Photographer Parker Austin has launched the site MyAcceptance.org, an continuous photo essay project that shows two images of LGBT people--one which shows how they felt about themselves growing up, and another that shows how they feel about themselves today--along with their personal coming out stories.
So far the are three stories, including 41-year-old Jeffrey Reddick, who talks about the challenges of growing up biracial and gay and the positive influence of his mother.
"When I was young, the racism ranged from subtle to blatant. If I went in to certain stores, the workers would follow me around to make sure I didn’t steal something. At school I was bullied, verbally and physically…even spit on. And in any altercation, the word Nigger would often be the first insult hurled. But even in those unenlightened times I met good decent people.
The surprising thing is that today I’m not bitter about the past. All the credit for that goes to my wonderful mother, Elizabeth Reddick. I am blessed with a strong mother, who was ahead of her time. She divorced her first husband in the 60’s because of his drinking. Later, she married an African American man. And she found her spiritual path with The Baha’i Faith. I was raised as a Baha’i and the main tenet of our faith is Oneness. The oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness, and equality, of all of humanity regardless of race, gender, creed or social status...
Today, I look back on my childhood with fondness. I think the struggles made me stronger and more compassionate. I understand the kids I grew up with where raised in an era of racism. It warms my heart to see how they’ve evolved. Prejudice of any kind isn’t an innate trait. It’s learned behavior. And the only way to undo the damage of prejudice is with education and patience.
But it’s hard to be patient when I hear horrific stories of kids being bullied, assaulted, or kicked out on the street, because of who they are. It’s hard to be patient when I see my young GLBT brothers and sisters’ taking their own lives. It’s hard to be patient when I see the same twisting of religion that kept African Americans and women second class citizens in the past, being used to justify homophobia today. It’s hard to be patient when there are those out there, against every fact to the contrary, that still say being gay is a choice. The reason is simple. If people can say we chose to be a certain way, then they can blame us for any persecution we face. The truth is, it’s not a choice. So, knowing this truth, there’s only two ways to live. You can love yourself and pursue a life of happiness and joy. Or you can chip away at your soul by repressing who you are."
Read the rest of Jeffery's story and the other ones HERE.