Andreas, in his own words:“Being gay means having the opportunity to be more accepting of others.
Continuous challenge is learning to accept myself, to trust in the process called life. One of my greatest successes has been finishing a masters while recovering from a barrage of illnesses I picked up whilst traveling in India.
Coming out was gradual – took about 5 years, starting with accepting myself to telling my father. Some of my extended family members still don’t know about my sexuality, maybe that will change now. I’m lucky in that all the responses were positive – everyone was supportive and accepting (although most didn’t see it coming!).
The Cape Town gay community, much like the rest of South Africa is socially and geographically divided. I only know middle class gay men who live in suburbs; we share very similar stories. I wish it would be easier to meet more gay men from different backgrounds.
I would tell my younger self to keep away from trying to do things right.”
Safir, in his own words:“Being a 26 years old gay to me means: 20 years living in fear that I would end up in hell and while I was still on earth, I would be #foreveralone because of being brainwashed that God would only give a man a female soulmate (thanks to my conservative Muslim upbringing, including nine years studying in Islamic school) followed by 2 years learning that I’m not alone and not everyone/everything condemns homosexuality (thanks to a new life in Europe that I pursued while I was studying) followed by 5 years feeling awesome to be what I am (as my life here in Bangkok for the past few years is free from stigma and surrounded by open-minded people).
My successes was when I got in to the United Nations. I started as an intern two years ago and now I still cant believe that I’ve really been working with them ever since. I came from a very local uni and I was competing with kids from elite universities around the globe. Heck, I didn’t even know if I took the right master Programme prior to my internship. I do still have some insecurities with my English while working with the colleagues who are native speakers. But that’s great. I mean, that’s the only insecurity I have now and I no longer have insecurities of my sexual orientation in the office. It’s very different when I worked in an Indonesian company. I kept fearing that they would’ve bullied me if I was open about being gay.
What’s also great about my work at the UN is that, as a HIV technical expert, I’m working for the human rights of people living with HIV and key affected populations, including gay men, which is something I’ve been passionate about since I grew up. Growing up in a non-gay friendly environment really does unleash my human rights advocate side.
I haven’t come out to my parents yet – but I’ve done it to my Facebook friends. I was in IKEA with friends, they took a pic of me coming out of the showcased wardrobe and I posted that pic on my Facebook (with the caption:” just coming out of the closet”). Bam!
(With regards to the gay scene in Bangkok) This is a tricky question. I am already hearing somebody shouting at me because my answer is stereotyping the gay scene. I find the gay scene in Bangkok, in terms of nightlife, divided into two neighwhorehood: “sticky rice” AND “potato and rice” gayhoods. Or maybe not so much on what kind of race you’re into with, but more on ‘whether or not you speak Thai.” Sticky rice playground is what people refer to “local gayhood” (e.g., Ratchada, Ramkanhaeng) – where finding English-speaking Thai boys is much harder than in the ‘international’ one (e.g., Silom). I eat all kind of carbo, but I prefer the “Sticky rice” playground to the other. I can still feel the Thai’s land-of-smile manners there. no matter how packed the club is, the boys will still say “sorry” (in a very polite Thai expression) if they bump you or step on your feet.
Outside the nightlife scene, I feel that there’s no other exclusive gay scene in Bangkok. Most of the “scenes” are integrated with the non-gay ones. This just shows how Bangkok is much more progressive than other big cities in Southeast Asia.
(Advice I’d give to my younger self) You might still not have Grindr (or a Smartphone), but you are not alone. Gay people exist. Not just in the porn videos you secretly hid in the folder named “Homeworks” in your old PC. And the best part is, many of them are beautiful and full of inspiration, and they love you they way you are.”
Laan, in his own words: (Being gay) means my inner self, my freedom. My biggest challenge was to accept myself the way I really am. Success for me was to be able to live as a gay man, to be happy with it and have lots of friends. Comming out was quick, practical and scary at the same time. (If I could give myself advice before coming out) : go slow kid, the world is big.”
Carlos, in his own words: “No one can beat you at being you -Joel Osteen
Being gay means everything to me. Growing up as a kid, I always knew. Was it tough? Of course it was. It is for a lot of us. I was going to Catholic School and hearing what the bible was preaching, it sure didn’t help. But I somehow did not care, I loved myself too much and just knew I was different and special . Besides, I was too young and innocent and had no control over it.
Growing up at home I definitely had to keep it a secret. My dad had 11 brothers and no sisters. Very old fashion Mexican upbringing and not a single known gay relative. So yeah it was tough. I remembering answering the phone at 12 years old and the neighbor who was calling told me I needed to man up my voice because I sounded like my sister. As hard as I tried to be straight, and please everyone else, I just always knew better. Turned out my neighbor is gay also. He hasn’t spoken to his dad in over 3 years. That’s tough. His dad was my role model growing up too. Funny how life works.
Throughout my years in Jr High and High School I too was bullying alongside my friends sometimes, just to “fit in”. You know I grew up in the city of Cerritos which is just 25 min away from LA. The friends I had and the life I was living was just not the environment to come out in. Once I moved to Hollywood with my older brother who was already living there, I was just shocked. Gays everywhere. Even West Hollywood was up the street, but it was almost too much all at once. I mean sure it made me feel at home and made it more easier to explore. But there were still challenges. When I finally did come out to my parents, it really did feel better like they say. No it wasn’t easy and yes it took a while for them to come around. Just like it took me a while to be comfortable with it. I mean I wanted to marry and have a wife and kids of my own also you know, and letting go of that reality was not easy either. Something people don’t talk about.
18 years later I am in a much better place. It’s true, “It does get better”. Sure I made some mistakes along the way but I’ve never been happier. I have an amazing partner of 6 years. Five of those years we spent taking care of his 87 year old grandmother who had Alzheimer’s up until her last breath in our arms at almost 92 years old. Once people saw what a difference we made in her life and how she changed our lives, it just didn’t matter anymore to me what people were thinking. Early on in my relationship my lil brother got married and I was able to bring my partner and introduce him to all of my family. Without really realizing it, I used my brothers wedding as my way of coming out to the rest of my family. They welcomed him and it just made it all easier. We then attended a church (Unity Fellowship Church, Los Angeles) that was founded by a gay Bishop by the name of Archbishop Carl Bean. He and his church played a huge part in keeping me in track with not only my life, but with the Love of Life itself. I then have the opportunity to meet an amazing gay couple in NY. J. Frederic “Fritz” Lohman and Charles W. Leslie, the founders of the Leslie Lohman Museum in NY which recognizes gay artists from all around the world. Here’s a couple who has been together for 47 years! Gay Love is possible and they were proof. Learning the history and amazing stories of Charles and Fritz only made me happier and prouder to be gay. We are a pretty amazing group of people and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Go ahead and come out wherever you are. It does get better and it really is OK.”
Ivan, in his own words:” Being gay has afforded me the opportunity to alongside my partner Carlos Cisneros be there caring for and living with my grandmother for the last five years of her life (from 87 years old to 91 years young).
” I am glad that God made you guys the way he did , because otherwise you would have a wife and kids and would not have all this time for me” mama Lenor Santoni. That those years with grandma allowed us without trying to show my family , friends and anyone who happened to be watching : a Latino gay couple happily taking care of a senior citizen.
Being Gay has allowed me to to have a best friend and passionate relationship with one person.
In 1994 two of my best friends were moving back home to NY, they are still a couple Moe Bertran and David Pumo. I went to their going away party four days before ( brought gift and all). The next day I woke up called Moe and asked if I could move with them to NY?”@#%#@% Wow! Let me call David and ask him !”. About ten minutes later Moe calls me and says ” David said yes but you have to COME OUT to your mom before we go because he won’t live with someone who is in the closet”. I drove to my mom’s house and told her that I was moving to NY and pretty much in the same breath I said and I’m gay ” she was crying but when she spoke she said ” I am not crying because you are gay I am crying because you are moving to NY”
Joffrey, in his own words:“(Being gay means) being a Dad – being a Husband after all.
Having my family which is my husband and our 2 kids. It is my best achievement. I am so proud of who we are. Being a Dad, is a real job and I am loving it. We both take it seriously as we do not wish to fail. It is quite hard to describe the happiness of having a family through all those mixed emotions.
I remember having a job interview and being asked: “what is your best achievement in life?” and I answered naturally: “My family, my kids”…oh well I did not get the job by the way!
Today, we both work hard for them, to make sure that their present & future time is secure. But to be able to work hard – I do source myself into their energies. I get my strength to work hard & be a good employee through their joy & happiness. It is all connected in a way.
(With regards to coming out) I left my home country (France) when I was 19. So it was for me easy to be myself in the UK. Therefore – when I had my first long term relationship I emailed my mum and my older sister (The younger one knew it already) Not a nice way to tell them (not very brave of me to do so). I expected them to be upset. I guess I just did not know them very well – weird to say but realistic. I was wrong. It has never been for anyone living around me/us an issue.
(The community in Kep, Cambodia is) Very gay friendly.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Be happy when other people are happy. Be yourself. Show to others your happiness of being who you are.”
Dave, in his own words:“. (Being gay means) being my own self. I mean, since I was a little boy, I was already attracted physically with other boys and I think it’s natural. Because I don’t know what we call it. When I grew up and became a teenager, that feeling became stronger, and never changed. I’m still attracted physically (and sometimes sexually) with men. There’s no force, no pretending, it flew naturally, came from my feeling. I can’t deny it. After I went to college, I understood about homosexuality. I’m a part of it. Being a gay, man (biologically has a penis) who is attracted physically and sexually to another man. But, sometimes, I think that I’m in a wrong body, a female in a male body. Hahahahaa.. So, I like to make over myself and become a female (crossdresser)
The biggest challenge in my life has been conservative people. They won’t accept us just like we are. We live in a Muslim (most of the religion) country with a lots of norms and rules that came from the conservative points of view.
(With regards to coming out) Actually I’ve already come out since I was a little boy. I told my friend (a boy) that I liked another boy too. In that time, I also acted like a girl, liked to play with girl’s stuff, including wearing my mom’s dress. And I enjoyed it. So, I guess, my parents already knew about it. They never asked me but, I can saw it from their attitude, they accepted me. Maybe because I got good achievements at school and I was the one of my family who went to college. My brother used go against me, but now, he already accept me just like I used to be now.
There is lots of gay community in Jakarta. You can find them everywhere, but not the discreet groups. Usually, the discreet ones, use social media to make communications, and make appointments to meet each other in a secret place too (I mean maybe in a hotel, rented room, etc) not in a public areas. There’s still a gap between the sissy ones with the manly ones (straight acting), the high end with the low end.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Being gay isn’t wrong. It’s not a sin. It’s natural. It comes from your feelings and heart. So, just accept yourself. Just being yourself, not pretending to be someone else. You are not alone.”
Julian, in his own words: “Ser gay significa para mi tener la convicción de que cada uno es libre de amar y querer a una persona de su mismo sexo. Decir que soy gay es un reto a las posibilidades de amor que la sociedad impone.
Aceptar mi sexualidad ha sido uno de los más grandes retos que he tenido. Antes era horrible como mi mente trabajaba en que cosas decir y que hacía o que no para que la gente no lo note. Era agotador y siempre me sentía intranquilo. En mi hogar me veían molesto siempre y no sabían por qué y yo tampoco sentía que podía decirlo. Luego de aceptar quien soy todo comenzó a mejorar y ahora siento que las relaciones que tengo con los demás son más honestas que antes.
La comunidad gay en Lima es aún pequeña, no hay mucha visibilidad pero creo que se están abriendo grandes oportunidades y avances que la gente está consiguiendo. Creo que de aca a unos años seremos más fuertes y con capacidad de presión para generar políticas públicas hacia la población y una sociedad sin discriminación.
Yo sabía que me gustaban los hombres desde pequeño y en secundaria comenzaron a sospechar pero la reacción de ellos no fue nada bueno así que lo negué. Fue recién en el verano del 2009 gracias al apoyo de mis amigos que les dije que era, fue todo un proceso y sigue siendo. Mi madre hace unos meses me dijo “lo único que quiero es que seas feliz”, ella tiene miedo de cómo la gente me pueda tratar en el futuro, por eso también es que decidí luchar por mis derechos, para demostrarle que su deseo y el mío son posibles.
Le diría que ser gay no es el fin del mundo, que nadie me va a castigar, es un camino duro pero aceptarse es lo mejor que te puede pasar y que hay gente que te seguirá queriendo incluso aún más por ser honesto contigo mismo.”
“Being gay means to me to have the conviction that everyone is free to love and love a person of the same sex. To say that I’m gay is a challenge to the possibilities of love that society imposes.
Accepting my sexuality has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had. Before it was horrible as my mind worked about how to say things or act for people not to notice my sexuality. It was exhausting and I always felt uneasy. At home I always looked annoyed and people did not know why and I felt that I could not say what was happening. After accepting who I am everything started to improve and now I feel that I have more honest relationships with others than before.
The gay community in Lima is still small, there is not much visibility but I think they are opening great opportunities and developments for people to receive. I think from here in a few years we will be stronger and able to pressure to generate public policies towards the population and have a society without discrimination.
I knew I liked men since childhood but my parents began to suspect when I was 16 but their reaction was not good so I refused to accept my sexual orientation. It was not until the summer of 2009 thanks to the support of my friends that I told to my parents, it was a process and remains so. My mother a few months ago said “all I want is your happiness” she is afraid of how people can treat me in the future, so I also decided to fight for my rights, to demonstrate her desires and mine are possible.
(To my younger self) I would say that being gay is not the end of the world, no one is going to punish you, it’s a hard road but accepting it is the best that can happen and there are people who still love you even more for being honest with yourself.”
Chris, in his own words:“For me, being gay means being part of a wonderful and diverse community that seeks love and equality above all. It means being given a path of unique struggles that not only sharpens myself, but those that share the journey with me as well. To me, being gay means that I get to see the strength of my parents love for me in the midst of an unforgiving society. To me, being gay means that I get to look in the mirror and know, I am who I am because of what God has created and not by what society has chosen for me.
The biggest challenge was learning to accept myself. My greatest success has been overcoming it. Although I struggled with my sexuality while in the Marine Corps and my ministry in church, it all came secondary to the fact that I felt like I didn’t even know who I was as an individual.
I realized one day, as I watched advocates fighting for my right to be married at the time, that I wanted to be part of the fight. I muscled up the strength to contact my family via phone conversations and skype to tell them that I was gay. Everyone took it ok except for my dad. He didn’t speak to me for about a year afterwards. After I told my folks, I recorded a youtube video, in my military uniform, telling the rest of my friends, relatives, and ultimately the rest of the world, that I was gay. I did this because I didn’t want there to be any rumors to spread that I was gay. I wanted to control the conversation.My whole family now accepts me and even gave their blessings in my recent engagement.
I’m from the U.S. and only visiting (Manila). But from my observation, the gay community is still trying to find it’s identity as mainstream media has tried to define it for them already. Gay guys that are “out” are often dubbed as the flamboyant, comedic, and drag queen individuals of the community- even though that may not be necessarily true. And “discreet” guys are considered to be the masculine guys. There isn’t an equal representation of the diversity of the community in the public eye. There’s a lot of progress that needs to be done here in regards to lifting stereotypes and stigmas. The gay community seems to be accepted here, but only within a certain capacity. Be flamboyant and comedic and the Philippines will accept you. If you are masculine or want to get married, the Philippine society doesn’t know what to do with you and will most likely be met with resistance.
I would just tell (my younger self) what I tell myself today, just keep moving forward. I wouldn’t want to take away the struggles I went through in the past as I know I’m a stronger person today, for it.”
Marc Antoine, in his own words:“It is perhaps inscrutable to gauge the exact impact that being gay had on my life. If one takes into consideration the complexities inherent in coming to terms with one’s sexuality I believe there can be no doubt that “gayhood” or “gayness” means a lot in the sense that it may affect one’s perception of the world , for it , more often than not, instills a certain perspective on life, which is marked by a certain poetic melancholy, as I would have it, in addition to a capacity of analyzing the Other, for I was forced to think before acting for fear of showing more than I could and therefore would be trapped by other people’s cruelty.
My life is made up , as most people’s, of challenges. They just change but never cease to exist. My nature is very determined therefore I’ve always attempted to embrace these many challenges as stimuli rather than impediments. I feel challenged and this is motivational. Professional challenges are substantially informed by personal conflicts and now , at 45, my main challenges involve strengthening my curriculum by pursuing doctorate studies in Theory and History of Art. I see this PhD as a contribution to my old age. I tend to be too hard on myself but it would perhaps be unfair to ignore the many successes I’ve had in life, the biggest of which being my having overcome difficulties pertaining to these moments in which I reinvented myself. After teaching English for more than a decade , I decided to do an MA in Literary Theory , which provided me with the possibility of starting an intellectual move , teaching at tertiary levels. I am currently the head of a Fashion Design course , which was accredited with the highest possible credentials by the Brazilian Ministry of Education, I have also curated art exhibitions which proved immensely rewarding on a personal level. I feel better looking now than I did when I was younger but it is particularly cruel to age as a gay man in Brazil and there resides my new challenge which is inevitably coupled with my intellectual journey…
The gay community in Brasília is big, for there are many civil servants here…diplomats coming from all over the world as well as gay men who come here to earn more and live comfortably and more freely, but we live in an artificial city, which was planned and this ends up affecting people’s relationships. I find the gay community here to be far too stereotypical and homogeneous in addition to being artificially “cold” and segregational as regards class and standards of beauty.
(With regards to my coming out story) Difficult yet resolute, I do not partake of the view of living one’s life as a lie. It took me a long time to actually feel that I could live my homosexuality. I was 23 years old when I first had sex with a man and it took me another two years before I could tell my whole family in a somehow tempestuous manner, for I decided to leave home to live with my boyfriend, whom I passionately loved. I was bullied throughout my childhood and especially in my adolescence but it all contributed to making me stronger albeit a bit melancholic. I do believe that my connexion with the Arts stems from the pain of feeling threatened and belittled by the world. Therefore, my coming out is part of my victory over this past of humiliation but equally the past which shaped who I am and I mostly like it.
I think one’s life is what one can do out of it. All in all, I take pride in having done my very best to avoid becoming bitter over the problematic facets of my past. I try to take responsibility for my life. I avoid blaming whoever it is for what may have gone wrong.”
Jeremy, in his own words:“To me, being gay has always been about a connection I’ve felt with men. It’s not that I’m not physically attracted to women. It’s just that I know that I can understand men in a way that I can’t understand women. It’s entirely possible that I just haven’t given myself the chance to even try, but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it!
The biggest challenge was growing up in rural Minnesota. The amount of ignorance that I’ve encountered in my life is crippling. People fear what they don’t understand, and I was something that Hutchinson, MN could not wrap their minds around.
The gay community in New York is scary. I can’t walk down the street without seeing a buff dude strutting his perfectly toned body with his perfectly toned boyfriend. When I first moved here I was worried that it took the washboard abs to thrive as a gay man in New York City, but I’m beginning to realize that even if it’s true I just don’t care. I really love myself at this current juncture of my life.
I don’t really have a coming out story. I never struggled with my sexuality. I’ve always known I was gay even before I knew what being gay was. Although, I do remember when I was little I was playing video games with my mom’s boyfriend, and I told her I was going to marry Captain America, and she responded “Yes you are baby!”. That’s probably the earliest conversation I had with my mom about my sexuality!
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Flaunt it! Flaunt it like you don’t give a damn because in most cases you really shouldn’t. Also buy a pair of leggings right now!