Jacob, Law Student, Vancouver B.C.

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

Jacob, in his own words: “It’s tough to say exactly what being gay means to me, but it has certainly changed over the years.

When I first realized I was gay, it felt like a clumsy label, a prescriptive definition that squeezed me in with a group I couldn’t relate to. Admittedly, I still don’t relate to much of the gay community, being recognized as the worst gay ever by friends. However as I grew older, my internalized homophobia died off and I was able to meet a multitude of amazing gay men. This has taught me that what being gay is follows from who gay men are; it’s a descriptive thing. I am part of the definition of what being gay means, and all men who identify as gay make up the whole. Seeing the big definition of being gay as a melange of smaller parts is working well for me.

Coming out was an interesting ride. I was raised in a very religious Evangelical Christian household. I was sent to a private school with prayer and chapel, and was the son of a minister. I was scared beyond belief at the prospect of being found out. Gay men only existed in my mind as phantoms of hollow and depraved lifestyles, with an agenda to destroy all that was good and wholesome. Feeling that those in my Christian community would view me as deeply dysfunctional if they knew I was gay, yet not being able to relate at all to the image of gay men I was presented with, the isolation felt extreme. Thankfully, I grew up as the internet boomed.

When I was 16, I found an online forum that was run for, and by, gay teenagers. This changed my life. I met people in the exact same boat as myself, and realized others were struggling with the same issues, the same doubts, and the same fears. It broke my sense of isolation. A group of friends formed and we supported each other as we came out to our families. I am still close with many of them nearly 10 years later, even though we all live far apart.

Despite the feeling that I was going to vomit before telling people, I am lucky that coming out was mostly positive, though something of a mixed bag. A couple friends’ religious convictions created gulfs that made meaningful relationships impossible. My family members had some initial sadness over what they thought would be a hard life for me, but have ultimately been very supportive. Their love for me and who I am has never been called into question.

If I could give myself a little pep talk before coming out, I would stress how much love there was around me, and how that love would extend to every part of who I was and am. I’d also try to convince myself to loosen up a bit.”

A Note from Ali, in Pakistan…

Ali, in his own words: “For me being Gay is not just a word that explains my sexual orientation. For me it’s an inner voice that has helped me to do things I wouldn’t have done if I weren’t gay. The sacrifices I made, the battles I fought and the love and compassion I could give to others was only because I am a homosexual. I believe all homosexuals are sensitive, creative, and loving. Most people might not agree with me, but it’s okay.

Born and bred in a Muslim middle class family in Lahore, Pakistan, I am the eldest son. In my country the eldest son is supposed to follow the legacy of his father to set an example for the younger brothers. The idea of an effeminate, unconfident and confused boy as an eldest son or brother wasn’t acceptable for my father or brothers so, eventually I was put on the shelf as an embarrassment for the family. I was bullied in school and in my house and all I could do was to shut myself up and cry or to plan a suicide. I didn’t have guts to do the latter anyway.

After graduation, my father died and I started doing a job to support my family. Not to mention my job was not any different; I was bullied there as well. That was the time I realized that I should look for people like me with whom I could be myself. So thanks to internet I found ways to communicate with other gays in my city. I finally found out that I wasn’t alone and there were other people like me who have gone through the same torture.

Being gay in Pakistan is not easy. In public, in family even with friends one has to act straight otherwise one could face anything from public harassment, social boycott to even death. There are many gays living in big cities but they all try to be as much invisible as possible. Most guys are married, have kids but they also have random sex with guys to satisfy their real self. Rich gays arrange secret parties in their farm houses and somehow manage to live the life they want but gays from humble backgrounds always live is fear of getting caught all the time. Every kind of gay social networking is blocked and people rely only on Facebook and Grindr. But it’s not safe as well because you never know there might be a religious fanatic on the other end waiting to kill you to get a ticket to heaven.

So I have changed myself with the passage of time. Now 32 I have this rugged look (thanks to my favorite porn star). I am more straight acting (lol). I am trying my best to survive in this homophobic society. I even managed to have a relationship for 10 years. He was the love of my life. We couldn’t meet regularly due to fear of getting caught so we used to go out of city for some quality time every two to three months (just like Brokeback Mountain). But then after 10 years he remembered that he was straight, so he got married. I don’t blame him, he just couldn’t handle the pressure. My family still thinks that I am a loser despite the fact that I am still supporting them. They want me to get married. But I just can’t live a lie just to be politically correct. I read somewhere it’s better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. Sometimes I get lonely, I feel suffocated and sad but then I start afresh. Sometimes I come across young guys in their early teens or twenties scared and confused as I was. I talk to them and try my best to let them understand that it’s okay to be different, it’s okay to be gay!”

Peter, Caretaker, Hamburg, Germany

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:“Was bedeutet es für dich, schwul zu sein? Für mich ist es eine Normalität einen Menschen zu mögen und zu lieben, wie zum Beispiel Heteros. Es ist für mich ein schönes Gefühl.

Welche Herausforderungen hattest du damit im Leben? In einem kleinen Dorf damit nicht akzeptiert zu werden, sogar verachtet zu werden. Im Job waren keine Probleme.

Mein Coming-out begann mit ca. 14 Jahren im Dorf, wo es nur heimlich gelebt werden konnte. Im Jahr 1985 habe ich das ComingOut in Hamburg erlebt und ausgelebt. Hamburg war als Großstadt damals toleranter.

Die Community, diese ist hier gut ausgeprägt, aber ich denke heutzutage ist die Toleranz für diese Community wieder auf einem absteigenden Ast. Schwul sein kann man nur in Großstädten wie Hamburg und auch da nur in bedingtem Rahmen ausleben. Es werden nach wie vor Grenzen aufgezeigt. Also eine vollkommene Toleranz gibt es nicht.

Tipp an mein jüngeres Ich, lebe so wie du fühlst und möchtest, aber sei nicht zu offen und halte gewisse Grenzen bei, dann lebst du da gut mit.”

In English:

“For me (being gay) is a normality to like and to love, such as is the case with straight people. It’s a great feeling for me.

(With regards to challenges) being in a small village and not being accepted, even despised. With regards to work I have had no problems.

My coming-out began about 14-years-old in the village, where I had to live in secret. In 1985, I experienced and lived out in Hamburg. Hamburg back then was a more tolerant big city.

The community is well developed here, but I think today the tolerance for the gay community is again starting to decrease. You can live openly gay only in big cities like Hamburg and even then only within a limited scope. There are still limits. So there is not a perfect tolerance.

Tip to my younger self, live like you feel and want, but do not be too open and keep certain limits, then you will live well.”