Aaron, Associate Editor, New York City

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

Aaron, in his own words:“Being gay to me means sometimes inheriting assumptions people have of you without asking for them. It means exploring an identity that the world hasn’t fully accepted, and oftentimes rejects. It means encountering beautiful moments with those who love you for who you are, and understanding that some will only spew hatred. It means being alive and open…and not apologizing for it.

I could go on all day about the challenges of being a black gay man, but the reality is that my whole life has been an uphill battle to celebrate and embrace the complexity of my sexuality. I’ve kissed, and loved intently. I’ve been hurt and hurt others, much like any human on this earth. But I’ve also been able to educate. I taught my mother that my sexuality was not a blockade in front of the morals she instilled in me as a young boy. I taught myself that my Jamaican family built on faith, strictness and willful independence has a large capacity for acceptance.

The NYC gay community does not exist as we generally refer to it. I say that because there is no single, definitive “gay community” in this city — rather a collective of many smaller ones that make up the amorphous, beautiful network of men who live and work here. I always detested the idea of a singular “community” because as a teenager all I thought of when I imagined the “gay community” were white, svelte men who looked plucked from a Zara catalog. These men were not me, so how could I possibly belong? NYC has proved me wrong in the sense that you can find any group you are looking for, and with enough confidence you can defy the odds and diversify the groups that have become too accustomed to only interacting with people who look, think and act like them.

I came out to my mother when I was 15 years old, in my senior year of high school. She was among the first I told, after another gay boy at school encouraged me to tell her before graduating. At first, everything seemed fine. She reassured me of her love. But soon after, she called my pastor to come to our apartment and speak with me about my “situation.” The chat involved a lot of condemnation of the Devil, and prayers that God would imbue the desire for a woman in me. Needless to say, this caused a deep rift in my relationship with my mother, one that just recently has been closing up and healing. My friends all took it fine. One shrieked with joy in the middle of a Starbucks in Lawrenceville, Ga., as I told her. Another paused wondering if I was going to tell him something actually shocking.

If I could give advice to my younger self, it’d be to breathe slower. Live in the moment, but don’t let the moment consume you. Read more. Finish writing that play.”

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