Category: City: Los Angeles, California

Carlos and Ivan, Registered Dental Assistant and Actor, Los Angeles

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
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Carlos, in his own words: “No one can beat you at being you -Joel Osteen

Being gay means everything to me. Growing up as a kid, I always knew. Was it tough? Of course it was. It is for a lot of us. I was going to Catholic School and hearing what the bible was preaching, it sure didn’t help. But I somehow did not care, I loved myself too much and just knew I was different and special . Besides, I was too young and innocent and had no control over it.

Growing up at home I definitely had to keep it a secret. My dad had 11 brothers and no sisters. Very old fashion Mexican upbringing and not a single known gay relative. So yeah it was tough. I remembering answering the phone at 12 years old and the neighbor who was calling told me I needed to man up my voice because I sounded like my sister. As hard as I tried to be straight, and please everyone else, I just always knew better. Turned out my neighbor is gay also. He hasn’t spoken to his dad in over 3 years. That’s tough. His dad was my role model growing up too. Funny how life works.

Throughout my years in Jr High and High School I too was bullying alongside my friends sometimes, just to “fit in”. You know I grew up in the city of Cerritos which is just 25 min away from LA. The friends I had and the life I was living was just not the environment to come out in. Once I moved to Hollywood with my older brother who was already living there, I was just shocked. Gays everywhere. Even West Hollywood was up the street, but it was almost too much all at once. I mean sure it made me feel at home and made it more easier to explore. But there were still challenges. When I finally did come out to my parents, it really did feel better like they say. No it wasn’t easy and yes it took a while for them to come around. Just like it took me a while to be comfortable with it. I mean I wanted to marry and have a wife and kids of my own also you know, and letting go of that reality was not easy either. Something people don’t talk about.

18 years later I am in a much better place. It’s true, “It does get better”. Sure I made some mistakes along the way but I’ve never been happier. I have an amazing partner of 6 years. Five of those years we spent taking care of his 87 year old grandmother who had Alzheimer’s up until her last breath in our arms at almost 92 years old. Once people saw what a difference we made in her life and how she changed our lives, it just didn’t matter anymore to me what people were thinking. Early on in my relationship my lil brother got married and I was able to bring my partner and introduce him to all of my family. Without really realizing it, I used my brothers wedding as my way of coming out to the rest of my family. They welcomed him and it just made it all easier. We then attended a church (Unity Fellowship Church, Los Angeles) that was founded by a gay Bishop by the name of Archbishop Carl Bean. He and his church played a huge part in keeping me in track with not only my life, but with the Love of Life itself. I then have the opportunity to meet an amazing gay couple in NY. J. Frederic “Fritz” Lohman and Charles W. Leslie, the founders of the Leslie Lohman Museum in NY which recognizes gay artists from all around the world. Here’s a couple who has been together for 47 years! Gay Love is possible and they were proof. Learning the history and amazing stories of Charles and Fritz only made me happier and prouder to be gay. We are a pretty amazing group of people and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Go ahead and come out wherever you are. It does get better and it really is OK.”

Ivan, in his own words: ” Being gay has afforded me the opportunity to alongside my partner Carlos Cisneros be there caring for and living with my grandmother for the last five years of her life (from 87 years old to 91 years young).

” I am glad that God made you guys the way he did , because otherwise you would have a wife and kids and would not have all this time for me” mama Lenor Santoni. That those years with grandma allowed us without trying to show my family , friends and anyone who happened to be watching : a Latino gay couple happily taking care of a senior citizen.

Being Gay has allowed me to to have a best friend and passionate relationship with one person.
Than You……………Jesus…

In 1994 two of my best friends were moving back home to NY, they are still a couple Moe Bertran and David Pumo. I went to their going away party four days before ( brought gift and all). The next day I woke up called Moe and asked if I could move with them to NY?”@#%#@% Wow! Let me call David and ask him !”. About ten minutes later Moe calls me and says ” David said yes but you have to COME OUT to your mom before we go because he won’t live with someone who is in the closet”. I drove to my mom’s house and told her that I was moving to NY and pretty much in the same breath I said and I’m gay ” she was crying but when she spoke she said ” I am not crying because you are gay I am crying because you are moving to NY”

Jason and Brian, Senior Art Producer and Senior Copywriter, Los Angeles

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

Jason, in his own words: “(Being gay means) Living an honest and happy life.

My ultimate challenge was accepting that I was gay. But once I did at the age of 21, it’s been an incredible part of who I am. I’ve had the time of my life!

I first came out to my close friends who were accepting and “knew the whole time.” I later came out to my parents 7 years into my relationship with Brian [going on 11]. I thought, “It’s about time.” My family was never religious or passed judgment. I think it’s because we never shared our feelings or talked about our personal life. I still felt “what if…?” but coming out to my parents took about 20 minutes [Yes, only 20!]. One night, after dinner, I took them in another room while Brian was washing the dishes. My parents only had a few questions: “Do you wear women’s clothing?” and “Is there anything we could have done?” I responded with “Are you serious!? NO!” and “Of course not.” And that was it! Time for dessert! From that moment on their relationship with Brian only got better. I couldn’t have asked for a better “coming out” story.

The LA gay community for the most part is quite diverse. I think you make what you want to make out of each community. So depending on who you are and the type of people you surround yourself with depends on how you relate to each “scene.” I’ve always felt welcomed and never had any “hangups.” But I know some people hate the “WeHo” scene or hate the “Silverlake hipster” scene. I say embrace and enjoy! What ever your cup of tea may be!”

Brian, in his own words: “(Being gay) means being faaaaaabulous! Just kidding (kind of). To me, being gay is a very important part of who I am – but it doesn’t define everything that I am. Being gay means I’m part of a large community of people that have something in common, but not everything – which is something I really like. Many of my friends are gay but we’re a very eclectic group.

I live in LA and most of the people I interact with are either gay or could give a shit less that I’m gay. So daily challenges are minimal. When Jason and I travel, we keep in mind that not everyone is going as open-minded as we’re used to. But it still takes you by surprise if some asshole yells something while driving by (it’s always when they can make a cowardly get-away) or you just get that feeling that someone is uncomfortable with gays and gets awkward.

Aside from the challenges in coming out to my family (more on that later), I’ve been pretty lucky. Except for having to live up to a high “gay” standard of dress, fitness, snark, etc. That can be exhausting. I mean pool parties during the summer are like a friggin’ full time job of working out, not eating and modeling a brand new bathing suit that looks like it was sewn onto you. (Don’t you feel sorry for me?!)

(The gay community in Los Angeles) is Huge. Epic. Diverse. Dramatic. Supportive. All of those things. I wish we were a little more in touch with our history/politics – like New York and San Franciso, but LA gays are a little warmer and laid back in comparison, which I enjoy.

When Jason and I started dating, I made a promise to myself that if we hit the one-year mark, I would come out to my family. I had already come out to most of my friends, which was a sometimes awkward but for the most part very well received. I mean, it wasn’t much of a surprise to most. (I think my performance as Whitney Houston in the 3rd grade talent show might’ve tipped them off. Side note: I naaaaailed it.) Most importantly, I was extremely fortunate to have such amazing friends that were supportive and loving. It made coming out to them quite easy.

My family was more difficult. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I come from a very small town in upstate NY. It’s mostly conservative, very traditional and the only gays our town was familiar with were the “city gays” that would come up from NYC to spend money on antiques and enjoy our “quaint” little village.
My parents met at a high school football game and married soon after, my brother married a girl that grew up two miles from our house, and then there was me – living in sinful Los Angeles, on the other side of the country, with my Asian-American boyfriend. Kaboom.

I ended up waiting 9 months into our relationship to tell my family about Jason. My parents were out visiting at the time for a relaxing trip to Disneyland. They had already met my “friend” Jason on a prior trip, so at least that was out of the way. Then, one day before we left our hotel to go for a bike ride, I decided it was time to break the news. I remember sitting on the bed, stuttering a bit, and being surprised that for the first time in my life, I was finding it extremely difficult to put something into words. But I did. And it was rough. Very rough. One of the most difficult days of my life. (Needless to say, we never went on that bike ride.) But difficult days turned into weeks of working on things, which turned into months of getting used to things, which turned into years of things slowly but surely getting better as my family got to know Jason.

Now, 11 years later, the relationship between my parents and Jason is where I always hoped it’d be. It took lots of work, by everyone, but in the end, I’m so grateful for love and understanding. I hope that any gay kid, petrified of telling the people he loves that he’s gay, can learn from this and know that although it can be one of the hardest things they might ever do, it can – and will – get better. (But not for pool parties.)”

Dwayne, Optician/Manager/Buyer/Stylist, Los Angeles

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

Dwayne, in his own words: “I am the only boy out of Nine older sisters, and the baby at that. Being gay was just the way I was born. At 11, I was watching a beauty pageant and I remember saying to my sisters that the host was very beautiful, and they just looked at me and said men are not beautiful they are handsome, and I said no he is beautiful.

Growing up in Venice, California and being raised Southern Baptist, I thought it was not okay to be gay. That’s when my mother and my sisters said to me it does not matter who you are or what you are, we love you and god loves you.

I still have friends that I grew up with, one in particular named Bo. Bo and l loved to play flight attendants on the Santa Monica Bus line. We would board at Mark Twain Jr. High School with our scarves and our Pam Am bags and proceed to drive the bus driver crazy as we ran up and down the aisles of the bus calming down the passengers. This was really something that had to be seen.

My first actual relationship was at 32 with Jon M. Buhek. I had never felt the way I felt with him. That was love and we were together for seventeen years, but unfortunately we had to part ways. I still miss him, but life must go on.

My life now is so wonderful. I have the greatest group of friends and I just love when we get together and just have fun. At 48, I now know what I want and that’s to be in love again and in a life-long partnership. “

Mark, Manager/Buyer, Los Angeles

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

Mark, in his own words: “I just love being gay. I love that I have the gay gene and that it makes me in demand. People want my opinion and my advice. Suddenly I’m an expert on everything fabulous.

Gay in the 80’s was not like being gay today. I was called sissy, faggot, a bitch.

At 17 I met Cole who was 35, and I came out to my Mother. She said my love is unconditional for you, but who is this man? He was a butcher who worked for my sister in law’s family and I wanted to move in with him. He was older and experienced and he swept me off my feet. After a month we traveled across the US to Vermont to meet his family. It was a great incredible time of my life. I was free, away from home and on my own.

We moved back to LA and I found out that he was a cheater and a Liar. I met Bobby who was also gay, and we lived as platonic roommates for 8 years. But during this time I did not date at all. I surrounded myself with female friends and straight people. I was a straight hag. I was not living the life of a gay man, but I plunged into my art and found a creative outlet in oil painting, 3-D triptych art, and collages. This I incorporate today in window display and visual merchandising.

At 26 I moved into West Hollywood and started living life for the first time as a gay man and opportunities started arising. I came out to my employer and this allowed me to be more myself at work. I was comfortable in my skin and clients would set me up on dates.

The ducks were in a row, but that does not make it easy. I was afraid to date or go to a bar by myself. Although I wanted a relationship I had to deal with my own insecurities. I still had a hurdle to overcome before I could have my happy ending.

2 years ago I was united with a sister that had never been in my life. She is a lesbian with 3 kids and her partner has 3 kids too. They joined houses and formed the Gaydy Bunch, like the tv show. My new nephew just came out at 13 and he did it in such a supportive and loving environment. What a great time this is for him. It is very brave of him.

I feel so normal in that I’m considerate, kind and I want a loving life-long partnership. That’s what I’m looking for now. At 50, I’m insecure since most 50 year olds want a 20 something and I don’t.”

Rodney and Donald, Account Executive and Manager/Buyer, Los Angeles

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
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Rodney and Donald, in their own words: “We’re Donald and Rodney and we met and fell in love right away. Once we had the legal opportunity to get married, we jumped at the chance. A short time after California’s Proposition 8 took that right away again for others, but our marriage stayed and was grandfathered in.

We love being married, but it causes us great pain that others cannot marry too. We hold out hope for a time when anyone can marry anyone.

Donald: I was kicked out of the House at 17 because I was gay, but I soon found that you can make up your own family out of friends of your choosing. The gay community was there for me. I’ve always been close to my siblings and today I’m welcomed by my whole family, now that they’re enlightened.

Rodney: I was fortunate to have great support from my family, but when I moved away I felt like I was on my own. I learned to just be exactly who I was and in doing so, my true friends became apparent.

Both Donald and I came to Los Angeles as young men, within 2 years of each other and made it our home. Donald from Oklahoma, myself from Michigan. We love LA, the entertainment Capitol, and West Hollywood in particular. We love our circle of friends and going out, yet we also enjoy the romance of staying home and cooking in.”

Michael, Photography Association President and Consultant, Los Angeles

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
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Michael, in his own words: “When I was seven or eight years old my parents built one of the first homes in a new subdivision in Oklahoma City. I used to hide in its garage and watch the bare-chested construction workers frame newer houses through the window, positioning myself so they couldn’t see me, but so I could spy on them with my binoculars (not purchased for this purpose of course). I think that’s when I knew I had feelings that weren’t “normal” and that I shouldn’t share them with anyone else. I also loved purloining copies of my dad’s “True – The Man’s Magazine” from his nightstand and poring over the brawny men illustrated on the covers and feature stories fighting alligators and performing heroic deeds while always bare-chested. To this day, the mere words “bare-chested” elicit a rise in me.

So, I suppose the thought that I might be gay was always lurking in the back of my mind. But I didn’t call it gay or anything else for that matter. It was just my secret passion for men’s bodies. My dad, a very handsome man, had many handsome friends who gathered once a month to have “jam sessions” and play favorite big band songs popular when they fought in World War II: Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. These were real men’s evenings where there was much drinking, non-stop smoking and language and stories not for children. But I loved seeing and hearing them and begged to be allowed to stay up a bit later once in a while to watch. On one of those special nights, my mother and I were sitting on the steps leading into our “sunken” living room listening to their stylings. I was absentmindedly stroking my eyebrow with my index finger. My mother told me to stop doing that immediately. “Why?” I asked. “Because that’s how homosexuals signal each other,” she said.

And suddenly I thought, she knows! How can she know??

Well, she didn’t really know then although she suspected later as I found out. But it was enough to make me keep my guard up for several years. So I suppressed that side of me and went off to college determined to sleep with women and have a girlfriend and I did just that. But I still couldn’t keep my eyes off the cute and often bare-chested college boys, one in particular named Gerald. Gerald had already had a boyfriend before so he was a likely target. And then one drug-drenched night at a friend’s house in the country we wandered off to get away from the psychedelic madness. Two men went into the woods and came out changed forever at dawn the next day. And it had been the most natural, delightful and satisfying experience I’d ever had. I only wondered why I’d waited so long.

I didn’t so much “come out” as just be out. Fortunately for me, it was natural and easy. I found immediate and full acceptance from friends and family as they became aware. I know it’s often a much harder path for others so I feel lucky. I’m enthralled with the changing attitudes and acceptance in our society regarding gays and same-sex marriage. It’s clear the younger generation don’t find those distinctions important or relevant any more, so that today’s younger gay generation and those who follow can just be themselves naturally.”

Michael and Michael, Photographer and Social Media Coordinator, Los Angeles

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

Michael, in his own words:

1. What does being gay mean to you?
2. What challenges have you faced?
3. What’s the gay community/scene like in Los Angeles?
4. What’s your coming out story?

1. Love
2. Discrimination and being stereotyped
3. It really depends on what area and crowd you like to be around. Weho is very pretentious and prissy while silverlake/Los Feliz area is all the hipster gays which I’m into.
4. I came out right after high school at the age of 18. I just woke up one day and decided to tell my folks. They seemed stunned and they were quite for a min or so which seemed like a million years. My mom cried and my dad had the question of “but how do you know? Have you experimented?” I told him, of course. I just know. But when my mom was crying, my first thought was, children. I told her this doesn’t mean I won’t have children. I think this is one thing that parents of gay children worry about the most. Shortly after that day, my parents came to me. They said they did some research and found a local support group for gay youth. I was a little surprised but also felt very grateful to have parents who are supportive. A few weeks after my coming out, my adopted brother also came out. Now we are one big gay (happy) family!

Michael, in his own words: “I consider my sexuality to be a small, yet important, aspect of my identity. To me, being gay is all about love: Who do I love? Men, or women? Because I love men, I’m considered to be gay. I feel like others in the LGBT community place too much emphasis on sexuality.

(With regards to challenges) I’ve been stereotyped, harassed, betrayed, and treated like a subpar human. I suppose what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?

The scene (in Los Angeles) is very segregated. There’s the gays in WeHo, and then there’s everybody else. WeHo is like Vegas for the LGBT community: Nice to visit, but who would ever want to live there? The boys and girls of the area tend to focus on partying, superficiality, and materialism. The gay scene outside of WeHo is much less of a “scene” and more a blend of all types of people with different backgrounds and interests. I personally love the Eastside (Silverlake, Los Feliz, Echopark), because I feel like people there focus less on sexuality and more on the character of a person.

When I was 15 years old, my older brother found a gay erotica novel (appropriately titled “Boy’s First Time), under my bed mattress. His natural response was to show my parents the book. They asked if I was gay, and the scared teenager that I was responded with a, “I think I’m bi?” After a few weeks, I flat out told them I was gay. They struggled with it at first, but now they are completely accepting of me.”

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Rudy, Owner of Big Boy Vintage, Los Angeles

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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

Rudy, in his own words: “I think the queer scene in LA is very diverse and yet can be segregated at the same time. What I love about it though is that it is something that just keeps evolving and if you don’t see yourself as part of any scene you can create it. I know so many rad queer people in this city who have created spaces for people to gather or be creative. That is not to say that I don’t get nary or frustrated at times with the gay scene in Los Angeles but that’s a whole other story.

I grew up in East LA and am the youngest of eight. Growing up my parents instilled a very strong work ethic. They also made me believe I could do anything I set my mind to. As I grew up here in the states I began to see things a little differently than most of my family. I was drawn to Punk as it seemed to be the outlet I needed to express myself. I knew I was gay at a young age and kinda just accepted it. It was hard for my parents to deal with me and my crazy clothes, music, and way of living that I never really thought about coming out. Eventually I was forced to come out and it did not go over very well. Though as the years have gone by my parents have accepted me for the person I am. They are proud to call me their son. I am still that Mexicano Queer Punk teen at heart and I would not have it any other way. Lastly everything that I have ever done or accomplished in life is a direct result of that work ethic/I can do anything attitude I learned from my parents.”

Big Boy Vintage

Victor and Joe, DJ/Landscape Designer and Corporate Concierge, Los Angeles

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

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

Victor, in his own words:

1. What does being gay mean to you?
2. What challenges have you faced?
3. What’s the gay scene/community like in Los Angeles?
4. What’s your coming out story?

1: Male income, no kids And having much more fun.
2: Not many, big hair in humid climates, and unruly cats.
3: Very diverse, in my scene, very supportive and friendly.
4: Not too dramatic, I think when my parents watched me leave the house at age 17 in platform shoes, maternity top and a Afro wig, and my brother wearing our mothers teddy…… the cat may had been out of the bag.

All kidding aside, I’m very blessed to have been surrounded by lots of support and love, as a child and an adult.

My being Gay has never really been a big deal, it was just part of who I am.

Joe, in his own words: “What does being gay mean to you? That question implies that I know any different. Like, I was straight once and now gay, so I know what the two worlds of sexuality feel like. Even before coming out, I felt something different, something denied, and so my experience as a “straight” man was very much based on what I thought being straight looked like from my gay man’s perspective. So, being gay to me isn’t really any different from what any other person feels like about their sexuality internally, it just is, and nothing more.

I have (knock on wood) been very lucky in terms of challenges because of my sexuality. My lovely parents, had a small difficulty when I first came out, mostly relating to not understanding gay life. My mother thought I would get AIDS and die (not just HIV, but full blown AIDS) and my father thought that I just wasn’t giving women a fair chance, and if I just kept trying, I would find the right lady! I think mostly they were also concerned about legacy. To this day, neither of their children have created a grand child, and although they act like it’s alright, I know a part of them mourns that both of their children are not in relationships where grandchildren are possible (okay, before you queens all stomp around telling me how many options are available for me to have kids, note this, when I first came out, my parents didn’t see those options, and now; I don’t WANT children).

Though they had a lack of understanding, there has always been a very important lesson that they taught me; be myself! I stood out in school and social life not only because I was more effeminate than the other boys, but because I didn’t care to be any other way. I wasn’t going to be fake, because I wasn’t taught to conform. I was taught to experience life on my terms, and I’m grateful to my parents for that, because it’s very confusing to people who live in a bubble of repression and denial. Sure, I have my repressions and denials and longed to belong to the “cool kids” in school, but because I refused to be anything but myself, they had NO idea what to do with me, and left me alone for the most part.

Having said that, I suffered greatly at teasing, I have lost job opportunities as a result of my sexuality (thanks San Diego Unified School District), and have confused the hell out of people to a point where they called me names, but that is other people’s problem. I’m not an advocate for change, I’m just trying to live my life. My sexuality is second to my personality, and although sometimes I forget that and cry when someone calls me a name, I never stop expressing myself as a person and start just living within my sexuality. I hope that makes sense.

The community in Los Angeles that I see is a split one. I can tell where someone lives geographically in this city by the clothes they wear or the length of their beard. So, it seems like there are two distinct gay cultures, and neither of them really enjoys the company of the other or understand what the other actually does. Within those two cultures, there are a lot of similarities. We still get to choose our families, we still get to go out with the boys to a bar on a Saturday night (much gay culture revolves around bars, not because we are all heavy drinkers, or know how to party, but because it’s a safe space for us to express who we are…even if who we are differs by the street we live on). We are all surprisingly alike, but refuse to conform to the non-conformity of the east or west side depending on where we live. I don’t enjoy myself in West Hollywood. I am looked at as old (I’m 34). I’m looked at as out of shape, my beard is too long, I don’t wear enough tank tops, I have untamed hair on my chest. But, the funny thing is is that we are all sharing in a very similar experience. I guess straight people judge different groups of straight people as well, so we are not special in terms of our separation as a community. We all work together on the things that matter. They can have their Weho bars, just don’t forget that we are fighting for the things that matter together, like equality and acceptance by the broader community!

My coming out story isn’t grand or dramatic. I told you my parent’s reaction about their challenge as parents. But, I came out when I was 15. I was at summer camp for a month and had an epiphany that the feelings about men that I was experiencing were real and okay to feel. I didn’t have my first sexual experience until later that year, and there was no weirdness about it. It all felt right. My greatest challenge actually revolved around religion. I was a catholic (an alter boy even), and I enjoyed religion so much. I struggled with God’s love and if God would still love me. But, knew that what was more important was my love for myself. I met some older gay men at my first job (older meaning in their 30’s when I was in my teens), and they helped me to understand how normal of a life I can live as a gay man. That was important! I didn’t know I could live a normal life, and I do, and I’m grateful for all the other gay men before me who weren’t able to, so that I could live one. Like I said, it wasn’t grand. It was just a (and continues to be) a search for an ability to live a quiet life where I don’t have to worry about unacceptance while still getting to be myself.”

Homo Riot, Street Artist, Los Angeles

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Photo provided by Homo Riot
Photo provided by Homo Riot
photo provided by Homo Riot
photo provided by Homo Riot
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Homo Riot
photo by Homo Riot
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo provided by Homo Riot
photo provided by Homo Riot
photo provided by Homo Riot
photo provided by Homo Riot
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Homo Riot, in his own words: “I never thought I would be as comfortable with being gay as I am now. I grew up an only child in a very conservative community in the South. I was raised Southern Baptist and attended church three days a week and could spout off bible verses like a televangelist. But like so many gay and lesbian people, I knew from a very early time that I was gay. My problem was there were no positive gay role models for me. The only men who I even had remote contact with who were gay were the church florist (a married man with three gorgeous football player sons who was ultimately murdered by a gay hustler in a hotel room), and male hairstylists who worked at the salon where my mother got her hair done. (Ironically, most of my boyfriends have been hairdressers and florists) I was embarrassed by these effeminate and flamboyant men. I was a pretty astute kid so I picked up quickly that there were certain traits and behaviors that were desirable and others that were not acceptable. As an adolescent I was always dressed sharply, smiling and shaking hands with adults and holding doors open for old ladies. I molded myself after motivational speakers and ministers. As a teenager I was rebellious, but just to a point. I was the president of the student body, prom king and dated all the right girls. It wasn’t until I was a senior in college that I realized I couldn’t put up this front for ever.

At 25 I finally came out to my family. That was when I learned that my maternal grandfather, a man I had never met due to an ugly divorce before I was born and who died a decade prior to my coming out, was a homosexual. That rocked my world for a few weeks but in the end there was something really therapeutic and healing in that knowledge. I think it gave me strength and a sense of place within my family that I had only pretended to have before because my gayness wasn’t as foreign and “unknown” to my family as I had grown up imagining it was. My TRUTH became a badge of honor for me and I gradually began to open myself up to everyone around me. It was and continues to be an amazing and rewarding journey. I really embrace it now and obviously through my art I advocate and celebrate it.

Ultimately my homosexuality has given my art focus and direction. I’ve been a compulsive artist all of my life. I’ve felt at various times that my compulsion to create was like a sickness. My creative life has been full of manic episodes, tremendous highs and deep dark lows, and like a drug addiction, my drive to make art has disrupted my personal and professional life repeatedly. However, for the better part of my life I created art in isolation. Even as a street artist twenty years ago (before anyone called it street art) I was spray painting and bedazzling street signs and overpasses and trying to communicate with my community but always anonymously. It wasn’t until I hit the streets as Homo Riot, putting a gay spin on my work that I gained any recognition and found a framework to build from. Now my art is two fold. One side is activism and propaganda, encouraging dialogue and promoting pride, courage and strength through street art. The other side is more fine art focused, moving my street imagery in to a gallery setting, merging it with my own internal struggles, comments on life and sex and society. Maybe my art and life can be the role model for some kid today that I never had.”