a learning and growing experience together, and I had never really understood that until now. She is exactly what I had always dreamed of love being. With my whole heart, I take pride in today, I take pride in her, and I take pride in us. My attendance in the Pride events and Pride parades does not compare to the personal pride event I live in every single day. 

By Alana Rose Marcelino

Veiled Love

I got this curtain from a thrift store by my house for like six dollars. I was so happy because it was so beautiful to me, and I saw so many possibilities for what it could symbolize. Throughout the shoot I tried to use the curtain to evoke different feelings: being trapped, infatuation, obsession, and isolation. For me it was important that my models were a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Also, it was important to depict an ethereal, haunting type of love. The underlining theme of this shoot was chaotic romance. Love is a complicated and sometimes scary thing—especially for queer kids. I wanted these photos to be filled with an array of emotions, some good some bad. 

Working with friends really helped in terms of chemistry! I really advise other creatives to work with friends or maybe meet up with their models for coffee beforehand. I think it just helps with the flow of the shoot and everyone's comfort. It's also fun to bring your models along when you get props, especially if you hit up thrift stores! It's always a treasure hunt trying to find things for a shoot, and an easy way to bond with your models. This shoot is so important to me, because I definitely focused on the anatomy and positioning of all the photos in this series. It was all very particular and constructed, and I loved it! I love creating scenes in confined spaces like bedrooms or tight corners around city buildings. Whenever I look back on the photos, they always feel like film stills. This shoot was an unforgettable experience. 

By Patrick Thompson
Modeled by Zochada Tat and Phoenix Aguilera

Can You Delete That? I Look Really Asian in It.

It happened in the sixth grade, during a conversation typical of the ones that sixth-graders have—nervous giggling and excited chatter about which classmates were cute, which ones would make good couples. The conversation had happened many times before, and yet we could never quite exhaust the topic.

“Okay, my turn,” I said. “Who would I be cute with?”
An awkward silence hung thick in the air as the group exchanged glances. Slight hesitation, and then: “I don’t really know anyone that you would be cute with.” 
“Okay,” I said, bravely hiding my disappointment in that way only a sixth-grader could. “What about, like, Sam?”
The group repeated their routine—more furtive glances, another heavy silence. This time: “But Sam is really cute.”
“Okay,” I said.
“I mean, not that you aren’t. But you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, you would be really pretty if you weren’t Asian,” a boy chimed in. 
“Okay,” I said. “Okay.”

You would be really pretty if you weren’t Asian. Really pretty if you weren’t Asian. It has been about six years since that sixth-grade conversation, but the words of that boy ring as clearly today as the day that they first settled in my brain.

The words reminded me that, when it came to beauty, my goal was to look as un-Asian as possible. Attractiveness felt like a complex concept that existed within an inversely proportional relationship—as if the less Asian I looked, the more beautiful I was. I remember the twinge of satisfaction that shot through me when a friend jokingly remarked that I looked “super white” in a picture I posted from an event: I don’t know what it is, but you don’t look Asian. Like, you look super white. 

That picture felt like a tiny victory against myself—I had finally become beautiful, because I didn’t look Asian.

But these victories were few and far in between. As I moved into high school, remarks along the same lines of the ones from sixth grade were not rare occurrences. I attend school in a small suburb whose racial makeup is 96.2% white, so these comments were to be expected. Years of little jabs here and there had thickened my skin, after all—and I didn’t want to appear overly sensitive, the kind of catty Asian girl ready to fly into a rage over an innocuous comment. But beneath the facade of “I’m used to it,” the words still hurt. 

Because they were inescapable. Even in a half-joking conversation with an acquaintance who had promised to set me up with someone, I was reminded of differences:

“So I talked to him for you.”
I was excited, of course. “And?” 
That familiar hesitation. Sixth grade all over again. “I don’t really know.”
“Dude. You can say it.”
A sigh. “Well. He pretty much said that he doesn’t want to get with an Asian chick.”
“Okay,” I said. “Is that, like, the only reason why? Or is there something else? Because I can—”
“He just laughed and said he thinks Asian girls are kind of ugly. Personal preference, you know?” He shrugged, pressing his fingers to the corners of his eyes and pulling them taut into tiny slits—that juvenile gesture that I was so sure had been left in elementary school.
“Okay,” I said. “Okay.”

And then there was Instagram. With lips parted in a brilliant smile and eyes closed, a girl had captioned her selfie “Chinky.” Another picture, this time of two friends laughing together, was accompanied by a “Glad we both look Chinese here!!” There was one of a boy squinting into the sun, captioned “I look like I don’t have eyes but lol.” Beneath it, a friend had commented, “Bro hahaha you look so Asian.” 

Once, I overheard a group of girls taking a picture at a school dance. “Oh my God, please don’t put that on Instagram. I look so Asian in it.” They all laughed.

I was starting to notice the trends: when people smiled or laughed and their eyes looked somewhat squinty, they looked Chinese—and they didn’t like it. I understood clearly what was being said: to look Asian is to be undesirable. And so the habits began to form. 

I couldn’t pose for a picture if my head wasn’t turned away from the camera or if my face wasn’t half-obscured by a lock of hair. The point, of course, was to hide my eyes, that most defining Asian feature of mine. I avoided smiling and laughing, because when I did, my eyes would look even smaller than they already were. If those girls think they look ‘chinky’ when they smile and laugh, I reasoned, then I’ll just look extra chinky if I do, too. And then I won’t be pretty.

I had begun to lament my appearance in the same way that Those Girls did: God, I look so Asian here. Which, yeah. Of course I looked Asian—I am Asian. But I was trying to diminish this status of Asian-ness from “so Asian” to “a little less Asian” in hopes of hitting “not Asian”—because only then would I achieve beauty.

For most of my life, I had struggled with my self-image. But here, there was no weight to be lost, no acne to be cleared away, no crooked nose that I wanted to straighten. The thing that I wanted to change the most was the thing that could not be changed. 

I’m not going to say that one day, everything changed and I suddenly realized my self-worth. The dynamics of these things are complex, and I don’t want to simplify them with a cheery “I just learned to be myself and love me for me!” 

But what I can say is that, over the course of the past year, I’ve slowly—but surely—started to embrace my physical appearance. 
Which has been no small feat. But the progress can be tracked through my Instagram:

In one post from November of 2016, I stand at the MoMA in front of Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. The photograph is taken from behind, and the back of my head is a hazy blur, no trace of a face to be found. In one from October of 2017, I pose in an abandoned house, eyes lowered from the camera’s daunting stare. But in a cluster of photographs from a trip to the beach—November, 2017—something changes. The first features me standing oceanside, although I’m wearing sunglasses to obscure my eyes. In another, I’m turned to the side in a swimming pool—this time, though, my profile is visible. And finally, I wade through waves at daybreak, looking unsmiling at the camera. The lighting is poor, and the shadows fall heavily on my eyes; my face is grainy, blurry, darkened. But these shadows are beginning to lighten every day, and it’s a start. 

I’ve thought a lot about The Words now, and realized: he said you would be really pretty if you weren’t Asian, but, God, what would you even be if you weren’t Asian? Of course my personality does not revolve around my race, and of course I am more than just that—but my race is still one of the most significant, noticeable parts of who I am. Erasure of my Asian-ness is erasure of myself. Abandonment of such an identity is impossible; I cannot exist as a human being without that part of me. What would I even be if I weren’t Asian? I don’t think the answer is ‘pretty.’ I think the answer is just ‘not me.’

And one more thing: I’ve been posting pretty frequently on Instagram as of late. 

In one picture, shared just two months ago, I sit in a restaurant. My gaze is cast sideways, but you can see all of my face, my eyes. In another, from last week, I’m sprawled across a park bench, head resting against my friend. We sit in broad daylight; there are no shadows present to hide my eyes. Finally, in one from a few days ago, I happily hug a friend at a graduation party. I look unflinchingly into the camera. 

In all of the pictures, I’m smiling.

By Julianna Chen
Pictured: Author. Photo by Sophia Englesberg.


This shoot is a showcase of different LGBTQ identities. Each person is somewhere along the spectrum, and I wanted to celebrate their identity or their relationship with their partner and mess around with fun colors and lighting in the process! So here's to pride and living your truth.

By Gosnel McDermott


ʻANO ʻĒ.  adj.  strange, odd, unusual, grotesque, peculiar, freakish, or queer. 

The young, queer Native Hawaiian often goes unnoticed by the eyes of society. Even when we wear our identities on our sleeves, we still struggle to find larger representation of ourselves in the media we consume. And yet, we are in all walks of life. 

As a young, queer Native Hawaiian artist myself, I decided to join forces with those like me to paint a portrait this Pride Month. Here, we create an image of ourselves to celebrate what makes us different, both from society and one another. We emphasize our individuality while conveying that our blood brings us together, like the colored pillars of a rainbow. But above all, we embrace whatever adjectives the world might attach to us when we loudly identify ourselves as ‘queer.’ 

These four Native youths are not defined by the colors of their flags but wear them proudly here for you to criticize. They each look to you as if to say: “We exist whether you notice us or not.” Whatever your response may be, know that these are the faces of tomorrow. They will not be silenced by the traditions of yesterday. Remember them well, or be blindsided by an uprising.

By Raven Yamamoto

The March on Violence Against Women

Last year, on November 8th, I photographed on film the March on Violence Against Women that took place in Lisbon, Portugal. 

In Portugal, 18 women died in 2017 at the hands of domestic violence. It is for these women, and for all those who are still suffering, that we marched. This is a gathering of people from all horizons. Together, we know we are stronger. And it is together that we want to reach equality. Our voices are loud, our flags fly high. We will not be silenced; we will not forget.

By Alexandra Tavares

With You

With You captures the simple, pure feeling of joy when being with someone you love. The dreamy, saturated mood reflects the flush of bliss that courses through my body. When I am with my beautiful friends, I feel the most free, and am able to let go of any pressure to be something that I am not. This youthful happiness should be something everyone can experience; the feeling of pride in oneself, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, or religion is difficult to find sometimes. I hope that this month, the elation that pride brings has touched every one of you. I hope that With You urges you to spend time with those you love, and to have pride in both yourself and the people around you.

By Anova Hou
Modeled by Nikki Blythe and Kaya Piekaar