Erik, Music Director, Cleveland, Mississippi

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

Erik, in his own words: “What does being gay mean to me? I feel if I do not give some philosophical answer I will not win Mr. Gay America! With all joking aside, it is more about an acceptance of one’s self rather than the acceptance most gay men look for from family, friends, or society. When I wakeup each morning I feel happy to be me and am ready to live this charmed life I have been blessed with. Most people, gay or straight, are not able to do that, because they have not accepted the fact that each of us has a charge and higher calling in life.

Life itself is the greatest challenge of all and it is the one challenge we all must face, but each of us yield an infinite amount of paths to the finish. My greatest challenge is myself! I would say I am a very independent, honest, and caring person. When it comes to the subject of dating and relationships I seem to dismiss these qualities in potential partners.”

Daniel, Journalist, Brasilia, Brazil

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
Daniel, in his own words: “Na minha vida, ser assumidamente gay significa muito mais do que ser atraído por outros rapazes. É o primeiro passo de uma longa jornada rumo à liberdade. Um caminho cheio de descobertas, possibilidades e experiências incríveis. Mas nem sempre foi fácil.

Tive que lidar desde muito cedo com o preconceito, principalmente dentro de casa. Ao contrário da maior parte dos meninos, eu andava mais com as garotas; preferia ginástica olímpica ao invés de futebol. Era muito criticado por gostar de dançar, de cantar… acabei abrindo mão de muita coisa na tentativa de agradar meus pais. Lembro bem de como me sentia pressionado a ser mais “homem”.

Eu ficava muito triste e confuso com as cobranças. Não conhecia ninguém que fosse abertamente gay. Tampouco me reconhecia com o modelo caricato de homossexual que era mostrado na televisão. Parecia que não havia espaço no mundo para mim.

Com o passar dos anos, comecei a entrar em contato com ideias feministas por meio de artistas como Alanis Morissette, Shirley Manson e Gwen Stefani. Mas foi só no ensino médio que fiz amigos que compartilhavam dos mesmos interesses. Foi a primeira vez que me senti confortável para aceitar a minha gayzisse.

Nessa época, descobri que não estava sozinho; ao contrário – havia muita gente com os mesmos dilemas que eu. Descobri que era OK ser gay. Foi nessa época que passei a ter menos vergonha de quem sou.

Meus pais demoraram um pouco para aceitar essa condição, mas depois ficou tudo bem. Agora podemos conversamos abertamente sobre o assunto. Hoje, posso dizer que sinto orgulho de mim mesmo.

Se eu pudesse dizer alguma coisa para o Daniel criança, eu provavelmente diria para ele ter menos medo. Ser gay não é tão assustador ou “anormal” quanto parece. Diria para ele se divertir mais; ligar menos para o que os outros dizem. Para buscar a liberdade dentro dele, não nos outros ao redor.”

In English:

“In my life, being openly gay means more than being attracted to other boys. It is the first step in a long journey towards freedom. A path full of discoveries, possibilities and amazing experiences. But it was not always easy.

I had to deal with very early prejudice, mainly indoors. Unlike most boys, I walked over to the girls; preferred gymnastics instead of football. Was widely criticized for liking dancing, singing … I was just opening up a lot in trying to please my parents. I remember well how I felt pressured to be more of a “man”.

I was very sad and confused. I did not know anyone who was openly gay. Nor did I identify with the homosexual caricature model that was shown on television. It seemed that there was no room in the world for me.

Over the years, I began to become familiar with feminist ideas through artists such as Alanis Morissette, Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani. But it was only in high school that I made friends who shared the same interests. It was the first time I felt comfortable accepting my gayness.

At that time, I discovered I was not alone; on the contrary – there were many people with the same dilemma as me. I found it was OK to be gay. It was then that I began to be less ashamed of who I am.

My parents took a while to accept this condition, but afterwards it was all right. Now we can openly talk about it. Today, I can say that I am proud of myself.

If I could say something to the child Daniel, I’d probably tell him to be less afraid. Being gay is not as scary or “abnormal” as it seems. I would tell him to have more fun; care less about what others say. To seek freedom within it, not the other around.”

Thibaud and Michel, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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
Thibaud, in his own words: “Pour moi, être gay ne fait aucune différence, je suis juste un amoureux comme les autres mais il se trouve que je suis amoureux d’un homme.

Etre amoureux ou le couple est un challenge de tous les jours, il y a des périodes plus ou moins difficiles. J’avais une grande appréhension a m’affirmer en tant que gay plus jeune car je n’avais personne à présenter à ma famille et à mes amis, alors je préférais ne pas parler de ma vie privée aux autres.

Mes parents sont les premiers à qui j’ai avoué mon homosexualité. J’étais un jeune adulte et venait de rencontrer mon futur mari. Ils ont répondu qu’ils étaient contents pour moi et qu’ils m’aimaient, la réaction parfaite. Ensuite, pour mes frères et sœurs leur réaction n’a pas été négative non plus. C’était plutôt “Et alors ? On s’en fiche, c’est ta vie ! Et on t’aime ! ». Au fond pour moi la seule difficulté était la réaction que je pensais qu’ils auraient pu avoir. Mais je sais que j’ai eu beaucoup de chance, j’ai des copains pour qui “le coming out” a été un véritable drame et que leurs parents les ont rejetés. Moi, heureusement, j’ai échappé à ça parce que j’ai une famille intelligente et aimante.

La vie gay a Phnom Penh est assez facile, les cambodgiens sont bouddhistes et tolérants. La notion de « gay » n’existe pas au Cambodge. On désigne seulement dans le bouddhisme les gens qui sont nés dans « un mauvais corps » et qui veulent en changer, qu’ils soient garçons ou filles. Par ailleurs, les relations sexuelles sont très libres ici et on peut avoir des relations entre hommes ou femmes sans que cela ne choque grand monde. Par contre l’institution du mariage reste un pilier et on doit se marier. En revanche, dans la plus part des cas, on ne choisit pas son mari ou sa femme, c’est pour ça que les relations extra conjugales sont monnaie courante aussi bien hétérosexuel qu’homosexuel.

Un double je n’en ai pas et heureusement pour lui, je me garde de lui donner des conseils si ce n’est crois en toi, tout est possible, il suffit de le vouloir très fort.”

In English:

“For me, being gay does not make any difference, I’m just a lover like any other but it happens that I’m in love with a man.

Being in love or a couple is a challenge every day, there are more or less difficult times. I had a great apprehension asserting myself as gay when I was younger because I had no one to present to my family and to my friends, so I preferred not to talk about my private life to others.

My parents are the first to whom I confessed my homosexuality. I was a young adult and had just met my future husband. They said they were happy for me and they loved me, the perfect reaction. Then, to my brothers and sisters their reaction was not negative either. It was rather “So what? Who cares, it’s your life! And we love you! “. Basically for me the only difficulty was the reaction that I thought they might have. But I know I’ve been very lucky, I have friends for whom “coming out” was a real tragedy and their parents have rejected them. I, fortunately escaped it because I have an intelligent and loving family.

Gay life in Phnom Penh is easy enough, Cambodians are Buddhists and tolerant. The notion of “gay” does not exist in Cambodia. Only designates in Buddhism people who are born in “the wrong body” and want to change, whether boys or girls. Furthermore, sexual relations are very free here and we can have relationships between men and women without this offending many people.

I refrain from giving advice, but I would say believe in yourself, anything is possible, you only have to want it very hard.”

Michel, in his own words:“C’est de vivre librement et sans complexe ma sexualité et une certaine excentricité assumées.

J’ai eu globalement beaucoup de chance de ne pas subir l’homophobie dans mon entourage immédiat, si ce n’est pour des questions religieuses dont je reviendrai plus loin.

C’est une histoire compliquée qui a coïncidée avec mon divorce (j’étais marié avec une femme et j’ai deux enfants) quand j’avais trente ans. J’ai grandi dans une famille Témoins de Jéhovah, une secte chrétienne apocalyptique qui ne laisse aucune place aux amours de même sexe qui sont considérés comme une « abomination » dans la Bible… (« les hommes qui couchent avec des hommes méritent la mort »). Avant mon mariage avec mon ex-femme, je n’avais jamais eu de relation avec des hommes. En divorçant, j’ai également quitté la secte des Témoins de Jéhovah et mes parents ont découvert mon homosexualité à cette période-là . Ca a été un grand choc pour toute la famille mais davantage parce que j’ai quitté la secte que pour mon homosexualité. J’ai ensuite subi l’ostracisme et l’exclusion de tout mon cercle amical et familial composé uniquement de Témoins de Jéhovah et ai beaucoup souffert de cette situation. L’amour familial a permis au fil des ans d’effacer tout ça et j’ai aujourd’hui des relations apaisées avec mes parents qui m’aiment pour ce que je suis, qui apprécient mon mari Thibaud et qui sont ravis d’avoir une petite fille d’origine cambodgienne que nous avons adopté avec Thibaud en 2013.

Il faut différencier la communauté gay expat de celle des cambodgiens et les expats sont les mêmes ici que dans la plupart des pays occidentaux. Coté cambodgien en revanche, il n’existe pas vraiment de « communauté gay » si ce n’est un cercle très fermé. Rares sont les gays qui s’assument en tant que tels, la plupart vivant leur homosexualité de façon cachée. C’est étrange car ils ne subissent aucune pression d’origine religieuse et il existe une grande tolérance dans ce pays pour les amours de même sexe. La pression familiale et sociétale et le « qu’en dira-t-on » sont néanmoins suffisamment puissants pour que les gays aient du mal à s’assumer vraiment.

Ne pas faire semblant, ne pas tricher, être honnête avec soi-même et s’assumer pour être heureux quelles que soient les conséquences immédiates. Ça permet de gagner du temps, la vie est courte.”

In English:

“(Being gay)is to live freely and without making more complicated my sexuality and a certain eccentricity assumption.

I was overall very lucky not to suffer homophobia in my immediate surroundings, if not for religious issues which I will return to later.

It’s a complicated story that coincided with my divorce (I was married to a woman and have two children) when I was thirty. I grew up in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian apocalyptic sect that leaves no room for same-sex love affairs that are considered an “abomination” in the Bible … ( “men who sleep with men deserve to die” ). Before I married my ex-wife, I had never had a relationship with men.

Divorcing, I also left the sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and my parents discovered my homosexuality at that time. It was a big shock for the family but more because I left the sect than my homosexuality. I then suffered ostracism and exclusion of all my friends, family consisting only of Jehovah’s Witnesses and have suffered a lot from this. The family love has over the years to erased it all and I now have peaceful relations with my parents who love me for what I am, who appreciate my husband Thibaud and are delighted to have a daughter of Cambodian origin that we have adopted with Thibaud in 2013.

We must differentiate the gay community of expat to that of Cambodian and expats are the same here as in most Western countries. In the Cambodian side however, there is no real “gay community” if it is a closed circle. Few gays who assume as such, most living their homosexuality in a hidden way. It’s strange because they do not undergo any pressure of religious origin and there is a great tolerance in this country for same-sex love. Family and societal pressure and the “what will people say” are still powerful enough that gays have struggled to take really.

(Advice to my younger self) do not pretend, do not cheat, be honest with yourself and be happy to take whatever immediate consequences. It saves time, life is short.”