Jean and Lionel, Actor and Physiotherapist, Paris, France

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
Jean (left) and Lionel (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Lionel, in his own words: “Je suis né dans une région rurale du centre de la France. Mon premier contact avec l’homosexualité s’est fait par le biais de mes camarades de classe du primaire qui me traitaient de fille manquée, de femmelette ou de tapette à la récré. Mon comportement devait trahir une identité dont je n’avais pas du tout conscience. C’est vers mes 9 ans, lorsque je suis tombé amoureux du garçon qui flirtait avec ma meilleure copine de classe que j’ai commencé à trouver cela étrange et anormal.

A la vérité de cette évidence, j’ai commencé à être conscient de ma propre homosexualité et de l’homophobie latente et omniprésente de mon environnement familial et géographique. J’ai alors très mal vécu le fait d’être homosexuel, imaginant ma vie comme une destinée de malheur et de solitude assurée.

Les années collège ont été très violentes car la construction de ma propre identité était totalement centrée sur cette différence qui me pesait énormément et qui me mettait en décalage total avec mes camarades. J’étais très triste et je me sentais particulièrement seul. La musique et le cinéma sont alors devenus des refuges particulièrement apaisants. Des artistes comme Mylène Farmer, les Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue ou Madonna exprimaient la force d’être différent. Les films « Philadelphia » et « Beautiful Thing » furent les déclencheurs d’une certaine forme d’acceptation de moi-même et de mon homosexualité.

Après le bac, j’ai pu expérimenter l’émancipation du foyer familial pendant quelques mois à Poitiers. Ils ont été révélateurs de mon envie d’exil et de la certitude qu’être diplômé serait la clé de mon indépendance. C’est pendant ces années étudiantes que j’ai fait mon premier coming-out auprès d’un de mes amis. C’était en 1997. Ce fut une libération incroyable, mon ami m’acceptant totalement tel que j’étais. Il était donc possible de vivre réellement homosexuel et en harmonie avec les autres.

L’année suivante, en 1998, c’est auprès de ma sœur que je fis mon coming-out. Nous sommes très proches et nous nous étions rendus à Paris pour assister au concert de Whitney Houston dont ma sœur était particulièrement admiratrice. Ce jour-là, dans la file d’attente, nous avions attendu et discuté tout l’après-midi avec un couple d’homosexuels. Dès le lendemain, de retour à la maison, je lui avais tendu le magazine « Têtu » que j’avais pris l’habitude de lire depuis un an pour m’informer sur la culture homosexuelle. Elle fut soulagée de cette annonce envisagée et notre rapport s’en trouva renforcé.

Lors de ma formation en masso-kinésithérapie, je fis mon coming-out assez rapidement auprès de certains de mes camarades de classe. Tous l’acceptèrent sans problèmes même si certains n’avaient jamais été confrontés à l’homosexualité. Assumer son homosexualité est un geste et un choix militant très important car il permet à l’autre de se confronter à ses propres peurs ou ignorance et d’en discuter si besoin.

L’étape suivante fut celle de le dire à mes parents. C’est la plus dure et la plus stressante. La peur du rejet est très réelle. Cette étape, que j’aimerais que chaque homosexuel puisse faire, est une différence profonde avec les hétérosexuels qui n’ont pas à s’inventer une vie, masquer ou fuir une réalité de façon aussi permanente. C’est terriblement éprouvant d’être dans le contrôle de soi et de son identité face aux autres alors que le conflit intérieur est si grand. Mes parents l’ont très bien acceptée. Ils m’ont toujours soutenu et défendu. Ils ont perdu la plupart de leurs amis à cause de cela. Les plus fidèles, intelligents et humains sont restés. Je trouve cela très dur pour notre entourage qui n’a pas choisi cette différence de se retrouver confronté à la bêtise humaine. D’un autre côté, cela permet de faire tomber les masques et de révéler la vraie nature des liens qui unissent les gens.

Dès 1997, j’ai pu rendre régulièrement visite à une amie originaire de la même ville natale que moi et qui s’était installée à Paris. J’y ai découvert le Marais, la communauté homosexuelle. D’un seul coup, j’ai pris réellement conscience que je n’étais pas seul. Accepter son homosexualité est une chose, envisager de la vivre de façon heureuse en est une autre. J’ai alors côtoyé des garçons et des filles tous ouvertement gays et lesbiens, c’était une bouffée d’oxygène incroyable pour moi et une source de joie très positive aussi.

En 2001, mon diplôme de kiné en poche, je me suis donc installé à Paris. Quelques jours après mon arrivée, j’ai rencontré un garçon avec qui j’ai vécu ma première histoire d’amour qui aura duré 6 ans. Nous nous étions pacsés et avions célébré cette union comme un mariage avec famille et amis dans la salle des mariages du IIIème arrondissement : quelle chose incroyable pour moi ! Ça reste un souvenir très fort.
Aujourd’hui, je ne suis plus en couple avec lui. Après une seconde relation, passionnelle et destructrice, j’ai retrouvé mon équilibre amoureux avec Jean. Nous nous sommes rencontrés en novembre 2013. Il m’apporte beaucoup d’amour et de sérénité alors que je ne pensais plus pouvoir y goûter. Notre relation est profonde, sincère et partagée.

Je suis profondément heureux de mon parcours. Etre homosexuel n’est pas une fatalité aujourd’hui en France. Et ce, malgré le regain d’homophobie assumée, lié au projet de loi de mariage homosexuel qui a fini par être voté en 2013 après des mois de manifestations haineuses et homophobes. Je mesure ma chance d’être dans un pays comme celui-ci. J’aurai pu naître ailleurs et être pendu pour ce que je suis. C’est une phrase terrible à écrire mais une réalité dans certains pays. Etre homosexuel m’a sûrement amené à grandir plus vite, à prendre conscience de la brutalité du monde. Avec le recul et l’expérience, je crois qu’être homosexuel a été une véritable chance pour moi. Cela a fortement construit ma personnalité. Si j’avais le choix, je ne souhaiterais pas changer mon orientation sexuelle. Elle m’a poussé à être un être humain beaucoup plus ouvert et conscient des autres.

Participer à ce projet est un vrai bonheur car Kevin cherche à montrer une réalité qui fait sens pour moi : l’homosexualité ne se conjugue pas d’une seule façon. C’est une différence comme il en existe tant d’autres. Alors même si elle ancre en nous tous des expériences communes, chaque homosexuel est d’abord un être humain à part entière, riche de ses multiples différences et expériences.”

In English:

“I was born in a rural area of central France. My first contact with homosexuality was made through my primary school classmates who called me missed daughter of sissy fagot or at recess. My behavior was to betray an identity that I had no conscience of at all. It was around 9 years old when I fell in love with the boy who was flirting with my best classmate that I began to find it strange and abnormal.

The truth of this evidence, I began to be aware of my own latent homosexuality and homophobia and ubiquitous my family and geographical environment. I then felt very badly being homosexual, imagining my life as a destiny of misfortune and ensured solitude.

The college years were very violent because the construction of my own identity was totally focused on this difference that weighed on me enormously and that put me out of step with my classmates. I was very sad and I felt particularly alone. Music and cinema then became particularly soothing shelters. Artists like Mylène Farmer, the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue and Madonna expressing the strength to be different. Movies “Philadelphia” and a “Beautiful Thing” triggered some form of acceptance of myself and of my homosexuality.

After high school, I was able to experience the emancipation from the family home for a few months in Poitiers. This was indicative of my desire of exile and the certainty that being a graduate would be the key to my independence. It was during these student years that I made my first coming out with one of my friends. That was in 1997. It was an incredible release, my friend totally accepting me as I was. It was therefore possible to actually live as a homosexual and in harmony with others.

The following year, in 1998, with my sister I made my coming-out. We are very close and we had gone to Paris to attend the concert of Whitney Houston, who my sister was a particular admirer. That day, in the queue, we waited and discussed all afternoon with a gay couple. The next day, back at home, I handed her the “stubborn” magazine that I had taken the habit of reading for a year to inform me about the homosexual culture. She was relieved of the proposed announcement and our rapport was given a boost.

During my training in physiotherapy, I had my coming-out rather quickly with some of my classmates. All accepted it without problems even though some had never been confronted with homosexuality. Assuming one’s homosexuality is a gesture and an important militant choice because it allows others to confront his own fears and ignorance and discuss if necessary.

The next step was the one to tell my parents. This is the hardest and most stressful. Fear of rejection is very real. This stage, as is the case for every homosexual, is a profound difference to heterosexuals who do not have to invent a life, hide or escape from a reality as permanently. It’s terribly stressful to be in self-control and identity against the other while the inner conflict is so great. My parents were very well accepting. They have always supported me and defended me. They lost most of their friends because of it. Loyal, intelligent and humane stayed. I find it very hard for those around us who have not chosen this difference to be faced with human stupidity. On the other hand, it allows one to take off the masks and reveal the true nature of the links between people.

In 1997 I was able to regularly visit a friend from the same hometown as me and who had settled in Paris. I discovered the Marais, the gay community. Suddenly, I actually realized that I was not alone. Accepting one’s homosexuality is one thing, consider a life happily lived is another. I then rubbed with the boys and girls whom were all openly gay and lesbians, it was an incredible breath of fresh air for me and a source of joy as very positive.

In 2001, I earned my physio degree, so I’ve moved to Paris. A few days after my arrival, I met a guy I had my first love story with that lasted 6 years. We had PACS and had celebrated this union as a marriage with family and friends in the third arrondissement marriages room: what an incredible thing for me! It’s still a very strong memory.

Today I am no longer in a relationship with him. After a second relationship, passionate and destructive, I found my balance in love with Jean. We met in November 2013. He brings me a lot of love and serenity while I thought being able to taste it. Our relationship is deep, sincere and shared.

I am very happy with my career. Being gay is not a fatality in France today. Despite the resurgence of homophobia assumed, linked to the gay marriage bill that was finally passed in 2013 after months of hateful and homophobic manifestations. I measure my chance to be in a country like this. Had I been born elsewhere I could be hanged for who I am. This is a terrible sentence to write but a reality in some countries. Being gay surely forced me to grow faster and become aware of the brutality of the world. With hindsight and experience, I believe that being gay was a real opportunity for me. This strongly built my personality. If I had the choice, I would not change my sexual orientation. It pushed me to be a much more open and aware human being of others.

Participating in this project is a joy because Kevin tries to show a reality that makes sense to me: homosexuality is not experienced in one way. There is a difference as there are many. Even if we anchor all common experiences every homosexual is first a human being full, rich in multiple differences and experiences.”

Jean, in his own words: “Being gay actually means nothing to me. I never realized I was gay. I realized I was not straight. Being attracted to guys has never been an issue for me. Since I was a child, I always imagined myself falling for the hero, not the heroin. The word “gay” itself only has a meaning today, for our generation, because people are still defined by their sexual orientation. The most commonly accepted orientation being heterosexuality, being gay is still an issue, a pride, a taboo, a reason to love, hate, kill or fight for. If, as I hope, this criteria fades in the future in the way we define ourselves, the words “gay” and “straight” will be outdated.

My coming out was not made to come out as a gay person. It was made to come out in the sense of extract myself. My social surrounding was conservative, religious, wealthy and traditional. Realizing I did not fit the expectations linked to my gender (date girls, be a competitor, practice sports, etc) did not scare me. I was scared by the fact that what was expected from me was the opposite of what I wanted for myself. When I am scared I attack (nothing scares me more than the idea of running away, hearing a predator just after me…)
So my coming out was made as an attack, sudden and sharp. Everybody I knew even from sight including my parents of course were aware of it in a flash. I was sixteen and the word spread extremely quickly. One day I was the shy and lonely boy, the next I was the gay guy who assumed it. It actually made me very popular with many people (mostly girls actually), which was totally unexpected. Those who had a problem with it never expressed it. They were so hard trying to fit in any way possible, than this way of dealing with that subject broke all their codes. They were harmless and I was free.

The gay community in Paris is very sinister and dull. The Marais is probably the shallowest place I’ve ever been to. There are no political or intellectual issues. It is all about appearance, money and cruising. All the interesting and alternative places are shut down to be replaced by tacky and luxurious bars and shops. I am really sad to say that the stupidest things I heard live in my whole life were heard in the Marais. This place is like a bubble protected from any trouble common people face anywhere else. If you are poor, old, ugly, sad, lost (several choices possible) then you are out. If you are able to hide your problems, or if one of these problems is balanced by a quality (poor and lost but cute/ugly and dull but wealthy) you can manage your way through the maze. This description is very sharp and of course it is possible to meet beautiful persons in the Marais, but there is undeniably a thick sadness stuck to this place. Anyway being a Parisian since I was born, I am glad the Marais exists, as a place I can feel totally light with my boyfriend, but I never stay long.

The thing I would teach myself as a younger self would be not to mix erection with affection. It’s taken me a long while to understand this, and I went through a lot of pain.

Going through the Gay men project is a very rich experience. All those very different points of view, all these intimate confidences are very enlightening over others and oneself. Some persons go through very hard times accepting their homosexuality, and their first fight is against themselves. I don’t know how I would have dealt with this issue, but I have deep respect for those who made this journey. After a while reading those stories and watching these very sensitive and intimate pictures, I feel very ignorant and humble. This project helps me opening my eyes, mind and heart. Answering those questions is a very hard task (this is why it took me so long to send the answers).

Kevin, when you came to our place to take the pictures, I had no precise idea of what this project really meant. I had just had a quick look over it, mostly over pictures. We had a very pleasant time with you, talking and posing. You left quite suddenly and I watched you going away from the fifth floor window. When I saw you walking fast in the street, I’ve had the feeling you were lost in yourself. I could not explain why. Maybe the way you moved, in a very intense and restrained way. If felt as if you were both running away and rushing at something you knew nothing of. This made me have a real look at the project. It took me a very long time to read all those stories. And then I discovered the “A personal diary” section. I realized this very strong feeling I’d had about you, watching you from the window was right. What you do is amazing Kevin, and this journey will lead you to yourself, no doubt about it. Your expectations are probably way smaller than what you will actually get from this experience. You do not travel alone, but you take us all with you, the persons who participate to the project, but also those who read it online. This is huge from a man seeking the sense of life. Thank you for that Kevin.”

2 comments

  1. Ray Smythe

    Jean………..I really liked your last paragraph about Kevin walking down the street. It was powerful. Thanks for sharing.

    Ray ( we are the Cathedral City, CA ) couple on the list.

  2. Caro Soury

    What a very moving article! When you live in the big city, it’s easy to lose sight of how very difficult it still is to be gay in rural areas. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Lionel. And I wish you all the happiness in the world with Jean xxx

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