Sorel, 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
Sorel, in his own words: “I’ve gone through so much before I even reached my 25th birthday that once I realized that I was gay I just thought it was just another part of me getting to know myself better. I didn’t go through any internal struggle or mental break down. I never even had to “come out” to anyone, not even my family, I think they just noticed a change in my life, the gender of my partners changed from women to men, and luckily most of them were very nonchalant about it.

I don’t think that my family knew that I was gay before I knew it myself (then again, who knows), it just wasn’t an issue. So being gay to me isn’t any different than being the tallest one in my family or being the only one who moved away from the family cocoon. I just am.

From a very young age, and as far as I can remember, I’ve always been left to my own devices which probably is the reason why I grew up to be pretty much a loner. When I was young living in Cambodia, my parents would always take my sisters with them on trips and left me at home as I was a good student and they didn’t want to interrupt my schooling. During the war there they managed to send all of my siblings and myself to Paris to keep us safe, I was raised by a French family on my own and by the end of the war and after their tragic passing, I was put in a military boarding school by myself.

Once I was old enough to start working, I moved out on my own and eventually came to the U.S, again, on my own. So I guess my biggest challenges has always been to learn to cope with the world around me rather than the struggle with my own sexuality.

My success in life, and I can say this now that I am in my 50s, has been to be able to not only cope with the cards life has dealt me but overcome all of the obstacles and become a well respected member of the retail and fashion industry, an industry that I love and have been a part of for the last 20 some odd years. No matter what happened, I kept on a positive outlook and always try and stay focused on the big picture.

I moved from New York to Phnom Penh, Cambodia almost two years ago and I’m sure that there’s not much I could tell you about the Gay community in NYC that you don’t already know.

The gay community in Phnom Penh on the other hand is very small for a city of 2 million+ people. It is very transient as it is made up of mostly expats who moved to Cambodia for a 6 months contracts (sometimes a bit longer), a few tourists and some young Khmer.

Cambodia being a Buddhist country, most are very accepting and non judgmental. However, most Khmer consider homosexuality to be just a part of you and think/expect their children to eventually get married and have children, mostly boys so that they can carry on the family name. There is no law against homosexuality in Cambodia.

As far as what advice I would give my young self, I’m not quite sure I would tell him to do anything differently. Just live your life doing what feels right, don’t let others tell you how to live your life and well, maybe don’t shop so much…”

5 comments

  1. Jem

    Thanks for sharing your story. So interesting and challenging too. And you are so young looking for 50. Wow! I can’t believe you are already 50. Would love to have seen some of your work pics too in the fashion world. Thanks always too to Kevin for making the sharing of these stories possible.

  2. Brian

    Having had the privilege of knowing and spending time with Sorel over the past four years, I can say that he is one of the most genuine, caring, devoted friends any gay men could wish to have. His strength is his greatest asset. He unwillingly gives of himself to all of his friends and you will rarely, if ever, hear him say no. He’s a shoulder to lean on, a hug to get at any time, a phone call away, and much more. His story rings true in every aspect, and he lives his life in a way that we should all take note. As a gay man, I’m proud to call him my friend and count myself lucky that his view of life has rubbed off on me even on the smallest scale.

    • Sorel Thongvan

      Wow Brian thank you for your kind words. I strongly believe in getting what you give and you have definitely been a great friend since the first day we met.
      Keep positive.

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