GUILLERMO AND ALVARO, Panama City, Panama

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

Alvaro, in his own words: “I was always a different kind of kid, uncomfortable with big crowds and loud noises, I didn’t like people smoking around me or establishing physical contact with me when there was no need. Being in large groups with other kids wasn’t my thing. I used to play alone and I always tried to maintain some personal space since I felt overwhelmed with the stimuli. While I grew up I noticed the stimuli could not only be physical but emotional. I didn’t have a word for it but looking back I can see I was a very empathic kid, picking up on emotional signs in people from a very young age. I got overwhelmed sometimes so my first attempt at controlling the stimuli was to get away from it… from people, that is. I still need to do that sometimes.

Drawing was always there for me when I was alone and I could spend hours filling the pages of drawing pads and sketchbooks, I used to doodle everywhere, the walls, books, any piece of paper I could find, etc. I wasn’t really a noisy kid, I developed a whole universe in my head that nobody else knew about. But I remember I couldn’t decide whether my favorite color was green or blue, then I added red and I got completely confused. Back then I thought I was defective because I couldn’t make up my mind about such small things. I felt as if I was left behind somehow. Eventually I discovered my “defect” granted me the chance to appreciate all colors, switch between one or the other and mix them all together whenever I wanted to, while people around me could only see beauty in one or two things at once. I noticed I didn’t have to choose (or I chose not to choose) and I never thought of myself as “defective” again.

That’s until I hit puberty, my sexuality kicked in and I realized I was different to my peers in yet another aspect. I wasn’t attracted to girls in the same way my friends were. Even my drawings reflected my sexual orientation. I didn’t have a word for what I was feeling except the derogatory ones I had learned at school, on TV or even at home when some family members referred to non-straight people. I was lost, I thought I wouldn’t be able to control this new difference and turn it into something good. I fought my homosexuality for years, I tried to erase it, hide it, forget about it. I graduated high school and went to the University to become a Psychologist, there I tried to analyze my sexuality, interpret it, I cried a lot and got angry at myself for being like that. I feared rejection and got depressed. I rejected myself and I stopped producing any type of art for a couple of years.

I dated women, I slept with them and had a good time. I remember my dad caught me a couple of times with a girlfriend and he would only smile with pride. I was so happy he approved, I felt so validated. But one day I had to face it: I had been lying to myself and sex with women wasn’t going to work for me forever. I had sex with another man for the first time when I was 21 (I know it sounds late but that’s how it was). When I was finally building up the courage to talk to my parents about my sexuality, my dad got in a car accident. I wanted to tell him about me if only to be honest with him and because I was desperate to know if he’d still love me if I was gay, but he died before I had the chance to find out, so my question will remain unanswered forever. A month after his passing I began drawing men again, I haven’t stopped since then and now my art is one of the things that define me as a human being, as a man, as a gay man.

Eventually I “came out” to my mother and she cried and stopped talking to me. She had a whole lot of misguided ideas and I had to clarify a lot of things for her. It was a growing up experience for both of us. Now she and the rest of my family know about me and they respect me. Anonymity is no longer my primary defense and I even disagree with the expression “coming out of the closet” since I think the closet is where you keep the things you’re not using at any given time and the truth is sexuality permeates our every move, our every thought, our every emotion. We interpret life and the world around us based on who we are and our sexuality is a big part of that.

I’m a Doctor in Clinical Psychology and a Psychotherapist, I work with all kinds of people but always keep a big part of my practice dedicated to gay or bisexual men and women, same sex couples or even parents that get scared because their kids are “different”. I’m also a self taught drawing artist, which is my true passion and my subjects are mostly men, these days I use multiple colors and don’t feel defective for it, and I try to challenge myself every time. I’ve had a few partners and I must admit I’m a long term relationship kind of guy, though I’ve had my share of short and casual encounters, if you must know. I workout, eat well and try to be as honest to myself and others as I can consciously be. I recently started doing theater and for years I’ve run a blog on Psychology and Sexual Diversity. I still resonate with other people emotionally but I use it now to try and help them in my practice or to feed my artistic side.”

Alvaro’s art.

Alvaro’s blog.

Twitter: @algomprado

Facebook: Facebook.com/algomprado

Guillermo, in his own words: “I was fortunate to be able to develop my career and alongside my real passion which is dancing. I always say that I studied to be a Communicator (PR, Advertising, Marketing, etc.), but I was born to be a dancer. Since I can remember I have danced, even when my mom tells stories from my childhood, most of them describe me dancing. Choreographing with my cousins and neighbors for parties was something I used to do while growing up. My first dance partner was my sister who supported me in all my follies, and still does!

I remember my dad telling me when I was still very young: “My dear son, be whatever you want to be, but always be the best.” To this day, that was my North Star, be the best PR and Communications Advisor, be the best dancer, be the best son, the best brother, the best boyfriend, in short, be a better person every day.

Obviously there were many obstacles, being gay in a country like Panama isn’t easy. First off, in a country the size of a lentil, everyone knows you or your family (which means that being in the closet 100% is virtually impossible). Secondly, the religious and macho culture ingrained in my family has made it more difficult. It was not easy trying to figure out who I was, especially while going through my parents divorce, which was very traumatic for our family.

It has been an extensive process of assimilation, acceptance and growth for both me and the people close to me. Doubts, insecurities and fears have slowly dissipated. I feel proud of each and every one of these experiences and feelings, good and bad, because they have made me the man I am today.”

Tiago, Geographer, Rio De Janeiro, 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
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

Tiago, in his own words: “Se me perguntassem “o que ser brasileiro significa para você” ou “o que ter irmãos significa para você”, eu responderia que essas são condições essenciais da minha vida. Claro que são classificações e como qualquer classificação são carregadas de significados e relações de poder, mas o fato de eu ser gay é também uma condição da minha vida. Certamente, como membro de um grupo social marginal, eu estou sujeito a situações de preconceito e violência, tanto física quanto verbal, mas eu não consigo pensar numa resposta mais simples e, ao mesmo tempo, mais certa para essa pergunta que não seja “significa ser eu mesmo”. Escrevendo essa resposta fiquei pensando que a pergunta ideal seria ao contrário: “o que ser você significa para ser gay?”. Assim a condição de sujeito viria antes da sexualidade, mas acho que esse é um caminho longo de desconstrução de categorias que acabam criando padrões e gerando preconceito com tudo o que está fora do padrão.

Eu não consigo ver sucessos associados diretamente ao fato de eu ser gay. Já desafios, eu acho que o maior deles foi o meu próprio reconhecimento enquanto sujeito, o que tem a ver com um movimento de enfrentamento em relação a vários valores sociais, familiares e religiosos.

Eu não costumo frequentar lugares especificamente gays no Rio de Janeiro. Nunca gostei muito de guetos e prefiro os espaços menos direcionados a um grupo particular, onde circulam todos os tipos de pessoa. Mas eu acho o Rio de Janeiro, pelo menos as partes da cidade por onde circulo, amistoso em relação aos gays. Talvez isso tenha a ver com a vida na cidade grande. Eu venho de uma cidade bem menor que o Rio, onde raramente você é anônimo nos lugares que frequenta, o que acaba favorecendo a criação de guetos. De forma bem geral, eu acho que os gays circulam bastante entre os diferentes grupos aqui no Rio, e isso parece gerar uma melhor aceitação por parte da sociedade.

Eu nunca me considerei muito dentro do armário, eu sempre soube que era gay. Ainda criança, mesmo que não tivesse consciência da sexualidade, eu sabia que não correspondia a muitas das posturas e gostos que se esperam de uma criança do sexo masculino. A partir de uma certa idade, fui me dando conta de que essas diferenças passavam pela sexualidade, uma sexualidade que eu reconhecia como minha e que eu nunca quis contrariar. De qualquer modo, eu não cresci despreocupado dessa definição, sentia que precisava me afirmar enquanto gay, o que eu acho um problema, já que essa não é uma preocupação explícita de um adolescente heterossexual que corresponde ao padrão socialmente aceitável. A minha saída oficial do armário foi aos 17 anos. Até então, por mais que eu soubesse que era gay, nunca tinha me relacionado com homens. Eu esperei que isso acontecesse para que eu pudesse me abrir para as pessoas. E com exceção de alguns amigos mais próximos, as primeiras pessoas a quem eu contei foram meus pais. Eu sentia profunda necessidade de mostrar a eles quem de fato e eu era, e isso foi fundamental para minha formação enquanto sujeito. De início, alguns conflitos surgiram, mas eu sempre mantive uma postura que chamo de “enfrentamento”. Nunca recuei e nem abri mão da minha sexualidade por conta da minha família. Hoje, eu acredito que essa postura influenciou na construção de uma relação de muito respeito entre nós, e cada vez mais eu acho que esse respeito está para além do fato de eu ser gay.

Como eu falei na primeira pergunta, eu acho que o melhor conselho seria “não se preocupe em se definir dentro de uma categoria, apenas viva de acordo com suas ideias, emoções e valores”. Mas eu acho que essa situação ainda é bastante utópica, então eu diria “não deixe de se afirmar da maneira como você é, respeitando a si mesmo dentro da sua diferença”.

in English:

“If someone asks me “what being Brazilian means to you” or “what having brothers means to you”, I’ll reply that those are essential conditions of my life. Of course they’re classifications full of meanings and relations of power, but the fact that I’m gay is also a condition of my life. Certainly, as any member of a marginal social group, I’m susceptible to situations of prejudice and physically and verbally violence, but I can’t think in a simple and at the same time right answer to this question than “means to be myself”. Writing this response I thought the ideal question would be: “what being you means to be gay?”. Thus the condition of the subject would come before sexuality, but I think it’s a long way of deconstruction of categories that create patterns and cause prejudice to everything defined nonstandard.

I can’t see successes directly associated with the fact I’m gay. One big challenge though it was my own recognition as a subject, which has to do with face up various social, family and religious values.

I don’t usually attend specifically gay places in Rio de Janeiro. I don’t really like ghettos instead I prefer spaces much less aimed to a particular group, where you can find every sort of people. But I think Rio, at least the places I’ve been, is friendly toward the gay public; maybe it has to do with life in a big city. I came from a smaller town where you’re rarely anonymous in places you go out, which favors the creation of ghettos. In Rio I think gay people circulate well among different groups and it seems to generate greater acceptance by society.

I never considered myself in the closet because I always knew I was gay. As a little child, even if I hadn’t be aware of sexuality, I knew that I didn’t correspond to many of the attitudes and tastes expected of a male child. As the years gone by, I realized that those differences were about the sexuality, which soon I recognized as mine without fighting against it. However I wasn’t that far of this definition, I needed to affirm myself, which was a problem because normally it wasn’t a preoccupation of a heterosexual guy, which socially fits in the acceptable patterns. I officially came out when I was 17. By then even if I knew I was gay, I’ve never had experienced a homosexual relationship. I’ve waited till then to let others to know it, and besides some close friends my parents were the first. I needed so much to let them kwon who I was and this was fundamental to my formation as a subject. At first there were some conflicts, but I’ve always been in a certain position that I call “enfrentamento” (In literally translation: to confront). I’ve never turned myself down and never gave up my sexuality for my family. Nowadays I believe this “enfrentamento” position have influenced me in the construction of a very respectful relationship between us, and day after day I think this respect is far beyond the fact I’m gay.

As I said in the first question, I think the best advice would be “don’t worry to define yourself within a category, just live according your ideas, emotions and values”. But I think this situation is still quite utopic, instead I would say, “Affirm and respect yourself the way you are within your difference”.

Thach, Wardrobe Stylist, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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

Thach, in his own words: “When I was 18, I told my Mom that I was gay. Both of us cried a lot. She was worried that I had been affected by my gay friends and she wanted me to go to see doctors. I explained to her that I was not sick, it was just who I am. After calming down, she said she could not force me to be someone else and told me to become a good man and make my family proud.

After that, facing my Mom was a challenge to me and it took quite some time to normalize the conversations between me and my family members. Having support from family is the greatest thing to me and it’s not easy for other people to have that.

My family and my life are important to me now. I don’t pay attention to what people say and think about my sexuality. I just live and work well to make my family proud of me as I promised. And I have never regretted or never blamed myself for being gay. I even think that is a gift affectionately granted to me by God.”