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Building up LGBTQ youth

LGBTQ youth project drawing attention to an overlooked community.
LGBTQ youth project drawing attention to an overlooked community.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Apostle Paul counsels against saying negative things. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths,” he wrote in one of his letters to the early Christians, “but only what is useful for building up” (Ephesians (4:29).

I don’t suffer fools well, can be unchristian in acerbic slings and hostile toward those committing an injustice whether workplace bullying or domestic violence. Hence, I have to catch myself from tearing down instead of building up. Tearing down always causes more harm than good.

In any situation, job loss, damaged friendship, or LGBTQ discrimination, each person must ask – how do I build myself up? Life can be unkind. My experience is another reminder, at least for me, of the necessity to build up.

In my online travels I came across an outstanding, collective example of building up, We Are the Youth, a photographic journalism project, chronicling the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. Although it documents the meanness of life, it also shows the positive in a cold, complicated world. Why such injustice occurs is too often overlooked especially by the LGBTQ adult community, is a question that cannot be answered satisfactorily.

Laurel Golio, a photographer and visual anthropologist, and Diana Scholl, an award-winning writer, are the brains and compassion behind We Are the Youth, profiling the strength, tenacity and spiritual and emotional wounds of LGBTQ youth. I interpret their work as an opportunity to teach and educate others. The project offers life lessons to both LGBTQ youth and adults in general.

Despite all the civil and human rights advances, the work of Ms. Golio and Ms. Scholl and the stories shared in the project by young people, 21 and under, is a reminder not to forget the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community and how to manage and process the unpleasant. The project builds up in a beautiful, though bitter-sweet way.

The young people, some homeless, are building up, not tearing down whether through self-destruction or allowing the negative to deny their joy and personhood. They are finding hope from within. Their stories are a reminder that no matter what happens, life does go on and we have to get back on its unrelenting merry-go-round that will throw us off again and again. In being thrown off we must develop the inner strength to build up and not be torn down by the dark energy we choose to create for ourselves.

If you are a member of the LGBTQ youth community, please consider sharing your story and photos at It’s an important way to build yourself up by nurturing your soul and inspiring others.

Regardless of where you’re at in life, the next you find yourself challenged emotionally or professionally, think through your reaction so it builds up and doesn’t tear your or anyone else down.

Paul is founder of, a firm committed to the spiritual wellness of professionals. He also is author ofLost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically”.

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