Photography by Ryan Pfluger in New York on September 25, 2015. T-shirt and pants by Adidas.
Last December, Kentucky-born Dalton Maldonado found himself in a situation many gay teens have faced. After being thrashed in a tournament, his high school basketball team was lining up for the ritual handshake when he heard a familiar slur. “Hey, No. 3, I hear you’re a faggot.” Stung, Maldonado volleyed it back. “Yeah baby, can I have your number?” Back in the locker room, he broke down. “I had just come out, and it was definitely not the way I wanted to,” he told Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler during a subsequent interview. But the abuse wasn’t over. As he attempted to board the bus taking his team back to their hotel, Maldonado was again confronted by the opposing players, who hammered on the bus windows and hurled insults. Several attempted to board before being ejected by the coaches. Others chased the bus through the streets in their cars, at which point the police were called in to control the situation. Through the ordeal Maldonado discovered his own voice as an out teen with a role to play. “Ninety-seven percent of Kentucky teens that identify as LGBTQI have reported being bullied and not having someone stand up for them,” he says. “That statistic has got to be fixed.”