Kyle, in his own words: It’s a little strange for me participating in a photography series called the “Gay Men Project” when I don’t really personally use the term gay to refer to my own identity. Back in 2008, after taking a series of undergrad courses in feminist theory, particularly looking at how race and class influenced gender or sexuality, I started using the term queer to prefer to a political that better represented the aims of my writing and activism, that better represented self-inflicted and external threats to my ability to thrive as the kind of person I wanted to be.
That being said, I was drawn to the project because the images I saw were not only aesthetically pleasing, but appealed to my own writing project that is currently ongoing, a project that has been informed by a series of tumultuous events in my own life— including repeated incidences of homophobia, including a severe assault in New York City’s West Village back March 2011 that required reconstructive surgery. Queer Embraces, the name of the project, refers to the way in which my identity and my movement through cities informs how I define what it means to belong—to other men, to those cities, to the ways in which my being visible is an act of personal transformation with political possibilities.
For me, The Gay Men Project matters because of the fact that despite all of the reforms in terms of LGBTQ rights, so many of the men, myself included, face day-to-day struggles simply by being on the streets. I actively choose to wear a lot of thrift store clothes that are designed for women, which has lead to backlash in virtually every city I have traveled. When I write about HIV/AIDS, sexual health, or what it means to hookup with other men in the age of phone and Internet apps, I still face discrimination, even from gay men who are supposed to be part of the same community I belong to. All of this to say that for me, being visible and honest about who you are remains as important today as it was during the Compton’s Cafeteria riot or Stonewall because so many inequalities exist.
I’m not really sure exactly what my participation, my being photographed, will do. But I hope that it is, like my creative writing or journalism, a testament to the public life I lead and the struggles that I have to remain visible and not actively silence my desires.