In memory of my friend, Jens.

I’ve often said that my favorite part of my around the world trip was the few days I spent on an island in Denmark with Hans and Jens. They had been backers of my crowdfunding campaign, and had offered to house me as I passed through Denmark, and the days I spent with them were full of rest and quiet, as I was able to bare witness to the loving life that the two men had built together on their little island in Denmark. It also was quite special that they had met a few weeks after I was born, and had been together for almost the entirety of my life.

Well, it’s with a saddened heart that I share that Jens recently passed. My thoughts are with Hans, and I hope we can all celebrate their story, and the bits of love I hopefully was able to capture in these pictures.

photo by Kevin Truong, Jens (left) and Hans (right)
photo by Kevin Truong, Jens (left) and Hans (right)
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong, Hans (left) and Jens (right)
photo by Kevin Truong, Hans (left) and Jens (right)
Hans, in his own words: “To me being gay means that I am different then the majority of people in the world around me. As a young man I have had a lot of trouble accepting that, as I have a strong tendency to conform to spoken and unspoken demands. But when I was 25 I fell head over heels and quite undeniably in love with my best friend. He was straight and the situation led to the kind of drama I guess a lot of us have been through. But there was no way back for me.

I guess coming out to myself was the hardest part. Coming out to parents, brothers and sisters and friends was easy in comparison. I experienced hardly any negative reactions. The worst were the comments of some of my so called progressive friends. They said I shouldn’t label myself in such an old fashioned way and that we should transcend the dichotomy of straight and gay. Just the kind of rationalisation I had been using to deny my own sexuality. But the large majority was very positive and accepting, my mother said that she always had known….

The struggle between the wish to conform and the inability to do so because I also need to respect my own individuality, is one of my life’s themes. My coming out has helped me to become a much more free and nonconformist person then I would have been without this experience.

Sometimes I can still surprise myself by finding traces of homophobia in me. Jens and I have been living together for over 30 years now, and we have been married for more then 8. But I still find it difficult to call him my husband, especially when talking to people who don’t know me. I guess that in a way my coming out process will never stop. But then nobody is perfect. Not even perfectly gay!”

Jens, in his own words: “I’m 59 years old, Danish and married to Hans, who is Dutch, we have been together for 33 years in September.

I came out when I was 19, just before I turned 20, on Feb. 9th, 1976. I had been very depressed for a long time, felt wrong, didn’t know what was the matter. But from the moment I came out, it has been great, I have never had a negative experience being gay, never heard anything negative about being gay. I think Im very lucky being gay. The only issue has been the fact, that we didn’t have any kids. We really wanted to, we tried several things, like I tried for 2 years to have a baby with a woman, she got pregnant but lost the child. So that was not what life had for us, unfortunately, but now with what I have now, I feel Im very blessed with ‘my boys,’ the young gay guys I’m close to now are my children and I love them very much.

Hans and I met at a conference in Copenhagen in August 1982, on Friday the 13th. We spend 3 days and 4 nights together before he went back to Amsterdam. It felt so right, like coming home. Two days after he left, I called him and suggested to him that I came to Amsterdam, moved in with him. He liked the idea very much. But we agreed to talk again a couple of days later to see if we still liked the idea. We did!!! So I packed my stuff and three weeks later I left Denmark and moved to Amsterdam, one of my favourite places in the world.

That was one of my biggest successes in my life, getting out of Denmark and moving down to Hans in The Netherlands. It was hard in the beginning, very hard. I didn’t have my friends, didn’t speak the language and I was used to fucking around a lot and now I was living with Hans and had to behave, which was very hard. I didn’t have much money, had just finished my bachelor in Psychology and didn’t have a job. But I managed to earn a bit of money and later got a scholarship to start my masters in The Netherlands. Now it sounds crazy, move to another country, give up everything and start all over again, but it was great. I loved living in Amsterdam and even we had a lot of fights, it was so right, it felt so right and Im very happy and proud that we did it.

We are soulmates, from day one and still are. We don’t fight much any more, we have learned how to cope with our life together. Actually we we are together 24/7 and have been like that for 7 years, because we both stopped working early. By respecting each others differences and different wishes on what to do, we are able to have a good time. We kinda split the house in two, Hans spends his day mostly downstairs and I’m mostly upstairs all afternoon. We eat breakfast and dinner together, but not lunch. It turned out that that works better for us. We meet in the afternoon at 4 PM for an hour together, to talk and be together, share how we feel, talk about whats going on and if something is wrong we try to repair it then. On Sunday afternoon we have a relationship afternoon, do something together in the garden or the house. Afterwards we drink a beer together. It’s always very nice.

Being gay and later being with Hans has been a very important part of my life. Maybe the most important. I didn’t finish my studies, instead I started my own company, but being a business man was not very important for me and I didn’t become a psychologist, so I’m just me, a gay guy.

But I made a lot of money with my company which I sold 12 years ago, so we are able to live off our money and don’t have to work, another huge success in my life. I can do what I want to and have done so for the last 12 years.

Two years ago I started a blog on tumblr, a blog where I wanted to help young gay guys. I had found out that young gay guys are having as many problems as I did when I was young, are feeling as lousy as I did when I was young especially before I came out. I always thought, that now with internet that it was easy to be gay today, but it’s not, its very hard especially for young guys and especially for guys who live outside Northwestern Europe where I have spend most of my life. So I try to support those guys I talk with, help them with whatever they are struggling with. Mostly it’s about being gay, many are lonely, many don’t get the support from their families or friends they deserve. They can’t tell that they are gay, so they can’t share their life with anyone, the good or the bad stuff that happens, which is very tough, so they do that with me. Some guys have become very close friends, we talk a couple of hours a week. Others I speak once in a while, some I talk with only a few times. Whatever a guy needs, I try to give it to him. It can be talking about sex or often about the wish to get a boyfriend, but also about studying or finding a job or a place to live. Some are very, very lonely, so its not important what we talk about but that we talk. That they have someone who cares for them, accept and respects them as they are (gay) and who want to hear their story.

I feel that I have had a very good (gay) life. When I was young, I had a lot of boy friends, fucked around a lot, partied, having fun. Then I met Hans and kinda settled down even it was still a bit wild in our first years together. Then we became a couple of boring, hard working guys. Now being gay is not important for me, in my own life, only in my talks with ‘my boys’. Personally it’s about being with Hans, having a good life together.

I always wanted a life of good quality, thats what I fought to get and I feel I got it. I’m still enjoying myself very much and hope that Hans and I will get many more good years together. When we were together for 30 years, we agreed to go for another round of 30 years together.

To my younger self or to all my young gay friends I want to say, that it is gonna be ok. So many worry about if they will find a boyfriend, be happy as a gay guy. Well, you will. If you go for sex in your (gay) life, you can have a lot of that, but not necessarily love, but if you really want love and thats what you go for, you will find it. Of all my friends, gay guys my age, who wanted a boyfriedn, they all found one. Just focus on that, go for it and you will find it. Its possible to be happy and gay, and you can find a boy friend. The problem is that you never meet or see older gay couples, so you think its impossible, but thats not true, we are there and we are a lot, but you just never see it. But look at Hans and me, you can have the same if you want to.”

Tom and Mark, Television Format Developer and Team leader, Amsterdam, Netherlands

photo by Kevin Truong
Tom (left) and Mark (right) photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
Mark (left) and Tom (right) photo by Kevin Truong
Tom, in his own words:“Being gay means accepting myself 100%. Being gay means knowing who I am. Being gay means being proud of who I am. Being gay means having a unique shared experience with millions of people around the world. Being gay means being strong. Being gay means being me.

Mark and I had an instant connection when we first met each other – almost 10 years ago now – and our bond is still growing by the day. We share many of the same interests and values, which makes us such a strong and happy couple. Our relationship has evolved naturally and smoothly. We met at university and started out as friends. We both were in love with each other, but didn’t talk about it, afraid to ruin our friendship. During a study trip to Paris, we finally kissed – the city of love indeed! We were past the dating stage immediately: we knew we were in for the long haul.

Early 2013, my younger brother died. It was a really tough time that really gets you thinking about life. Before my brother’s death, marriage was never on the table. We always felt it was an outdated concept, and what use is getting married really? But then we realized that we wanted and needed some official document saying we’re together, and as we can get married in the Netherlands we really should take advantage of that privilege.

We wanted to get married in our own way. So no big extravaganza, but a small ceremony with our family and closest friends. And no expensive tuxedos we’d never wear again, but both wearing vintage denim jackets, pug shirts, black skinny jeans and Converse All Stars – hey, if people stop us in the streets asking if we’re twins, why not play with that?

I came out to my parents shortly after Mark and I got together. I told them pretty casually in their kitchen during lunch – even though it by no means felt casual. They reacted well, accepting and supportive, like everyone hopes their parents will. They made very clear to me that they love me and that it’s not my problem if people have an issue with my sexuality – it’s their problem. Still, I found it hard to come out to the rest of my family.

Growing up in a small town, I wasn’t aware of any gay people around me. I only knew about gay jokes, village rumors and exaggerated portrayals of gay life in the media, which were all reasons for me to not come out. So for some years, I was out in my life in Amsterdam, but still in the closet when I visited my family. I felt bad about my dishonesty – towards Mark, my parents, my family and also myself. And when I finally did come out, it really was not an issue at all. I should’ve given them more credit!

In the end, I think I needed to work through all that, get over my insecurities and truly become at peace with myself before I could fully come out.

The Amsterdam gay community doesn’t play a huge role in my life, but I really enjoy going to gay bars, clubs and parties from time to time. Just like I enjoy visiting non-specifically gay bars, clubs and parties.

If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I’d tell him to not be afraid and to just come out already. Life is so much better, easier and happier when you’re out!”

Mark, in his own words: “Being gay means being myself and making choices that I want to make without conforming to the expectations of other people. Being part of an minority has an impact on my view of the world. It made me realize that I can question social conventions and I am thankful for that. All that being said, I am aware of the fact that I’ve had it quite easy growing up with great friends and family in an progressive country.

So far, I’ve had an easy life. I think my biggest challenge so far was coming to terms with my being gay. It was a slow process, and I can’t pinpoint a precise moment, but once I did, everything became easier. Some people say that my being together with Tom for 9 years is an accomplishment, but I disagree. Living with Tom (and staying together) is probably the easiest thing I have ever done.

I guess I have always known I was gay. Growing up in a small town, I never got in contact with other gay people. Gay people weren’t visible. Because of this, it took a while for me to get to terms with my being gay. Even though I knew I was gay, I still had problems with being myself. I tried not to be feminine (whatever that may be), since no one seemed to be in the town I grew up in. I was 17 when I came out to my best friend, and one by one I told my other friends. When I was 18, my sister found out by accident and in a panic she told my parents. They all were very supportive. I could talk to them about my struggles, but I never had the feeling that they saw me in another light after coming out.
I moved to Amsterdam a few months after coming out to my family. It took some time to come out to my friends in Amsterdam. It never seemed the right moment to tell someone. Tom also had a big part in this. I met Tom when I just moved to Amsterdam and even though I liked him from the start, we started out as friends. We became so close, that we both didn’t come out, too afraid to lose our friendship. We went on so many dates, without even knowing it. We danced around each other for 6 months, and we finally became a thing when we got drunk on a study-trip to Paris. After that, we came out to everyone in an instant. I think coming out together to our friends made us as close as we are. We have shared the experience and we have basically been together for all our ‘out’ lives.

Nowadays I have no problem with telling people I am gay. I truly can say that I am proud of who I am and if someone thinks otherwise, it’s their problem.

The gay community in Amsterdam is quite small. Everyone knows someone you know. There are a lot of gay cultural and sport activities. There are gay bars and gay clubs, but not that many. A lot of bars and clubs are gay-friendly and some host gay nights. I don’t have to go to a gay bar to feel accepted and have fun. That being said, Amsterdam isn’t as openminded as it is portrayed. You usually do not see two men or women walk down the street holding hands. It is not my experience, but most gay people I know have been called names for ‘acting gay’ in public.

My advice to my younger self would be to trust your gut and just be yourself. Do not hide or change who you are because of someone else.”