Shared Heart exhibit features stories of lesbian and gay youth

The Office of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Life will bring to Emory a unique exhibit, the Shared Heart, a co-creation of photographs and text providing affirming images of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people. The exhibit will be on display in the Dobbs Center Gallery from Oct. 7-31.

Healing the isolation felt by lesbian, gay and bisexual young people is a primary aim of The Shared Heart exhibition, according to Boston photographer Adam Mastoon, who conceived the project. "One dreadful manifestation of isolation and the assaults to self-esteem caused by homophobia is suicide," Mastoon said. "Suicide is the leading cause of death among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth." He said that while gay, lesbian and bisexual young people make up 12 percent to 15 percent of the population, they account for more than 30 percent of the half a million teens and young adults who commit suicide annually.

The Shared Heart exhibition's creators hope that the stories of courage and victory told by the young people whose lives are documented in the text and photos will "help create a sense of belonging for lesbian, gay and bisexual students and build understanding and acceptance with their peers, teachers, parents and communities," Mastoon said. "The images and text that comprise this project ... express the longing that all people share in their hearts for self-expression, respect and unconditional love."

An opening reception for the exhibit, co-sponsored by the Office of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Life and the President's Commission on the Status of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Concerns, is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 10, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Commons area. Oct. 10 is the eve of National Coming Out Day, a date marked each Oct. 11 since 1987, when the second March on Washington for Lesbian/ Gay/Bisexual Rights was held. On National Coming Out Day (NCOD) each year, lesbian, gay and bisexual people are encouraged to identify themselves publicly and to educate heterosexuals about what lesbian, gay and bisexual people are like. NCOD also aims to reduce the isolation many gay people feel, especially young gay people, who often lack family and peer support as well as positive role models and access to information.

The Shared Heart photographic exhibition was housed at the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Visitor's Center this summer during the Olympic Games. In addition to the touring exhibits, The Shared Heart project includes a book of photographs with text; a curriculum guide and resource list; and a guide for diversity workshops for gay, lesbian and straight youth, parents, and teachers, to be held in conjunction with the touring exhibits.

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