Robi and Ernst, Retired, Zurich, Switzerland

Robi (left) and Ersnt (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ersnt (right), photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Ernst (left) and Robi (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Ernst (left) and Robi (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
Robi (left) and Ernst (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi (left) and Ernst (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Robi and Ernst, in their own words: “Ernst: We have been together now for 59 years. And we met when we were 26. We met at the Kreis. and Robi was performing on stage as a lady. And I thought this is a woman and it’s not a man doing this. I bet 100 franks and I lost it, and I found Robi. He was in the theatre group of the Kreis. And he was the star in the Kreis. I was working with the section of the editors of the magazine, in the three languages of the magazine in German, French and English. Since I spoke these three languages I became familiar with all three editors.

Robi: I was also very happy in the Kreis because theater was my life. In private I was always in theater, and I had a main part in a Swiss film also. So theatre and cinema is just a big part of my life and I was very pleased all the time.

Ernst: But you started when you were a boy.

Robi: Yes, when I was seven years old my mother worked in theatre, and the director came and asked her ‘You have a boy, can you bring him once?’ And from that time, I had children’s parts and so many things in the theatre.

Ernst: The Kreis, was a homosexual organization, the only one existing in Switzerland, it was founded in 1932 and it went on until 1967. It at first had a different name, but it was always the same organization. And they also had a magazine, first in German only, and it had a different name, but then it also started to get subscribers in the French speaking part of Switzerland, so it was in two languages, the Kreis and le Cercle, and then after 1943, they started with the third language, in English. And then the Kries became an international magazine, since it was the only one in the market with subscribers all over the world. And very good connections especially to America, because the Mattachine Society was founded in 1951 in Los angeles and they started with a magazine called ‘One’, because it was the first of the gay magazines in the USA. And they had connections with the Kreis, and that was going to and fro, and similar with Paris, and other organizations in the Netherlands, in Denmark, and Sweden and Norway. And in Germany. In Germany of course, very clandestine, only hidden, because they still had the Hitler paragraph of their famous paragraph 175, and it was all forbidden. (Back then being gay) was very difficult.

Robi: Yes, you had to live a double life because it was not popular and homophobia was very big at that time, also in Switzerland. So it was quite difficult for us. We couldn’t go together walking, or I never went to the school where Ernst was working. It was really impossible.

Ernst: And the most difficult thing for us was that for the first 30 years when we were a couple, we could not live together, we had no flat together, because it was two dangerous!

Robi: And they would not give an apartment for two men, two women was good, but two men, no.

How was your coming out?

Robi: For me it was very easy. I feel when I was very young, 10, 12 years, I looked always at boys, I had never the will to go with a girl.

Ernst: And you were dressing like it!

Robi: Yes, and I was dressing like it. And that was another thing, I looked androgynous when I was young.

Ernst: You tried to act a woman’s part as a child already, drag gin up, I think you were gay before you were born! (laughs)

Robi: Maybe. (laughs)

Ernst: I knew from very young that something was different, and I didn’t like to play with boys. And I knew I had to hide this. And then when I was 11 I found out that I was looking after young men and just at the same time that my comrades at school started to look after girls and I thought, ‘They’re so silly’ and I found out, ‘Well you’re looking after boys, well you’re just as silly! Actually, and you feel the same but the other way around. But you can’t tell this to anybody, not even at home. Well this is my secret.’ And it was a big secret, indeed. And I thought I was the only one. I looked up in all sorts of lexicon, and I didn’t find any hint on what I was feeling. Until I finally found the word homosexuality, but that was in medicine and medical illness and psychological illnesses and pathology. And I knew I was not ill, this is part of my nature. All these learned men writing this lexicon, they don’t know anything about it. But I know.

Robi: My family was quite normal, they accepted me like I was. It was never a problem. And when I met Ernst, my mother was very very happy for me to have a young friend. And she was always saying to me, ‘Be serious and don’t leave Ernst, he is wonderful for you.’

Ernst: My family, well for my family it was a no go. I felt this immediately so I never talked anything about it. It was a total secret. Also in schools, because they sent me to Christian schools, which was interesting, I was interested in christian religion, and just finding out that I don’t believe in all they say. But it was an interesting way of making philosophy with the hypothesis that there is a God creating everything. And I thought, ‘This is wrong, this is against nature to believe in a God.’ But then again, I was not to say this to anybody because this was a religious school and I would have left it. And so there were several secrets, on the whole, this was an interesting time because the teachers were very good and I could learn a lot. I was not a very good scholar, because I was interested in more things that were outside of what was taught in school. And I read lots and lots of books on Indian philosophy and on French modern literature, on Existentialism, and all this was no subject at the school.

What is the secret to stayng together for so long?

Robi: We respect each other, and we won’t change the personality of the partner. We accept him like he is. And we speak always openly, we never lied. And when one had an adventure we told the other, and that makes it good.

Ernst: Because also we had sort of an open relationship, we had some friends outside, but we talked to each and we introduced them to each other, and sometimes we had sex the three together and it was fun, and we thought ‘Well this is going on very well like this.’ But in the deeper part, we never wanted to separate. we knew we belonged to each other, and we would never find anybody else to whom we have the same feelings. I love Robi because he is a little androgynous and he always has new ideas and he never can decide on this or that, it’s always me that has to tell him, ‘How do you think, I think this is better for the moment, what do you feel like?’ And then he finally makes his decisions. This is a kind of game and it is every day new.”

Robi: And this is very good, I learn a lot from Ernst, and it makes our partnership so wonderful because he helps me an in a way I help him also.

Ernst: Yes sure, I would have gone lost without you.

What advice would you give to someone struggling to come out?

Ernst: First of all try and accept yourself as a gay individual. This is your nature and you can’t change it. When you start to accept this fact, as part of yourself, then you can also start talking to a close friend, girl or boy, about your difference of the majority and you then can go on opening yourself slowly. Coming out is not done at once, it ’s a long process, and it’s always going in as well, accepting yourself, and then you can go out again. This is a long process. But once you have finished really to get through, you accept yourself, and you are accepted by the others, then you are a ripe personality and you are further with lots of things than many of your colleagues who had not to do this process.

Robi: I’m very happy I am gay, it’s perfect for me.

Ernst: I couldn’t imagine myself being hetero, the whole life would have been different. And I’m sure it would have been much more dull.”

The movie, The Circle was made about Robi and Ernst lives. Robi and Ernst were the first couple to have their registered partnership legally recognized in Zurich.

Happy Birthday to the Gay Men Project.

Today is the three year anniversary of The Gay Men Project. Since we started, I’ve photographed nearly 700 individuals in 69 cities, 28 countries, six continents. People have visited the website 802,288 times from 13,351 cities and 214 countries/territories across the world. We’ve made the Culture and Ideas section of Le Monde, one of the most prestigious newspapers in France. AND I was on a bus. I hope you’re all as proud of our hard work as I am. Happy birthday, to the Gay Men Project.

Here’s a little video of me at work, done by a Belgian TV Station: http://www.een.be/programmas/iedereen-beroemd/de-gayfotograaf

Morten, Cultural Sociologist, Copenhagen, Denmark

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
Morten, in his own words: ” In my personal experience dealing with love, life, and relationships is a bigger challenge than coming out, supposedly because I live in a part of the world with a more relaxed attitude towards sexual and gendered minorities.

Fighting for sexual and gender identity rights is also important here. However, the activism performed too often risks to reproduce LGBT-people as poor creatures and victims of evil discriminators.

Instead of opposing each other, we should maybe build on the similarities in the experiences and challenges in our lives, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The ‘straight’ and ‘normal’ life is rarely so close to ‘normality’ as we are told. I do very often have more in common with heterosexual people than with people from the LGBT community, but I consider myself as an ambassador to my way of living in what I say and what I do each time I am together with heterosexual people.”

Andrew and Gus, Social Media Producer and Creative Director, Melbourne, Australia

photo by Kevin Truong
Andrew (left) and Gus (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
Gus, left, and Andrew, right, photo by Kevin Truong
Gus (left) and Andrew (right) photo by Kevin Truong
Andrew, in his own words:“What does being gay mean to me? It’s something unique, a little rare, and rather beautiful. I’m grateful I can be open every day about something so central to who I am.

I came out just over five years ago, a great time to be a gay man: stark stereotypes were, and still are, crumbling, welcoming loudly a vivid spectrum of queerness, and things generally are a little easier. But I also consider myself lucky to have grown up outside of this, outside the relatively comfortable bubble that big city life provides. I think that makes me love the uniqueness of being a gay man a little more, and all it brings.

As a teenager growing up in regional Australia, I hadn’t drawn the connection between attraction and identity. Or, in other words, I spent more than a few afternoons in my later teens trawling the dial-up web for a scantily clad male jpeg or two (and then forensically destroying the browsing history), but if you were to question whether it meant anything, I wouldn’t entertain the thought outside very private – and probably very confused – moments. And why would I? I had no idea of what being gay could be, beyond the flamboyant Jack from Will and Grace, and the boys at school that sounded even a little camp, and subsequently were subjected to years of taunts and torture. Both didn’t fit with who I was, and made denying and hiding that part of me feel like a more appealing option.

But don’t get me wrong – my high school years were pretty good by any measure. I did fine academically, had close friends, and had a very loving family. In Year 10, I completed a 90-kilometre jungle trek that gave me a kick up the bum (my teenage “less-than-quarter-life” crisis), I joined the School Representative Council, and was School Captain in my graduating year.

It’s just none of that was about being gay. Because I didn’t really know what that was. For me, at least.

I believe being a positive role model in life is one of the most important things we can give (especially as gay men to our younger brothers) and it was a dear friend, a few years older than me, being herself that flicked the switch for me. It was the end of my second year of university, my second year living away from home, and the end of a period of dating girls, enjoying their company, but realising that something wasn’t quite there. Sitting on my friend’s lounge, she shared with me something very personal about her own identity, and in an instant became a role model for my journey.

“You’re bi?” I responded. “I think I am too.”

While I later worked out that that wasn’t quite the spot on the spectrum for me, that conversation, those few words shared, was the turning point that allowed me to join the great big party that is being out and owning my own skin. I’d found what being gay was for me.

If I could go back and share a few words with my younger self, I think it would be to take a few more risks. The greatest successes in my life have come from trusting my gut, and pushing past other stresses and opinions. Switching cities for an unpaid job, venturing off a career path, moving states for love. Perhaps I could have trusted the gut a little more I guess? Then again, I do love to procrastinate…

Do I wish I had come out earlier though? Probably not, because I made the decision when it felt right – again, when the gut check came up with a yes. And I’m forever grateful that I had that choice. My heart just cracks in two when I hear stories of teens who don’t, who are forced out, and for whom it all becomes too much. Thank fuck for the internet, for YouTube, and for organisations that go into small towns and cities and share the love. That gives just one kid hope. Because that’s one more beautiful person in this world.

My greatest challenge was keeping my sexuality from someone very dear to me, for fear of acceptance. My grandmother turned 90 yesterday, and I only came out to her in the last six months. I probably put it off a little too long, but I wanted to do it when I could tell her that I was in a relationship, to dispel her fears of me being forever alone! It came up in a phone call, when the topic of marriage was broached. I told her I had met someone, and that someone just happened to be a man. Without skipping a beat, she responded ‘As long as you’re happy Andrew, I’m happy.’ A couple of months later, she met Gus over lunch, and I don’t think I’ve seen her that happy, and proud, in a long time. We’ve always been very close, and we’ve grown even closer since. When we spoke last night for her birthday, she insisted that I give Gus a hug, and made sure that I made it clear it had come from her, and not me!

I’ve only been in Melbourne for about six months, so I don’t really feel like I know what the gay community is like. I also moved here into a relationship, so probably haven’t explored it as much as I would have had I been flying solo. But generally, Melbourne’s gay scene feels subtler than Sydney’s scene-stealing sashay. I haven’t decided whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

I lived in Australia’s harbour city for four formative years – my early twenties – and Oxford Street’s concentration of queer culture and nightlife, the home of the city’s Mardi Gras, meant, and still does mean, something special to me. When I lived at university two hours away, I used to catch the train into the city, stay out all night, and then wait on the platform to catch the return train at some ungodly hour the following morn, tired as fuck but with a un-erasable smile. Oxford Street was a magical place. A safe place. And heck, I didn’t even go out that much, but it was just a knowing that it was there. I’m not sure Melbourne has that equivalent. It’s the “post-“ vibe. Maybe those dedicated strips aren’t as important to a new generation of gay men, but it’s important to remember that once you leave the confines of the city, safety and wide acceptance is often the exception, not the norm.

As a gay man, I haven’t yet found the best way to contribute and give back to our community yet, and that weighs on me a little. How can I make life a little easier for those that have come after me, kind of thing. I feel like being able to be out, safe and happy is like a giant chocolate cake – a delicious treat – and it’s a bit rude not to share. For that reason, being part of The Gay Men Project feels very special indeed. ‘

Gus, in his own words:“I want to be able to answer this succinctly, to dismiss the notion that my being gay is anymore important than my height or my ability to yell very loudly (my somewhat lame superpower), but my sexuality, our sexuality, is certainly complex and it’s something I’m still trying to work out fully. As a man, rather than thinking about a spectrum of sexuality, and where I fit into it, I like to think of a spectrum of masculinity, of femininity, and of self. How I identify, behave, interact or contribute to the world as a man, period, is more important to me than how I identify as gay man. That being said, until sexuality, and in my case homosexuality, is part of a more open global conversation, more accepted and felt commonplace, then it is important for me to identify as being gay. But it is simply a part of who I am as a man.

I feel very privileged to even have the opportunity in my life to succeed and to fail. That is a true freedom. For many on the planet the notion of success can come down to a fundamental sense of survival. I never let myself forget that.

Up until the age of 31 I played field hockey in Australia to a pretty elite level, and at the same time built a strong career as an Art Director and Creative Director in the advertising industry. On a surface level it might be easy to see some of these accomplishments as the basis of success. But unquestionably the greatest success in my life has been, in recent years, my ability to recognise the things that make me feel vulnerable are not signs of weakness. And by confronting those vulnerabilities, those fears, by owning them, they’ve come to empower me and allowed me to empower others through sharing my story and experiences.

I tend to talk a lot about my more ‘public’ coming out. In 2011 I posted a video to YouTube – ‘Gus Johnston: The reality of homophobia in sport’ – in which I came out to my sport, and shared my thoughts and experiences of being a closeted gay man in the sporting world. But a year before that video, and before I began actively campaigning against homophobia on and off the field, I came out to my parents. My involvement in the sporting world had obviously been a major contributor to my silence about my sexuality, and living a sort of half truth about who I was. But I’d always given myself some kind of imaginary deadline that by the age of 30 I’d be out. So at the age of 29 years and 364 days I came out to my parents. There was little fanfare. It was a simple conversation and life within my immediate family moved forward as though I’d always been out. 

Only life was better. It’s often said after coming out that a weight is lifted from one’s shoulders. For me it was probably more akin to a wall crumbling down. The connections I felt to those in my life, those important to me, magnified. And with the dismantling of that wall came the opportunity for people to reach in and connect with me in ways I never imagined.

I think in Melbourne we’re definitely seeing a gradual deterioration of the traditional ‘gay community’. There’s a fragmented and sort of tribalised sub-culture or communities, but I think as gay men strive to be equal citizens with equal rights, particularly with respect to marriage laws in Australia, there is a natural dismantling of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. Not to say there isn’t a need and huge value in providing safe and friendly environments for gay men, particularly for younger gay men. But, globally the internet has obviously exploded those definitions of traditional communities and uncovered new ways for interaction, expression and discovery.

(Advice to my younger self) Stand up straight! Or probably this: In time, that heavy armour you wear each day will form cracks through which a light will shine so bright you’ll scarcely believe you had it in you.”

Parunsiri, Creative Director, Bangkok, Thailand

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
Parunsiri, in his own words: ” เกย์คือธรรมชาติหนึ่งในจักรวาล เกย์เป็นอะไรที่เติมเต็มช่องว่างระหว่างชายและหญิง เติมเต็มระหว่างซ้ายกับขวา เติมเต็มระหว่างดำกับขาว เติมเต็มระหว่างกลางวันและกลางคืน เติมเต็มระหว่างความสุขและความเศร้า ไม่ให้ช่องว่างนั้นว่างเปล่า

เกย์เป็นธรรมชาติที่มีพลังพิเศษที่ทำให้โลกใบนี้สนุกขึ้น มีพลังพิเศษที่ทำให้โลกใบนี้มีสีสันขึ้น เป็นเพศที่มีจินตนาการที่เหนือจินตนาการ ที่ใครต่อใครคาดไม่ถึงเสมอๆ เป็นเพศพิเศษ ที่ทำให้ส่วนที่ขาดๆ เกินๆ บนโลกใบนี้ เป็นส่วนที่ขาดๆ เกินๆ ที่พอดี สมบูรณ์ และลงตัว มีเพื่อนผู้หญิงคนหนึ่งเคยบอกไว้ว่า เกย์ มักจะเป็นเพศ ที่สะอาด ฉลาด ตลก ซึ่งเท่าที่รู้จักเพื่อนเกย์ด้วยกันมาก็เป็นแบบนั้นจริงๆ

มีความสุขที่ได้ใช้ชีวิต ในแบบที่เราเป็น ไม่ว่าคุณจะทำงาน ดำเนินชีวิต พักผ่อน จะกิน จะเที่ยว จะเล่น จะนอนหลับ จะตื่นขึ้นมา จะเจ็บป่วยหรือไม่สบาย จะแข็งแรง จะอ่อนแอ จะลำบาก จะประสบความสาเร็จ จะล้มลง จะลุกขึ้นยืน หรือเดินต่อไป ชีวิตก็มีความสุขในแบบที่เราเป็นในทุกก้าว ไม่ต้องปกปิด ไม่ต้องแอบซ่อน ยอมรับตัวเอง และ ทุกคนยอมจะรับในตัวเรา นั่นแหละคือความสำเร็จของการใช้ชีวิต

ถ้าเปิดเผยว่าเป็นเกย์ ให้ทุกคนได้ทราบ น่าจะเป็นช่วงจบมหาวิทยาลัย และเริ่มเข้าทำงานในบริษัทใหม่ๆ ไม่ได้บอกใครด้วยคำพูด แต่ยอมรับตัวเองและเป็นตัวเอง เพื่อนๆ รอบข้างก็รู้และยอมรับ ไม่แน่นะ พวกเพื่อนก็รู้ตั้งแต่แรกอยู่แล้วก็ได้ สำหรับครอบครัวถึงแม้ว่า จะไม่ได้เปิดเผยกับทุกคนว่าเราเป็นอะไร ไม่เคยแม้แต่จะพูดบอกกับทุกคนในครอบครัวถึงเรื่องนี้ เชื่อว่าคนเป็นพ่อเป็นแม่เค้ารู้และยอมรับเราตั้งแต่เด็ก ตั้งแต่ยังไร้เดียงสา ตั้งแต่เราไม่รู้อะไรคือเกย์เลยด้วยซ้ำ

ด้วยสถานภาพทางสังคมของแต่ละคนไม่เหมือนกัน มันอาจจะยากที่จะเปิดเผยตัวเอง เกย์อาจจะเป็นความลับที่บอกใครไม่ได้ตลอดชีวิตนี้ อาจจะเป็นความลับที่อยู่กับเราเพียงคนเดียวตลอดไป แต่มันไม่สำคัญ

เพราะไม่ว่าเราจะเปิดเผยตัวเองกับใคร ก็ไม่เท่า การเปิดใจยอมรับตัวเอง มันยิ่งใหญ่และมีคุณค่ายิ่งกว่าการเปิดเผยให้โลกรู้ด้วยซ้ำ

เกย์ในกรุงเทพมีหลายกลุ่ม หลายสไตล์มาก มีทั้งกลุ่มเกย์ที่ชอบออกกำลังตามฟิตเนส หรือ สปอร์ตคลับ เกย์ที่ชอบปาร์ตี้ ชอบเที่ยวกลางคืนไม่ว่าจะเป็นสีลม ซอย 2 หรือ ย่านอตก หรืออีกกลุ่มจะชอบเที่ยวย่านรัชดา หรือ ชอบที่เที่ยวย่านลำสาลี ยังมีกลุ่มเกย์ที่ชอบท่องเที่ยวต่างประเทศ กลุ่มเกย์ที่ชอบเข้าวัดฟังธรรมเจริญกุศลในพระพุทธศาสนา กลุ่มเกย์ที่ชอบทำงาน กลุ่มเกย์ที่ชอบหาอะไรอร่อยๆกินกัน และยังมีกลุ่มเกย์ที่ชอบแฟชั่นชอบแต่งตัว ก็คงเหมือนกลุ่มเกย์ทั่วโลกที่มีหลากหลายสไตล์ และก็ยังมีกลุ่มเกย์ที่ชอบเล่น JACK D, GRINDER หรือ TINDER เพื่อหาเพื่อนในโลกออน์ไลน์ แต่ส่วนใหญ่ก็จะเป็นความสัมพันธ์ระยะสั้น ก็แล้วแต่ว่าจะมีไลฟ์สไตล์แบบไหน ซึ่งบางทีคือวันศุกร์อาจจะเที่ยวเมาเละ แต่ รุ่งเช้า ก็เข้าวัดฟังธรรมก็เป็นได้

ถ้าชาติหน้ามีจริง ก็อยากเกิดมามีความสุข แบบชาตินี้อีก มันไม่สำคัญว่าจะเป็นเกย์หรือไม่ ขอให้เป็นอะไรก็ได้ แล้วมีความสุข… ดีใจและภูมิใจ ที่ชาตินี้ได้เป็นเกย์ และใช้ชีวิตในแบบที่เกย์เป็น เหมือนสโลแกนสินค้าในโฆษณาของไทย “ชีวิตของเราใช้ซะ” เอามาดัดแปลงเป็น “ชีวิตของเกย์ใช้ซะ” Ha Ha Ha”

In English:

” My female friend used to tell me once that a gay guy is clean, smart, and funny. I think she is right! Being a gay guy closes the gap between man and woman. Being a gay guy allows me to understand better ends of the spectrum like filling in the empty of space between left and right, and black and white. Because of this, I think being gay makes you special, we can be imaginative and make the world more fun. So, being what we are means filling in the missing parts of the human universe.

I don’t conceal my identity. I enjoy working, vacationing, eating, playing, and sleeping. No matter whether I’m healthy or sick, I’m successful or unsuccessful, I’m rising or falling, I’m happy in every step I make. The fact that I accept my identity, makes others accept me. I believe that daring to accept the truth is a life success. I’m very happy in the way I am.

I first told others that I’m gay when I graduated from college but I’ve never told my parents and my colleagues about my hidden identity. I know that I can’t keep my identity as a secret for the rest of my life. However, I believe that the fact that I admit that I’m gay is much more important than disclosing it to the world.

Gay men in Bangkok enjoy shopping, partying, traveling, making merits, fashion, and social networking (like JackD, Grinder, and Tinder). For example, you can find gay men hanging out around Silom Soi 2, Ratchada, Or-To-Ko, or Lumsalee.

If a next life exists, I want it to be as happy as this life. I don’t care if I will be gay in the next life, I only want my life to be happy. For the present life, I’m very happy and proud to be gay. My life motto is “Live gay life to the fullest”. Actually, it’s similar to one commercial tag line “Live your life to the fullest.”

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.”

Mvelisi, Actor, Cape Town, South Africa

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
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.”

Luis and Marco, Nurse and Biogeographer, Brussels, Belgium

Luis (left) and Marco (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Luis (left) and Marco (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
Marco (left) and Luis (right)
Marco (left) and Luis (right)

Luis, in his own words: “L’homosexualité est l’attirance de de deux être de même sexe. Si on demande maintenant la définition de » gay » à un gay on en aura autant qu’il existe d’individu. Chacun vit sa sexualité, sa vie et ses sentiments de manière tout à individuelle. Certain parleront avec beaucoup d’aisance de leur sexualité. J’ai gardé une certaine pudeur par rapport au sexe. Je ne livre pas facilement et c’est pourquoi j’ai mis du temps à écrire ces quelques lignes Mon côté parfois extraverti masque une ancienne timidité. Le fait d’en parler aujourd’hui sur la toile fait partie de ma thérapie .

J’ai beaucoup de chance de vivre en Belgique qui a été avec les Pays Bas précurseur du mariage gay en Europe. Quand je vois les violences dans les dernières nouvelles que peuvent entrainer la légalisation du mariage gay en France, ça me fait peur. Le principe d’égalité et de fraternité reste à revoir par une partie de la société française qui se radicalise sur le sujet.

Je peux vivre librement à Bruxelles La communauté gay est pas extrêmement grande mais j’y trouve mon compte : je peux sortir en couple, se marier, aller boire un verre avec mes amis gays et pour les célibataires, il y a tout ce qu’il faut. La liberté est cependant limitée à certaines zones. Il faut faire attention à ne pas s’afficher sous peine de violences verbales ou physiques. Les extrémistes religieux sont très puissants dans certains quartiers.

J’ai mis beaucoup temps à faire mon coming out. Quand j’étais jeune, je n’avais pas beaucoup de référents homos ou des icônes gay dans les médias. Les choses ont bien changés aujourd’hui. Ca a pris des années avant de l’annoncer à mes amis, puis à mon entourage professionnel, enfin ma famille. Tour s’est déroulé de manière progressive et lente. Je suis originaire de la Méditerranée et il faut toujours plus de temps pour le coming out. Mon père n’a jamais accepté mon coming out.

J’ai l’impression de devoir faire tout le temps mon coming out avec les gens qui sont dans mon chemin. Mes amis me diront que ça se voit de loin. On aura toujours à faire à des personnes qui mettent des ornières à leurs yeux par rapport à l’homosexualité. Elles se cachent d’une réalité qui est présente depuis la nuit des temps. Pourquoi devoir toujours se justifier ou mentir sur sa personnalité ? Plus je vieillis et moins j’use de politesse par rapport à ma sexualité.”

In English:

“Homosexuality is the attraction between two of the same sex. It’s not a question of defining “gay” but rather the individual. Everyone lives his sexuality, his life and his feelings in an entirely individual way. Some speak very fluently about their sexuality. I kept a certain modesty about sex. I do not easily share and that’s why I took time to write these few lines. My extroverted side sometimes masks a former shyness. The fact that I write this today is part of my therapy.

I am very lucky to live in Belgium, which with the Netherlands was the precursor for gay marriage in Europe. When I saw violence after the legalization of gay marriage in France, it scared me. The principles of equality and fraternity remain to fight the part of the French population that is radicalized on the subject.

I can live freely in Brussels. The gay community is not very big but I found one: I can go out together, get married, have a drink with my gay friends and singles, there is everything that is necessary. Freedom is limited to certain areas. I am careful not to appear under penalty of verbal or physical violence. Religious extremists are very powerful in certain areas.

I put a lot time into my coming out. When I was young, I did not have many gay references or gay icons in the media. Things have changed since. It took years before announcing to my friends and to my professional colleagues, and then finally my family. This took place gradually and slowly. I am from the Mediterranean and it takes more and more time for coming out. My father never accepted my coming out.

I feel like I have come out all the time with people who are in my way. My friends tell me that it is visible from afar. We always have to deal with people who put ruts in their eyes with regards to homosexuality. They hide a reality that has been present since the dawn of time. Why should I always have to justify or lie about this part of myself? The older I get the less I am polite over my sexuality.”

Marco, in his own words: “Dear Kevin, I think all is in the perception of happiness.

Eltern sollten wissen, dass ihre schwulen Söhne glücklich sein können, so wie sie sind, weil sie so sind. Das dies seine Zeit braucht, habe ich unterschätzt; ich hatte damals geglaubt, es wäre genug, wenn ich meinen Eltern zeigte, dass ich glücklich verliebt war. Sie dachten aber zuerst, dass dies meine Selbsttäuschung sei, und sie mich vor meinem Unglück bewahren müssten. Mit der Zeit haben wir dann alle gelernt – dass sich Mut auszahlt, für sie und für mich.

Wenn ich etwas bedauere, dann dass ich nicht früher entspannter sein konnte: als ich noch mit mir haderte, und keine Menschen aus Fleisch und Blut, sondern nur Figuren aus Romanen, Filmen und Skandalgeschichten der Presse als unmögliche Vorbilder kannte. Hätte ich so etwas wie diesen Blog gefunden, wäre mir vieles leichter gefallen. Wenn er auch nur einigen Zweifelnden wo auch immer auf der Welt das Leben einfacher macht, ist er ein fantastisches Geschenk Kevins an die, die noch heranwachsen.”

In English:

“Parents should know that their gay sons can be happy the way they are because they are so. That this takes time I underestimated; I had at before believed it would be enough if I showed my parents that I was happy and in love. However, they thought at first that I was self-deceiving myself, and that they would protect me from my misfortune. Over time, we have all learned then – that takes courage for them and for me.

If I regret something, it is that I could not be more relaxed earlier: when I knew of only myself, and knew not of other men in the flesh, but only characters from novels, movies and scandals from the press it made it impossible to find role models. If I had found such a thing as this blog, I would have likely had an easier time. If it is possible to make the lives of those who doubt in themselves easier, this is a fantastic gift to those who are still growing.”

Xavier, Editor-in-Chief/Journalist, Paris, France

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
Xavier, in his own words: “Si je n’avais pas été gay, j’aurais été un homme blanc hétérosexuel. Faire partie d’une minorité m’a donné la possibilité de voir le monde du côté de ceux qui n’ont pas forcément le pouvoir, de ceux qu’on essaie de tenir à l’écart et de ceux qui doivent apprendre à être fiers d’eux-mêmes. C’est une chance inestimable.

Contrairement à certains, je crois énormément à l’idée de communauté. Mieux: je suis heureux d’en faire partie. Ceux qui ne croient pas à cette idée ou qui la rejettent n’ont qu’à étudier l’histoire du sida, pour ne citer cet exemple là. Ils verront ce qu’une communauté peut accomplir.

Mon coming-out familial s’est déroulé on ne peut mieux. Il a même permis de libérer la parole entre parents et enfants et entres frères et sœurs. Dans ma vie de tous les jours, j’expérimente le coming-out permanent. En tant que journaliste dans un media gay, je sors du placard à chaque fois qu’on me demande mon métier. Le plus dur aura finalement été de le dire à ma grand-mère, une vieille paysanne charentaise. Il m’a fallu 10 ans pour arriver à en parler, alors que je suis out auprès de la terre entière. Tout le monde me déconseillait de le faire, assurant qu’elle ne comprendrait pas, qu’elle était trop âgée et qu’il ne fallait pas l’embêter avec ça. Tout le monde se trompait. Elle a réagi de la plus belle des manières: avec amour.

Je vis à Paris depuis 14 ans et la vie gay y est d’une grande richesse. J’aime l’idée d’avoir un quartier gay dans une ville. Hélas force est de constater que le Marais est de plus en plus envahi par les touristes et les prix délirants de l’immobilier font qu’il devient très dur désormais d’avoir de nouveaux établissements. Au delà de l’aspect urbain, c’est le tissu associatif LGBT qui est très riche à Paris. Il y a des dizaines d’associations, à peu près dans tous les domaines. Comme beaucoup de parisiens, je suis souvent tenté de quitter Paris pour aller vivre dans un environnement moins stressant. Il y a une vie gay dans d’autres villes en France, mais aucune d’aussi vivace. Et ça me me manquerait.

Si j’avais une chose à dire à une version plus jeune de moi-même: “TU ES GAY, IDIOTE!”. J’ai compris que j’étais gay à 17 ans. J’aurais aimé le comprendre avant, histoire de ne pas avoir à gâcher une partie de mon adolescence à essayer d’être quelque chose que je ne suis pas. Mais cela m’a aussi permis d’être celui que je suis aujourd’hui, donc tout est bien.”

In English:

“Had I not been gay, I would have been a straight white western male. Being gay gave me the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a minority, to feel what it’s like to be on the side of those who don’t have the power, of those who are marginalized and who have had to learn how to stand tall and proud. That is an amazing gift.

The concept of “community” always raises eyebrows in France, because we are supposed to be “universalists” (it should be “all are equal” but for most people it’s “all should be alike – straight that is). I am proud to be a part of the LGBT community. For those who don’t believe in the idea of a community, just look at the way we responded to the AIDS epidemic. You’ll see what a community can do.

Coming-out to my parents was wonderful. We have had trouble talking to each other in the family for a couple of years. It started a conversation. It’s always useful to be honest with the ones you love. In my everyday life, I have to come out every time someone asks me what my job is (I’m a journalist in a LBGT media, yagg.com. It reminds me that coming out and being proud of who you are is an ongoing process.

I’ve been living in Paris for 14 years. The LGBT community is strong here. We have a gay neighboordhood, the world famous “Marais”. But these days, it’s getting more and more packed with tourists and the rampant gentrification is turning it slowly but surely into a giant designer clothes store. As if we didn’t have enough designer clothes stores already… We have dozens of LGBT groups, from sports groups to activists groups not to mention health groups. I belong to a LGBT tennis group, member of the Gay and lesbian tennis alliance. We get to meet and play with LGBT folks all around the world. It’s like a global family. I sometimes think of moving to another sunnier, less hectic city. But I definitely would miss the gay life.

If a had anything to tell to my younger self, that would be: “YOU ARE GAY, STOOPID!”. I realized I was gay at 17. I wish I got that earlier, so that I wouldn’t have wasted my time trying to be heterosexual in high school. Anyway, that’s a part of me and it made me the person I am today, so all is well!”

Goodbye, to my friend Ian.

My friend Ian passed away last night after after battling with cancer. I first met him in London three years ago while photographing him for the Gay Men Project, and he has been one of my strongest supporters ever since. Thanks Ian, for everything, I wanted to share your story one last time. Lots of love to you, my friend, and I’ll do the best with everything I can ;)

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Ian, in his own words:“Maybe I was lucky but I don’t really remember there being any big deal about coming out. I was about 15 or 16 and pretty confident about stuff, I had always known I was gay and I was never any good at hiding things. I started subscribing to gay news in about 1977 (when I was 15) and this used to arrive in a brown paper envelope. I was also obsessed with gay literature and on my bookshelves there was Edmund White’s, a boy’s own story, Gore Vidal’s, city and the pillar and James Baldwin’s, Giovanni’s room to name but a few – so it was pretty obvious to anyone who cared to look and my poor mum cleaned my room in those days!!!. It was the time of punk and I was a little obsessed with the Tom Robinson Band and in 1977 or 78 they had a rising free EP out which included the song “glad to be gay”. I remember buying this in the local WH Smith (it reached nos 18 in the UK charts) and playing on repeat for hours. So I don’t think anyone in my house had any doubts!!! I recall a conversation with my mum in the kitchen of our house in Newport Gwent when I was about 16 – I guess you can call this my coming out moment but my mum told me she already knew. I think I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping for a bit of a reaction (I liked to court reaction in those days!).

I never actually had “the” conversation with my dad it was just sort of presumed really. I vaguely remember my sister being a bit upset when I told her but she was upset because I had not told her before!

So all in all pretty straightforward and not really an issue or big deal. Mind you looking back I’m amazed at how brazen I was from such a young age!!!”