Mussa, in his own words:“Being gay to me, means being who I am. I don’t see any strange thing in being gay as a human. Because in this world people are not the same. We should just respect one another as God’s creations.
In this world people face a lot of challenges but when it comes to a gay person, it is another issue. Discriminations, stigmas etc…but all of those things you should challenge them in accepting yourself first then you will have full access in dealing with other issues. Like family, friends, communities etc… the moment people stress you, and you allow stress to stress you, you will be stressed the entirety of your life. I believe that any one can have goals to achieve in his life, but so long with grace of God I am coping with any kind of situation which I never thought of. The success it is good thing in life. I can not say that I achieved everything in life needed, but what I can assure you is that I made a peace inside of myself.
My coming out story is so complicated. As I’m telling you, I am 37 years old but this year 2014, that’s when my family knew about my sexuality.
Coming out is not an easy thing, but I always believed that nothing was wrong about me, where by I never felt owing anyone an explanation of me being homosexual or gay. People talk a lot of things about the bible, but what I know is that homosexuals have been there from the start of creation. And I believe that again God is not a killer.
The gay community in Capetown is more broader (generally than in South Africa ). Having a government which recognizes human rights is a big step in keeping your nation at peace. Out of that, South Africa’s law, allowing marriage to the same sex couples even though there is still a lot to do for the community to feel it as normal life, but at least same saxes couples fill protected by the law.
The advice I would give to youths is that in life people love one another and people hate one another. So, they should be prepared for those kind of challenges and they shouldn’t fill ashamed or offended because of criticism, stigmas hate, will be always there until Jesus comes, if it will happen. And they should know that God loves each and every person. However he look like. God loves everyone and they should not keep themselves away from churches or public services which would uplift them for their daily life until a person dies.”
Peet, in his own words:“(Being gay means) Nothing, other than liking guys. I don’t have a “gay” friend circle and a straight friend circle. It is more like a film friend circle and non-film friend circle (I study motion picture at a college here in Cape Town).
Now, yes, I am different from straight guys in that they like girls and I like guys. But that is a difference I am comfortable with, because it is one that I understand. But when it comes to interest in movies, in sports, in you name it, there is no difference. When it comes to emotional levels and maturity, there is no difference (I know straight guys more dramatic than any gay guy I have ever met). We are who we are, and our sexuality is merely a small facet of our complete personality. I don’t feel the need to announce to the world that I am gay, but neither do I ever hide it.
For my latest exam project at film school I made my first film revolving around a gay relationship. But the intent of this film wasn’t to be an LGBT focused film. It didn’t highlight the lovers as being different. Them being gay wasn’t a plot-point, it was a characteristic. Example; Brokeback Mountain would not be Brokeback Mountain had it been a straight couple, there wouldn’t be a story. Them being gay is a plot point that drives the narrative. Yes, it worked. I loved that film. But, my intention with my film was to put a gay relationship in a situation a straight relationship would work as well. Thus, the couple being gay ends up being more of a characteristic than a plot-point, and that is how I live my life. Being gay is a part of who I am but it doesn’t drive my choices and decisions on all aspects of life, it doesn’t define what I eat, where I go and who I hang out with; it merely makes me a guy who likes guys.
Well, I think like everyone you interview, I have always known. I grew up in a smallish city in South Africa, among a devoutly religious and conservative family.
My celebrity crush when I was 10? Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings. Yoh, I tell you, love at first sigh (for a 10 year old).
But so it continued, and it was never really something I spoke about. When I was a bit older, the South African legal system became more and more progressive and gay marriage was legalised. This created much controversy as my parents naturally opposed this move. I was then forced to see this opposition, and so suppressed all feelings of being gay until I was about 17. I never really dated or anything as I was one of those high school nerds that just did everything that was available to do. So, I kept busy. The first time that I was truly introduced to people who are completely comfortable with their sexuality was at the end of my 11th year when my Model UN debating team made it to nationals. At nationals as well I was selected as part of a team of 13 South Africans to go to Cornell University, New York to participate at a MUN conference there.
This all gave me a tremendous amount of confidence and the first time ever that I told someone I was gay was 3 days after the competition. It was strange; she wasn’t a close friend, she wasn’t a family member, she was a classmate, but it just needed to get out.
After that, I slowly told my close friends and then my sister, and just after my 18th birthday, my parents. Scariest moment of my life. They were watching television and I finally got the courage to tell them. So I walked in and gave them this long speech about what I have achieved in all my activities etc and how proud they should be to have me as their son. I then blurted out: “I’m gay” and ran out of the room as quickly as I could. I panicked. So, impulse? RUN! Silly now that I think of it.
My dad approached me afterwards, very calmly, gave me a hug and thanked me for telling them, and told me that they will always love me. This meant the world to me. It’s gotten to the stage now, that he even makes jokes about it, in a non-offensive way. But it is something I really appreciate, as to me it shows how comfortable he is with me being me.
Now, although my mom wasn’t openly opposed to the whole “gay thing”, I have my suspicions that she wasn’t entirely pleased with it either. This all changed, however, when a film called “Prayers for Bobby” came on tv about a year after I came out, and she happened to see the second half of it. She excitedly emailed me (as I was living in Bangkok at this stage) and told me about this amazing movie she saw. I then told her to go look in my bookcase in my room, as I have the book there. I think by now she has forced at least 10 people to also read it and has given numerous people a bit of a reprimand on the issue of gay rights. GO MOM!
Finally, the big “come out” was done during my final few months of high school, where I decided to be brave and take my Indian boyfriend to my private Christian high school’s prom (as americans would call it). Everyone received us very positively and after that, being gay meant being me. Nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide.
I am in no position to really discuss the gay community (in Cape Town). I haven’t really taken upon myself to become apart of it. Yes, I have been to Crew (local gay club) now and then, but it never really dragged me into the gay belly of the Mother City. Most of the people I meet are those that I study with, and to be honest, my studies all but consume who I am at the moment.
I watch movies, I study movies, I speak about movies, I make them (or learning to at least). It is a rather intense course and quite a competitive industry, so success demands obedience, and, well, it is one I am willingly giving. I love film, and I love hanging out with my fellow film students as our conversations are always a joy and an education. So, because of my over involvement in the film community, or at least my college community, I do not really spend that much time in any of the other communities Cape Town has to offer.
So, back to the question, it won’t be right of me to discuss the gay community as I do not know enough about it to judge. I admit, from what I have seen, it didn’t strike me as a community I wanted to be part of, sad to say, as I always felt very judged and uncomfortable at the gay clubs, but this is purely based on a few experiences and maybe someone who does partake within the community would have a different and more accurate opinion. I also do not have a very big “clubbing” persona (anymore) and prefer a nice quiet meal at home (I love good food) with an awesome movie (a good evening always involves an awesome movie).
I would tell myself to be more daring, make more mistakes and be more stupid. Looking back through all my travels and experiences, it’s the impulsive and sometimes, stupid, decisions that left the lasting impressions and created the more interesting stories. It was by travelling Vietnam a lone, getting lost in China, getting really bad food poisoning and being unable to afford a doctor in India that I grew as a person and became a citizen of the world and, now looking back, even if some of those situations were undesirable at the time, I would want them to happen again because they all turned out to be amazing memories and shaped the person who I am today.”
Nicholás and Javier, in their own words: “Ser gay es la libertad (personal) de amar a quien deseo sin la necesidad de dar explicaciones, pero es apenas una arista de nuestras vida. No es la única, ni la mas importante ni la que nos define, pero el vivirla desde la libertad y la alegría nos hace completos.
Éxito es seguir eligiéndonos como familia cada mañana, es seguir juntos por el camino personal y profesional, acompañarnos y sentirnos acompañados, apoyados por muchas personas.
Ese mismo desafío fue lo que nos llevó a nuestro mayor éxito, la edición del libro “Rostros de un triunfo” que es una recopilación fotográfica acompañada de testimonios que resume muchas horas de trabajo y militancia, registrando los días de lucha que culminó con la sanción de la Ley de Matrimonio Igualitario en Argentina.
las historias personales de asumir y vivir nuestra sexualidad fue muy diferente para uno y otro. Momentos de la vida y circunstancias muy diversas nos llevaron a estar hoy viviendo esta realidad. Creo en ambos casos hay un denominador común, como en muchas otras historias: Hemos tenido el apoyo de mucha gente cercana y querida que nos brindo su respeto y cariño y hubo mucha otra que no lo pudo entender y quedo en el pasado. El saldo es positivo. La libertad de acción, la alegría del abrazo, la celebración de la vida en plenitud y el cariño de nuestros afectos, es mucho más de lo que imaginamos.
Creo que hay varios estadios del “salir del closet” una es la personal, otra es la social y la mas difícil es empezar a transitar el mundo que se encuentra fuera del closet, aceptando los duelos y las maravillas que eso conlleva. Este mundo es muy distinto dependiendo del contexto social. Si bien en Argentina existe la Ley de Matrimonio Igualitario todavía hay mucho por trabajar en el interior del país para que exista la aceptación a la comunidad LGBT. Buenos Aires actúa en muchos casos como una ruta de escape para muchos gays, lesbianas y trans.
Si pudiese volver en el tiempo y darle un consejo a mi joven yo le diría que no tenga tantos miedos, que la vida es mas fácil de lo que parece, que pruebe lo que tenga ganas de probar, que tome recaudos pero que tropiece que es la única manera de aprender.”
“Being gay is freedom (personal) to love who we desire without the need to explain, but it’s just an edge of our life. Is not the only or the most important thing to define us, but living in freedom and joy makes us complete.
Success is to keep choosing ourselves as a family every morning, it is to keep together our personal and professional ways, joining ourselves and feeling accompanied, supported by many people.
That same challenge was what led us to our most successful edition of the book “Faces of a triumph,” a photographic collection accompanied by evidence that summarizes many hours of work and militancy, recording the days of struggle that culminated in the enactment of the Equal Marriage Act in Argentina.
The personal stories of assuming and living our sexuality was very different to each other. Moments of life and diverse circumstances led us to be living this reality today. I think in both cases there is a common denominator, as in many other stories: We had the support of many near and dear people who gave us their respect and affection and it was much more than what they could not understand in the past. The balance is positive. Freedom of action, the joy of hugging, holding the fullness of life and love of our affections, is much more than we think.
I think there are several stages of “coming out” one is personal, the other is social and the more difficult it is to begin to move the world that is outside the closet, accepting duels and wonders that entails. This world is very different depending on the social context. While in Argentina there is the Equal Marriage Act there is still much work inside the country to allow for the acceptance of the LGBT community. Buenos Aires acts in many cases as an escape route for many gays, lesbians and trans.
If I could go back in time and give advice to my younger self I would say that do not have many fears, that life is easier than it seems, to prove what I have wanted to try, take precautions, but also stumble which is the only way to learn.”
Pablo, in his own words:” Ser gay es amar a una persona del mismo sexo. No me gustan los estereotipos sobre ser gay, ser hombre o ser mujer, porque creo que cada uno debe tener la libertad de ser quien quiere ser. Lamentablemente en nuestra sociedad muchas veces las personas se ven limitadas a ser quienes pueden ser y eso es algo que debemos cambiar. Tanto en Chile como en gran parte del mundo, a lo largo de la historia, el ser gay ha traído consecuencias negativas como la discriminación, la negación de derechos y en algunos casos la persecución. En la actualidad, se vive en Chile un proceso de apertura histórico en el que se debaten temas como la identidad de género y el matrimonio igualitario y me interesa ser parte de ese momento, es por eso que acepté ser el Vocero y Asesor Comunicacional de la Fundación Daniel Zamudio. La fundación fue creada por los padres y amigos de Daniel Zamudio quien murió como consecuencia de un ataque homofóbico. Lamentablemente fue necesario que muriera una persona para que en Chile se aprobara la Ley Anti Discriminación que hasta ese momento llevaba años discutiéndose en el Congreso sin avanzar. Desde la fundación puedo hacer un aporte a la lucha por la igualdad de derechos, especialmente en lo relativo a la inclusión, la diversidad y la familia que son los ejes de la organización.
Siento que los gays somos cada vez más visibles y que eso es positivo, porque ayuda a tener una vivencia de la homosexualidad más sana, libre y feliz. Afortunadamente estoy en un momento en mi vida en el que me siento pleno, amado y valorado, preparado para hacer un aporte, y me gustaría que todos los gays pudiesen experimentar lo mismo, porque ser gay no debiera ser una limitación en nuestras vidas.
Para mí el desafío más importante en la vida es amar y ser amado. Se pueden tener éxitos en lo profesional, ganar muchos premios, pero nada supera en mi opinión a la felicidad de amar y ser amado, es algo en lo que sinceramente creo aún cuando en la actualidad se cuestiona tanto al amor romántico. Obviamente no creo en príncipes azules, ni en finales felices de cuentos de hadas, pero sí creo en que la felicidad se construye todos los días junto a la pareja. Creo además que todos tenemos derecho a ser felices.
Pensando en lo que la sociedad entiende por desafíos y éxitos, tendría que mencionar el haber ganado los concursos Mister Gay Chile 2009 – 2010 y Mister Gay International 2011 gracias a eso pude crecer como comunicador, viajar y conocer personas maravillosas. Fue una experiencia interesante el ser un Mister porque existen muchos prejuicios respecto de eso y la gente trata de hacerte encajar en un estereotipo, humildemente creo que no me dejé atrapar en un estereotipo porque para mí las bandas siempre fueron una plataforma para entregar un mensaje en beneficio de la población LGBTIQ y no un fin en sí mismo.
Tener la oportunidad de estudiar también fue un desafío exitoso porque en Chile la educación universitaria es muy cara, gracias al esfuerzo de mi familia y mi propio esfuerzo pude estudiar Historia en la Universidad de Chile y posteriormente un Magister en Comunicación. Además de trabajar en la fundación, soy profesor en el Liceo CEP, que tiene un 92% de alumnos vulnerables. Ser profesor es un trabajo muy desafiante y complejo, sobretodo en un contexto de vulnerabilidad social. Los profesores trabajamos formando personas, es una tremenda responsabilidad y la sociedad no siempre lo reconoce, no obstante es un trabajo que brinda grandes satisfacciones y que te enriquece como persona.
No me gusta hablar de comunidad gay, prefiero pensar en una población gay, lo que aparentemente es una diferencia sutil pero que para mí es una diferencia profunda y que tiene que ver con cómo entendemos lo que somos y lo que tenemos en común. Al ser gays tenemos en común el ser discriminado, porque si te quieres casar con tu novio no podrás hacerlo. La discriminación ante la ley es para todos iguales, independiente de que seas un gay rico o pobre. El estar todos discriminados por las mismas leyes es algo a partir de lo que si podríamos hablar de una comunidad, porque es algo común a todos. No obstante, sé que no a todos los gays les interesa luchar por sus derechos, en el fondo creo que no entienden la importancia de estos o probablemente lo que para mí es importante no lo sea para ellos. Ante todo hay que respetar la libertad de cada uno para ser quien quiere ser.
Creo que lo más cercano a la idea de comunidad gay en Santiago es lo que se ve en el centro de la ciudad. El centro de Santiago es similar a lo que Frédéric Martel llama un barrio alternativo, en su libro Global Gay, uno de los tipos de vecindario gay. “un centro histórico en decadencia (como en los downtowns de San Luis, Kansas City o Boston). Por una razón misteriosa, sin duda ligada a los precios ventajosos de los alquileres, los gays se instalan, lo mismo que los artistas y toda la <>… El barrio renace y muy pronto se <>”. Eso es lo que sucedió con el centro de Santiago, en el que viven muchos gays y encuentras pubs y discotecas enfocadas a ese público. En mi opinión la mejor expresión de la población gay en Santiago, no es el barrio mismo, sino la marcha LGBTIQ que este año se llamó Marcha por el respeto de la diversidad sexual, que no es solamente una manifestación de los gays, las lesbianas, los bisexuales y los trans sino de todos los que creemos en el respeto a la diversidad. En el centro de Santiago se realizan muchas marchas durante todos los meses, pero esa marcha es especial porque además de ser una reivindicación política, es una celebración que llena de colorido y música las calles, con performances y carros alegóricos, tiene lo festivo de las gay parades de otras ciudades y lo político de una marcha con discursos por la igualdad de derechos.
Salir del closet fue algo liberador, sentí que me saqué un peso de encima y afortunadamente tengo una familia y amigos que me apoyan y aceptan tal cual soy. Yo tuve una infancia muy feliz en Panamá que fue donde nací. Mi padre es chileno y fue exiliado por la dictadura militar de Augusto Pinochet y en Panamá conoció a mi madre que es panameña. A Chile llegué a los 15 años de edad y tuve una adolescencia feliz, sabía que no sentía como se suponía que debía sentir, pero no lo aceptaba. No puedo decir que eso me atormentara, la verdad siempre me he sentido un afortunado y doy gracias por lo que la vida me ha dado. Miro hacia atrás y no me arrepiento de muchas cosas porque creo que he aprendido de mis aciertos y errores, de las experiencias buenas y malas. El miedo a salir del closet era porque pensaba que la gente me podía rechazar, pero no fue así. Finalmente a los 22 años salí del closet y la gente que me ama y a la que amo, me acepta tal cual soy y eso me hace muy feliz. Me alegra ver que a diferencia de lo que le pasó a los gays de mi generación, hoy en día es cada vez más común que no hay que salir del closet. Me refiero a los chicos que asumen su homosexualidad sin tantas complicaciones. En mi caso fue un proceso largo, en el que no aceptaba que era gay y que trataba de luchar contra lo que sentía, hasta que ya acepté que soy lo que soy y decidí vivir conforme a ello.
Salir del closet públicamente a los 29 años fue un poco más estresante pero resultó bien. Cuando entré al concurso Mister Gay Chile me entrevistaron por primera vez en TV y temí por la reacción de mis alumnos, de los padres y de mis colegas. Salvo contadas excepciones, la mayoría de la gente ha entendido que el que yo sea gay no me hace ni mejor ni peor profesor y eso es un ejemplo de que la mentalidad de las personas está cambiando.
A mi yo más joven le diría: no seas ciego, acéptate tal cual eres y prepárate que lo mejor está por venir.”
“Being gay means loving someone of the same sex. I do not like stereotypes about being gay – being a man or woman – because I believe everyone should be able to choose who they want to be. Unfortunately in our society, people are often limited to express themselves and that is something that must change. Both Chile and a great part of the world, throughout history, being gay is a synonym of discrimination, denial of rights and persecution in some cases. At present, Chilean society is experiencing a historical process in which issues such as gender identity and same-sex marriage are in debate. As I am interested in being part of this process, I agreed to be the spokesperson and Communications Advisor in Daniel Zamudio Foundation. The foundation was created by parents and friends of Daniel Zamudio who died of a homophobic attack. Unfortunately, a person had to die in Chile so that an Anti-Discrimination Bill, which was on hold in the Congress, could be passed. Being a member of the foundation, I can support in the struggle for equal rights, especially to social inclusion, diversity and family that are the focus of the organization.
I feel that gays are becoming more and more visible in society, experiencing a healthier, happier and free homosexuality. Fortunately I ‘m at a point in my life where I feel complete, loved and valued, ready to make a contribution to society. I wish all gays could experience the same thing. Being gay should not be a limitation in our lives.
The biggest challenge in life is to love and be loved. You can have professional success and win many awards, but in my opinion, nothing can beat the joy of loving and being loved. It is something that I truly believe in even when romantic love is being questioned so much. I do not obviously believe in Prince Charming, neither in happy endings of fairytales, but I believe that happiness is built every day with your couple. I also believe that everyone has the right to be happy.
Thinking about what society acknowledges as challenges and successes, I have to mention that I was Mister Gay Chile 2009 – 2010 and Mr Gay International 2011. Thanks to this experience, I was able to grow as a communicator, travel abroad and meet wonderful people. It was a very interesting experience because there are many prejudices about beauty contests and people try to make you fit into a stereotype. I used these contests as a means to deliver a positive message about the LGBTIQ population instead of just focusing in winning a beauty contest.
Studying in Chile was another challenge that I was able to overcome because University education is extremely expensive in this country. Thanks to the efforts of my family and my commitment I was able to study History at the University of Chile and later a Masters in Communication. Besides working on the foundation, I am a full time teacher at the Centro de Educación Pudahuel (CEP) High school, whose 92 % of students are vulnerable. Being a teacher is a very challenging and complex task, especially in a context of social vulnerability. Teachers educate students and it is a tremendous responsibility. Society does not always recognize the importance of being a teacher. However, it is a very gratifying job that enriches you as a person.
Instead of talking about the gay community, I refer to it as gay population. It is a subtle difference but for me it has a different deep meaning and it has to do with how we understand who we are and what we have in common. Discrimination is a common feature of being gay, since gay marriage is not legal in Chile. Discrimination under the law is the same for all gay people, either you have a high or low middle class background.
Being discriminated under the same law brings us together to form a community that is common to all of us. However, I know that not all gay people are interested in fighting for their own rights. I think they do not understand the importance of these rights and their priorities may differ from mine. First of all, we all need to respect others opinions and freedom.
The center of Santiago is the closest idea of a gay community in the city. This area is similar to what Frédéric Martel called an alternative district in his book Global Gay, one of the many types of gay neighborhoods: “A historical center in decline (like the downtowns in St. Louis, Kansas City or Boston). For some mysterious reason, obviously linked to the favorable rents, gays settled down in the area, as well as artists and the “creative class”. The neighborhood is reborn and “gentrification” appears soon. That’s what happened with the center of Santiago, where gays live and find many pubs and nightclubs for the gay audience. In my opinion, the best expression of the gay population in Santiago is not the neighborhood itself, but the LGBTIQ parade that this year was called Respect Sexual Diversity Parade. It is not only a manifestation of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals but everyone who believe in respecting diversity. Mostly all the parades in Santiago are held in the downtown, but this parade is special because besides being a political vindication, it is a colorful celebration filling the streets with music and performances. The parade has the features of gay parades in other cities and the political discourse for equal rights
Coming out of the closet was something liberating and I felt that I lift a load off my mind. Fortunately, I have supporting family and friends who accept me for who I am. I had a very happy childhood in Panama where I was born. My father is Chilean exiled by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and there, he met my mother who is Panamanian. I moved to Chile when I was 15 years old and I had a very happy adolescence. I knew I did not feel like I was supposed to, but did not accept it. I cannot say that tortured me, since I have always felt fortunate and I thank for what life has given me. I look back and do not regret many things because I think I’ve learned from my successes and failures, good and bad experiences. I was scared of coming out of the closet because I thought people would reject me, but it was not. Finally when I turned 22, I came out to the people I love and they accepted me the way I am. I am glad to see that unlike what happened to the gays of my generation, today it is becoming more common not to come out of the closet. I refer to guys who acknowledged their homosexuality from the very beginning. In my case, it was a long process, in which I did not accept that I was gay and I was trying to fight against it, until I accepted myself and I decided to live accordingly.
Coming out publicly at the age of 29 was a bit more stressful but it turned out fine. When I participated in the Mister Gay Chile contest I was interviewed for the first time on TV and I feared the reaction of my students, parents and colleagues. Except for a few cases, most people understood that being gay does not make me a better or worse teacher and this is a clear example that the mentality of society is changing for acceptance.
My advice to my younger self is: Do not be blind, accept yourself as you are, and be prepared since the best is yet to come.”
I just counted, and I’ve photographed five-hundred-and-fifty-five individuals so far for the Gay Men Project. Every once and awhile I like to pick out my favorite images from the thousands I’ve taken, and this time I tried to narrow it down to my top ten, but I just couldn’t. So here are my top eleven favorite images, and the stories behind them.
#11. Simon, from Montreal.
Actually, I don’t know why I love this image so much. I can’t say there is anything that really stands out to me, but I just love it. Maybe it’s his hand (which I swear was a natural gesture he made on his own) or maybe it is the fact that Simon is so incredibly handsome. I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve photographed so many people that I’m starting to forget peoples’ names, but the one thing I can always remember is the first moment I see someone. I think Simon was a bit late, and I was a bit flustered because I didn’t have any cell phone service to check on him, but then I remember he rode up on a skate board, and all I could think was “OMG this boy is so cute AND he’s riding a skate board.” Plus Simon really wants to be a dad. Whoever he ends up raising a family with will be one lucky guy.
#10. David, from New York City.
I don’t remember how I was introduced to David, but like most people from this project, I photographed him the moment I met him. And I remember David lives way uptown in New York City, like Inwood or Harlem or something. And I remember I photographed him at night. And to be honest, I remember thinking, I hope this guy doesn’t kill me. But when I met him, I don’t know if he was shy, or nervous, but he genuinely had this quiet softness to him that was really appealing. I love this picture because of that quality in him, I mean he’s obviously a strong guy with a big guitar, but there’s something quiet about him that I’m really drawn to. And I always shoot with ambient light, and everyone knows tungsten light can be really gross, but I think for this picture it works.
#09. Tom, from San Francisco.
Tom, I love Tom. If I ever move to San Francisco I hope to become better friends with Tom. If I remember correctly, Tom has this voice and personality, that just needs a podium or a loud speaker. Once again, I remember the first time I saw Tom, and it wasn’t at his apartment for the shoot. Tom was one of my last shoots in San Francisco, and I was exhausted. I had photographed like twenty guys in three days, and had walked to all the shoots. And San Francisco is a city of hills. And I was walking to Tom’s place in the Mission, I think, it was close to sunset so I was stressed that I would lose the light, and then I remember, I see Tom ride past me on his bike, like going so fast. He didn’t notice me, but I noticed him and even though I hadn’t met him, I was sure it was him. And it was. I love this picture because of the cat, the way he holds the cat, and the awkwardness of the cat’s body. And the slight rim of light along the top of Tom’s head, I love it.
#08. Michael, from New York City.
I met Michael through a classmate, and if I remember correctly, I met him briefly before I actually photographed him. And after I met him I thought, I have to photograph this person. There’s just something that I’m really drawn to in Michael, there’s this beautiful quality he has that I feel every time I see him. I love this picture because of the colors, the patterns, the texture, the light. I love just the tiny details, the cigarette, the green ash tray, the red flower in the hair. Always one of my favorites.
#07. Stephen, from New York City.
Stephen. I don’t know where to start. So I won’t. There’s no point, Stephen was such an amazing character to meet, one of those New York City jewels that lives in a rent controlled midtown apartment since forever, I really can’t describe how it felt to meet him and hear his story and experience a part of his life. It’s something that I’ll cherish for the rest of mine.
#06. Evan, from Washington D.C.
Evan is great. So young. So cute. So Republican. The one thing I’ll always remember from our conversation is what he said about being Republican and gay, how gay men judge him more for being Republican than Republicans judge him for being gay. That always stuck with me. But the reason I love this picture so much is all about the light. Beautiful light totally does it for me.
#05. Kit and Walter, from Portland, Oregon.
Walter and Kit were one of the backers from my Kickstarter, and live in my hometown so I wanted to be sure and photograph them the next time I was home. My first impression of meeting them was OH MY GOSH they live in the most beautiful home I’ve ever seen in Portland. Like, I didn’t know homes like theirs existed. They were great, and I’ll be honest, I love this picture because of Walter’s mustache. And I love the dog. And visually, I think they’re a beautifully interesting couple to look at.
#04. Morgan, from Baltimore.
This picture has always been one of my favorites. I’ve done this list a few times, and it always changes, my affections for pictures are like my affections for men, they come in and out of favor. But I think this picture is always in my top three or five. The thing is, it’s not accurate to Morgan’s personality at all. This picture is a bit brooding, and Morgan was very extroverted and friendly and a bit bubbly. So as a portrait of Morgan, to be fair, it’s quite a failure, but visually, I just love the light, the wall paper, and the reflection in the lens of Morgan’s glasses.
#03. Kevin, from Cape Town.
What can I say? I love this picture because of the leaves lol.
#02. John and JD, from Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina.
So if I were to pick one photo that sums up the project, this would be it. And if I were to pick one shoot that sums up my experience, it’d be this one. When I did my cross country road trip across the United States, I had one goal: photograph a gay guy on a horse. So when I was told of John and JD, who have a horse farm in a small, tiny, rural town in North Carolina, I was like, I have to photograph these two. So I drove about an hour out to Mt. Pleasant from Charlotte, and met these two on their small horse farm in North Carolina. Admittedly, getting the shot took a lot of effort and coordination (there was someone behind me waving a bag on a stick to get the horses’ attention) but I just remember, once I knew I had the shot, I took a pause. I stopped to actually experience the moment. As everyone knows, taking a photo can many times interrupt the rhythm of living life. Like when someone takes a thousand pictures of a sunset instead of just experiencing it in real time. Anyhow, after I was confident I got the shot I just stopped for a moment to actually experience the moment I was living. I had just left my life in New York City only a few days earlier, and there I was, standing in the middle of a huge grass field in the middle of a small town in North Carolina in the beginning of summer, at the beginning of my around the world trip, with people I had just met, and somehow my life just seemed right. The moment was so completely random, but I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
#01. Itallo, from Brasilia.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know why this is my favorite picture. My favorite picture should probably be the one of John and Jd from North Carolina because of the emotional connection I have to it, but if I’m to be honest, at the moment, this is my favorite picture from the project and it’s purely based on the visual. And it has very little to do with the half naked man. Visually, I just love this picture. I’m sure this won’t always be my favorite, but as it’s fairly recent, right now it holds the top spot in my heart. Love doesn’t always make sense, and it’s not always meant to be forever.
Mvelisi, in his own words:“When I was growing up I had a best friend by the name of Toni. She lived opposite our house in Sea Point and one day after her mom saw me counting cars (again) on our wall, she came over and invited me to play with Toni. We developed a strong relationship and throughout my pre-teenage and toddler years she was my best friend.
Our friendship was rather bizarre though. Unlike any other friendship I had had, Toni insisted that I was in fact her best girl friend and throughout our friendship we played with barbies, make-believe-family (where I was the younger sister) and did incredibly girly activities. I remember for one of my earlier birthdays her father had bought me a horse set because I enjoyed playing with her’s so much.
What was incredibly surprising was that I actually enjoyed these games of ours and my time with Toni was the best in my life. You must understand, I was incredibly fat when I was younger so despite being feminine (as it was emerging) sports and typical male activities were incredibly hard for me to part-take in, let alone enjoy.
Throughout this period, I slowly began to realise that I was gay – and like many other homosexual young people I was incredibly afraid. Imagine you are around 9 and you know that you don’t fit into the mould that surrounds you, but instead know that when you grow up you will be different. What many people have come to understand is that homosexuality is not a choice and therefore we are able to understand from a young age that we like boys (or girls if you are a lesbian), what people often fail to divulge is that young children are incredibly aware of the implications that this may have and so we develop an idea of how our lives will turn out to be.
It is during this stage of development that often young, gay children decide whether they accept themselves or if they will attempt to discard their natural feelings. As you may realise, this is incredibly challenging and more often than none this process is internal and completely done in isolation. This is why it is incredibly important for homes to be nurturing for their children – again I re-iterate the idea that parents have great influence upon their children and choices are borne out of what they believe is best for their parents. Children are incredibly selfless and that is why it is important to have a strong grounding.
Even in homes where this exists, you often find that children wait years to come out of the closet. You see, for heterosexual individuals there is never a process of telling your family and friends about who you are attracted to. Now, for a gay teenager this process is incredibly psychological – you are born into something different and people will inadvertently and deliberately dislike you for it. Coming out should be a cathartic process, but having to reveal a major part of your life to the world (well the world that extends to your loved ones) is incredibly daunting. There is no going back and if you aren’t accepted initially then you may lose your family, friends and a life that you have made comfortable by hiding your identity.
This is why the best option is not to push your children or friends into coming out. You may know that they are gay, but they are not ready for you to know. It is incredibly difficult having to answer the “Are you gay?” question because at that moment, for as long as your child, brother, sister, cousin, or friend needs, he or she wants to be straight.”
Ernesto, in his own words:“(Being gay) Significa una vida en libertad para vivir tu sexualidad de la forma más natural posible.
La ley de Matrimonio Igualitario que logramos en Argentina fue el desafío más notable que hemos tenido los homosexuales no solo en nuestro querida patria sino también en toda América.
Nunca tuve que salir del placard porque nunca me sentí adentro. Lo que sí hicimos con mi marido, fue iniciar el camino para lograr la sanción de la ley que mencioné anteriormente. La exposición mediática por ese tema, me dio más fuerza y convicción acerca de quién soy y lo que quiero
(The Gay community in Buenos Aires) Muy variada, muy ecléctica. Desde las personas trans hasta los/las homosexuales con aspecto hétero, las diferencias son enormes. Pero podemos ponernos rápidamente de acuerdo cuando hay que luchar por el respeto que nos merecemos solo por ser seres humanos.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Nunca pierdan las esperanzas de vivir en un mundo mejor.”
“(Being gay) means a life of freedom to live your sexuality in the most natural way possible.
Equal Marriage Laws we achieved in Argentina was the most significant challenge we’ve had for homosexuals not only in our beloved country but throughout America.
I never had to leave the closet because I never felt inside. What I did with my husband we did was to start the way for the enactment of the law that I mentioned earlier. The media exposure for the subject, gave me more strength and conviction about who I am and what I want.
(The gay community in Buenos Aires is) Varied, eclectic. With trans people up to / with hetero homosexual aspect, the differences are huge. But we quickly agreed to fight for the respect we deserve just because we are all human.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Never lose hope of living in a better world.”
Octávio, in his own words:“Being gay means allowing myself to be who I am; it means not to worry about following some patterns or standards that are ruled and dictated by a homophobic society. Homosexuality is just one of so many characteristics that I have, just a part of me. Honestly, I’m more disturbed by my tendency to get a bit sweaty than being gay, talk about sweating the small stuff!
When I was thirteen, I discovered that I might be gay. At first I became really worried about that and tried to deny the possibility. At that time, I was living abroad and had no friends. So I decided to keep myself quiet and save this secret with me. When I came back to Brazil, I was enrolled in a military high school. By then I already knew that I was gay, but to blend – to be accepted and to preserve my “identity” – I started following and adopting straight customs. In this struggling environment, I joined my school’s glee club. It represented for me a place where I could strip off that behavior designed to fit in, and started being myself. There I met a girl who became my best friend. For the first time, with her, I opened myself and shared my secret about my sexuality. Her reception was the best I could expect, and I started feeling lighter from that day on. A few months later, I decided to talk about things with my parents. I was expecting a violent reception, perhaps even being kicked out of my home. To my surprise, I was accepted and embraced. At the beginning, they sent me to a neurologist, because they believed that I was mentally ill and that homosexuality was a disease. For one year, I had psychological counseling. Over time we discovered together that I’ve always been gay and that homosexuality is not a disease and nothing has changed in my behavior since I came out. Actually, I’ve became happier and more buoyant. Nowadays, my parents treat me with the same respect that they treat my two sisters that are straight. In our family we can speak openly about any subject now.
I was a very sensitive and creative kid, but during my oppressive and repressive adolescence, I left my creative side behind. After I came out, I started not to care anymore about the opinions of others about my choices. Like, I didn’t care if they thought choosing an artistic career could look like a ‘gay’ thing. So I started to chase my dreams. For two years, I studied Architecture and Urbanism at university, but I found my true calling and personal fulfillment in the visual and fine arts. I’ve discovered myself as a painter, and studied Art History during an exchange year at the University of Florence in Italy. I continually expose my art all over the world (and online using my website, www.octaviorold.com). In the beginning, I was afraid that my sexuality could impact on my audience; perhaps people would decide not to go to my exhibitions just because I’m gay. But I have found that art touches people, and our deepest essence as human beings doesn’t have prejudice.
Despite being comfortable with my sexuality, I’m generally not into dance clubs. I know that there is a really good gay environment in Brasilia and it has a lot of good options for those that want to have some fun. I think that Brasilia is a gay-friendly city, and I’ve never suffered explicit homophobic aggression in the form of verbal or physical abuse.
If I could give Tavinho (‘Little Tavio’) advice, I would tell him to try to be more confident and not to worry so much about following standards. I would tell him to live fully and let the universe be in charge of the rest.”
Nehemiah, in his own words:“To me (being gay) means I’m fabulous, ambitious and a hard worker.
The first thing I created was my own chapter when I chose to live as a gay person. So what I have done is to forgive whoever wronged before without knowing. I asked forgiveness to those who I have wronged. I worked to get where I am today. I always am up for the challenge in life. I’m not afraid of taking a new ride. I make something out of nothing in my life. I turn my situation from red to yellow to the gay rainbow because that is who I am.
(With regards to coming out) I had a friend who was a lesbian. She kind a taught me the whole thing. I had my own experience in my mind. So the first person I told was my cousin because he was always on my side for everything I do. Even if the whole family is against me he was always there. Then I went from there and I first told my sister about it. She went and told the whole family and I was ready for that so it wasn’t that much to handle. Some asked me if they could call a Doctor or Tradition healer to see me and chaco everything. With all of that I didn’t stop them and I gave them the go ahead until they gave it in.
The gay community in Cape town is amazing. I never come across that huge problem of me being gay. But I saw some people who have come cross lots of things in life as a gay person. But to me Cape town is great, they treat me with the respect I give them. I smile at them every morning they smile back to me.
(With regards to advice) hmmmmm I come across a lot of things when I was young. I grew up in Village called MANZVIRE in Chipinge (Zimbabwe) I had to make something out of nothing again for me to go to school was hard without someone paying your school fees. I grew up with my Father which happened to never like me at all. He would fight with my Mother in front of me about how I acted like a girl and how I didn’t look like him and how he didn’t have a gay son. At the time I knew nothing about being gay. I was Nehemiah who liked to play with girls, that was what I knew at the time. He used to go to a park with other kids and I had to pretend to be busy because I knew he would not take me along. To see him laughing and having fun with my older brother and young brother while I was there, it was a pain and still a pain in my heart. I couldn’t bury the feeling of being rejected with my Father. People use to make fun of me. Telling me I’m not human enough to be loved that was why my own Father doesn’t like me. I grew up on that situation. It was very hard. Till I come up with decision of forgiving myself and everyone around me and to be happy. The only person I can’t forgive is my Father. I can’t.
So my advice will be “ONLY YOU CAN TELL NO ONE CAN TELL THE WAY I DO. SO BE STRONG AND CHANGE THE SITUATION AND TURN IT TO BE A MOTIVATING LETTER TO THE YOUNG TO BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO ALOW YOUR SELF TO BE HAPPY.”
I lost both my parents at a very young age and getting through all that trauma has been one of the biggest obstacles of my life - especially the loss of my mother. Over the years I thought I had dealt with it but after having a big break down earlier this year I realised, with the help of a counselor, that I had actually just suppressed my true emotions. I have however made a lot of progress this year with the help of my counselor as well as doing a TRE (Tension & Trauma Release Exercise) course. Coming out and accepting myself has probably been THE biggest challenge of my life. Coming out not so much but definitely accepting myself.
It hasn't all been bad though, I've achieved quite a lot in my 21 years. I did very well in school, excelling especially well in culture activities. I live for the performing arts! I study musical theatre and next year will be my last year. I've been in a few productions and have received distinctions for every single one of my exams over the last 3 years at college. I've recently written my very first professional show that I'll be putting on in a theatre in a few months.
Coming out, oi! This is going to be the shortened version: I started noticing it for the first time when I was 14. I honestly didn't know what to make of it and the next two years would be the most confusing time of my whole life - and then there was still puberty!
When I was 16 I decided that I must be bisexual. And I was satisfied - for the moment. I then had this burning desire to want to tell more and more people. I carefully chose the people whom I told. Of course they were all very supportive and for the first time in years I was completely and utterly happy. During the holidays after I finished school (18) I finally had the courage to tell my group of male best friends. They were semi-jocks, hence why it took a long time (and a lot of alcohol) to tell them but like everybody else they were extremely supportive. From there a new tradition was born: On my birthday they'd take me to my favourite restaurant, Beefcakes (the waiters walk around shirtless) and they'd get me a body shot. From there where'd party the night away at the only real gay club we have here in Cape Town, Crew. The night would end with us taking a taxi home and them arguing who got hit on the most. Gotta love straight men! I then started my first year of college and doing musical theatre it meant that 3/4 of the guys at my college were gay, yet I was still convinced I was bisexual. I would have these internal conversations in my head and whenever my voice of reason tried to point out that I'm probably gay I'd immediately silence it. I'd continue this charade throughout my 1st year even though I was surrounded by so many gay guys who were so happy being out and in an environment where prejudice didn't really exist. At this point I hadn't publicly come out as bisexual - a few high school friends knew as well as most people at my college. At my 20th birthday party this would all change. As per usual my straight friends took me out to Beefcakes and that year we went to the lesbian club, which I was totally cool with it because the music is always better. They then hooked me up with this cute Jewish guy they met at the bar and after 30 minutes of chatting, the two of us were making out like there was no tomorrow. Now at this point in my life I had been clubbing a lot and made out with a few guys but this was completely different! I felt like he had awakened something in me. The next day for the first time in my life I uttered the words: "I'm gay". A Facebook status followed ("I kissed a boy and I liked it") and the love and support was overwhelming! The rest is history.
I personally don't like the Cape Town gay community. Simply because I've never experienced a sense of community. There are just too many stuck up, pretentious pricks to deal with and aint' nobody got time for dat! You get judged on everything: your walk, your talk, your clothes, your appearance etc. I don't mind a bit of NSA now and then but I feel like that's all people care about here and don't even get me started on the drugs. Our "community is also still a little racially divided which is a bit disappointing. Obviously I'm generalising but the above mentioned are frequent occurrences. I really just prefer hanging out at straight bars and clubs and meeting foreign gay guys - they're way more interesting! Cape Town as a whole really isn't such a bad place to be gay in. I always refer to it as the "liberal hub of Africa". This is probably the only place in Africa where a black man and a white man can hold hands in public and no one would really care.
What advice would I give my younger self? Stop being such a pussy! Fuck what societies thinks. You have friends and family who love you no matter what! You accepting and loving yourself can make such a big difference to someone else who is struggling with the same problem. Be an inspiration. Be someone to look up to. Be proud. Most importantly, be yourself. LOVE YOURSELF."