Peter and Michael, School Counselor and Retired Payroll Director, Philadelphia

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

Peter, in his own words: “As a youth I knew I was different from the other boys my age. I wasn’t exactly sure what the disparity was, but it seemed significant.

It wasn’t merely my lack of interest in sports or my quiet, calm personality compared to the aggressive drive I sensed in other boys. They knew I was different, too. Being taller than all my peers, I escaped the physical bullying many others endured.

In high school I thought that I must be homosexual. The friendships I enjoyed were mostly with girls and with some boys like me. At that time I became aware of my sexual attraction to other boys, and men in the media.

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel a sense of shame about who I must be. I accepted myself, yet I didn’t risk the disclosure of my difference. I wasn’t going to give that piece of me to just anyone. There were almost no gays or lesbians in the movies or on TV – no Ellen, or Elton or an Oprah to make it all seem ok. It seems keeping my true self hidden was how I interacted with the world. I gave little of myself and became the friend that always listened and supported others. It was not until the end of college that I was open with others about my sexuality.

Now at 55, I can look back at almost 30 years with Michael. He is a man with huge heart and a big, warm loving personality. His example taught me that to be truly intimate with others requires honesty. Through our relationship I have continued to evolve and grow as a person. I’ve come to have experiences I never expected to have – together we have traveled the world and enjoyed many warm, rich friendships. We enjoy a nephew and many godchildren. I have learned that even though being gay has afforded me a great perspective and wonderful experiences, it doesn’t shield us from life’s difficult times. We have buried our mothers and too many friends.

I realize that I have had the life that I was meant to lead, that being gay has not prevented me from having a rich, rewarding life. It is my hope that the increased normalizing of gay life in the public sphere will allow young people to be themselves at an earlier age than I was.”

Michael, in his own words: “I have conflicting ideas about what being gay means to me. When I look at it intellectually I understand the position of many people that being gay is just one aspect of our selves, and that we shouldn’t be judged solely on being gay. However, my immediate response is that being gay has and does influence most of what I think and feel in all aspects of life.

I came out over 40 years ago, at a time when there were no, or very few, openly gay people. I had never met any one who was gay. Every message I received about homosexuals and homosexuality was negative. I was bullied and taunted all through my school years, and was always fearful. This greatly influenced my behavior. I was very quiet and would not even answer questions in a class. And this was long before I even understood sexual attraction. I had few friends and was guarded about what I would say to people. These behaviors continued into college. By then I realized my sexual attraction to other males, yet still had crushes on girls.

Of course, I wasn’t ready to tell anyone my “secret” nor had I acted on my attraction to men. Yet, my life did change greatly. In my junior year of college, I lived away from home. I met in my dormitory/dining hall a group of students who seemed to accept me and want to befriend me just the way I was. It was a brand new feeling and gradually allowed me to gain some self-confidence. Those people are close friends to this day. The experience with these friends allowed me to become more comfortable in social situations and feel free to be who I am.

It wasn’t until graduate school that I had my first sexual experience and met other gay students with whom I became friendly. Making friends with other gay men and being accepted allowed me to come into my own. While it was always a little scary to come out to someone, my experiences were overwhelmingly positive. Meeting my partner (of 30 years) has allowed me to blossom even further and face challenges I would never have earlier in life when I feared anyone knowing I was gay.

To my younger self I would say that it’s important to trust in other people, to not assume that they will judge you negatively for being gay. And, to understand and accept that coming out and growing is a life-long process. Be open and be yourself. You will find other people who will accept and love you exactly the way you are!”

SILVIO, PROMOTER/DJ, SÃO PAULO

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

Silvio, in his own words: “Being gay means for me being me, means being human. There’s no meaning, it’s just like being straight. A normal thing!

It was really hard for me to be accepted by my parents, this could be considered as a challenge, but I also consider it as a success. After they knew about it and the dog days were over, I could finally be myself without caring about others opinions. The only people whose opinions was relevant was the people I love and respect.

The gay community in São Paulo is really full of people wanting to be famous, rich, or trying to show they are, even if they aren’t. But I can’t say only the bad things. The Gay community here is really free. After bad thing happened, the attack of homophobics ceased. You can find gay people walking hand in hand on malls, some streets and avenues, supermarkets etc. There’s also a big gay nightlife scene that has got the best parties and clubs!

To come out of the closet was REALLY hard. The moment I told my parents, the chaos was established in my house. My father almost died and my mother cried about a week without stopping. They tried to convince me that I should think better about my “decision” and after I told them that there was no decision, my mom became angry and started to be aggressive. Due to all the suffering, we all went to a psychologist and they only opened their minds when the woman said that they should accept this, or they were gonna lose a son. I still was their son, the same guy and nothing changed in me, I was the same son that I was when I was a child! I was born gay!

(If I could talk to myself before I came out) I would say to my self: hey kid, you’re gonna suffer A LOT! But don’t worry, it will only prove that you’re strong enought to get through all of this! And trust me, things will get better! You’re gonna be sooooooo happy after all of this hurting situation is over…”

“All of my life I been wading in
Water so deep now we got to swim
Wonder will it ever end
How long how long till we have a friend

Look at me, I just can’t believe,
what they’ve done to me
We could never get free
I just wanna be, I just wanna dream”
Get Free – Major Lazer

A Note From France.

“Dear the Gay Men Project,

Ok then – I’ll “submit my own story”, for what it’s worth. After a rather uneventful gay man’s life in France (loving quite a few, not being loved by so many, loosing friends to AIDS over the eighties…) I finally found what seems to be real love in my late 60s. I met this Chinese guy, twenty years my junior, in a Southeast Asian country, 11 years ago and it was really love at first sight. It took us two days to decide whether we should allow ourselves to take the jump and fall in love.

We did take the jump and I can honestly say I had never had such feelings for a person. Same with him. Total trust. Total mutual fascination and desire. We do have our differences, but we “agree to disagree” on certain issues, eg he’s a converted christian and I can’t be bothered with any kind of religion whatsoever. My dearest wish is for us to get married so that he can inherit what little I have, but he staunchly refuses (being a Christian).

We see each other only 6 months a year, when I go to his place in the tropics over the autumn and winter (I live in France). So we spend the other 6 months away from each other – maybe that’s why our relationship has been so steadfast over so may years.

I don’t think I could have found such a person here in Europe. Vive la différence!”