#VisibleMe: A Beautiful Photo Story Series Giving A Voice to LGBTQ Communities

posted: 06/22/16
by: TLCme

#VisibleMe: A Beautiful Voice to LGBTQ Communities

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#VisibleMe, led by Raymond Braun is a photo series dedicated to giving a platform to LGBTQ youth to share their stories and connect with each other. Young LGBTQ youth have opened up about everything from body image to coming out.

Raymond Braun is not only a friend of "I Am Jazz" star Jazz Jennings but he's also a dedicated voice and presence in the LGBTQ community. You'll see him featured on the show in this week's episode about his #VisibleMe campaign.

#VisibleMe is a photo series dedicated to giving a platform to LGBTQ youth to share their stories and connect with each other. Young LGBTQ youth have opened up about everything from body image, transitioning, and dating to coming out, bullying, and reconciling religion with their identity. To participate, all you need to do is take a self portrait, upload it to Instagram or Facebook, and share your story in the caption! You can find Raymond's #VisibleMe Instagram account here and on Facebook here!

"I'm a classical ballet dancer. I'm an artist. I use my art form to express myself. So how do I express my true self if I'm not honest about who I am? That's what went through my head the day I decided to come out. After I found the courage to come out to my parents and close friends, I didn't want to return to my high school. While it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, an overwhelming sense of fear began to set in. When I returned to school, would people treat me the same way? Growing up, I was the only student of color. Now that I was out, I convinced myself that I was "too different," and began to create scenarios in my head of being bullied. In hindsight, I'm certain my peers would have accepted me; but at the time, the uncertainty was too much to bare. So, I asked my parents to let me audition for a nearby Performing Arts High School. As a dancer, I knew that an arts environment would be supportive. I auditioned three weeks before the school year started and was accepted on scholarship to attend my sophomore year. I never knew a career in dance was possible, so it's crazy to think that mine began because I came out. While I don't think that any LGBTQ youth should ever feel unsafe or unwelcome in an environment simply for being who they are, I am grateful that my coming out experience nudged me towards a new environment to discover myself. Ballet allows me to internalize the power of being open and honest. I want my dancing to convey authentic emotions and for the audience to believe every intention. The only way to achieve that is to be vulnerable. Ballet requires physicality, artistry, and a high level of technique. There's no faking it. I made the decision to come out because I couldn't fake who I was anymore. My dancing changed the minute I was honest with who I was. I dance with confidence and no apologies. It's special to be able to call yourself a classical ballet dancer, and even more special to happy with who you are. I was afraid to come out, but now I'm proud that I stand out." - Harper, Texas ____________ #VisibleMe is curated by @raymondbraun. For more information, visit facebook.com/visibleme.

A photo posted by #VisibleMe (by @raymondbraun) (@visibleme) on

We asked Raymond what his motivation was with starting #VisibleMe, and here is what he had to say:

"Hi! My name is Raymond Braun and I am 26 years old. I'm from a small town in Ohio and I knew there was something different about me for as long as I could remember. As soon as I got access to the Internet, I found a community which helped me gain the courage to come out to myself. Now my passion is to speak to anyone who was like me -- that young LGBTQ kid who feels isolated or misunderstood. When I shared my story, I started receiving powerful messages from young LGBTQ people all around the world, and I thought, 'I wish there was a way for me to share the hope, optimism and resilience in these incredible stories.' I created a social media photo and video series called #VisibleMe with the goal of reflecting a spectrum of LGBTQ experiences, because the more times that young people tell their stories, the more we show that we have a lot of the same dreams, fears and aspirations as everyone else. When you grow up feeling different, like there's something about you that isn't seen as conventional or traditional, it gives you an openness to color outside the lines and chart your own life. I hope #VisibleMe encourages everyone to celebrate diversity and embrace what makes them different. We all have that spark within us."

"I grew up in a town where everyone knew each other's business - I felt like I was under a microscope. When I first came out to my parents, they were shocked. Growing up in the South, I was always a tomboy who loved doing stuff with the guys. I would spend all of my free time outdoors with my guy friends doing everything from hunting to hiking and everything in between. My parents had the same common misconception that many people shared in my hometown in Oklahoma: that all gay men act the same way. It was such a refreshing feeling that I was able to change my parents' viewpoint on gay men. It makes me feel strong knowing I don't have to conform to stereotypes. The fact that I was able to open up the opinions of my parents about my community makes me realize I can do that on a larger scale as well. I live in a state where there's a pretty clear path laid out for your life. It's the norm to graduate college, buy a house, settle down, and live five blocks down from your parents. But I like knocking down stereotypes. Not conforming to society has always been easy for me, in part because I'm gay. I don't know how many times I've had people shoot down my dreams -- moving to New York or LA, pursuing a broadcast journalism career -- as nothing more than far fetched ideas that will never happen. It's discouraging at first, but it makes me want to try that much harder to achieve my goals and prove all of those people wrong. Above all, I want to be in a position in my life where I will be able to teach the world about the LGBTQ community through my own stories. I've realized that it's okay to stand out and do things your own way. I'm a gay tomboy from the South who's going to show everyone who doubted me that my dreams can become my reality. Growing up in Oklahoma has shown me how hard I am going to have to work to reach my goals, but when you want something as bad as I do, I know I can make it happen." -- Cash, Stillwater, OK ______________ ?#?VisibleMe? is curated by @raymondbraun. The campaign is dedicated to making the (in)visible visible by shining a spotlight on diverse, compelling stories from LGBTQ youth all around the world.

A photo posted by #VisibleMe (by @raymondbraun) (@visibleme) on

June is Pride month, a time to show support and raise awareness about the spirit of Pride for the LGBTQ community. Raymond launched "30 Days of #InstaPride" a photo series that on his account that chronicles the celebratory month.

Raymond is an influential member of the LGBTQ community and it's through people like him and Jazz that we see strides towards equality. To follow Raymond on YouTube and social media @raymondbraun.

"Last week marked one of the most important weeks of my life. After months of counting down the days, I finally had my court date to legally change my name and gender marker. As I entered the courtroom, I began to feel scared that the judge wouldn't accept my name change. I'd heard horror stories of transgender-identified people being denied a name or gender marker change for no apparent reason. The courtroom was full of people. Each one was called to an intimidating podium to state their reason for being in court. When the judge called my name after what felt like forever, my stomach turned. She used the name that I was assigned at birth, a name that I don't identify with and that isn't me. As my mom and I quietly approached the podium, I hoped this would be the last time I'd ever be referred to as that name. The judge gave me a knowing look and asked if I wanted to approach her bench to discreetly whisper my reason for being in court. I felt no need to whisper my truth. Goddesses never speak in whispers. They scream. I proudly leaned my head towards the microphone and made direct eye contact with the judge to elegantly and powerfully state my truth in that crowded room. I said, voice unwavering, "That won't be necessary, your honor. I am a transgender woman and I am in court today to change my name." After I answered a few of her questions, our eyes met, she smiled, and said, "I accept your petition for name change." A deep pain was instantly lifted off my chest that I had carried on my painful journey towards self-confidence. Finally gone were all the years that I had to carry the weight of a name that didn't illustrate who I am. Last week, I told my truth unapologetically and it was finally embraced with a smile." -Ellie, Florida _______________________________________________________ #VisibleMe is curated by @raymondbraun. The campaign is dedicated to making the (in)visible visible by shining a spotlight on diverse, compelling stories from LGBTQ youth all around the world. To share your story, e-mail Raymond at raymond.visibleme@gmail.com.

A photo posted by #VisibleMe (by @raymondbraun) (@visibleme) on