Edu, in his own words:“I think being gay is just a part of my personality but it is not the main thing about me. I think either gay or straight I would be looking for the same things. You know, I’m a human being who wants to be loved, to grow, to experiment things and so on.
On one hand there is the prejudice explicit or implicit, depending on the culture/city/country you are in, but on the other hand you are free to build your own path in life. You don’t have to necessarily follow the steps the society pre-programmed for you, like to marry, to have kids and to buy a flat in the suburbs. You can choose being single, having an open marriage, spending your money traveling the world because you don’t have kids, or whatever you want to. I notice that many people are afraid of this freedom; they prefer living in the box. For me I see it as a blank canvas I’m free to paint as I please.
My biggest challenge was to go through the bulling I suffered during school time. Bullying is a topic that is much discussed these days, but back in the 80’s it was really complicated to be a shy/nerdy/gay kid. One interesting thing is that I was bullied for being gay before I understand what sexuality was all about or even actually having a sex drive.
My biggest success was to overcome a very limited scenario in which I was born and raised. I was born in a poor family in the suburbs with all its financial difficulties. My parents and grandparents helped me out as much as possible for me to study and to grow as a decent person. I took all chances and I was the first on my family to go to college and have “a real big job”. I am grateful to all of them.
I could define São Paulo gay community in one word: diversity. You can find here the princesses (in Brazil they call them Barbies), bears, indies, hipsters and so on. I find it refreshing because I come from a city in which the only gay archetype that is acceptable it the buffed-all-waxed-suntan-lined-porn-star-look-a-like guy.
Getting out of the closet was complicated just in my head. Once I figured it out and accepted it was all natural. I didn’t have “the conversation” with my mother; my family knew it all along.
(If I could give myself advice before coming out) I would say to myself: “relax and go ahead. It won’t hurt and once you are out they will respect you more than being in the closet.”
Ron, in his own words:“Being able to be who I am with complete honesty is freedom. Being able to love someone because I simply love that person is the greatest joy I have ever experienced. The journey mostly has been a good one. Since I have been quite attracted to both men and women, I’ve lived an interesting life and been in love with both men and women.
However, nothing ever quite was like meeting Ben. Before Ben I had fallen deeply in love with a woman, and I was married to her for almost 17 years, most of those years were happy. The greatest joy was having two beautiful, talented and creative sons, Nick and Nate who both have good and satisfying lives living and working in New York City. Thus I also have two beautiful grandchildren! Sadly, the marriage ended when my wife’s mental illness could not be accepted by her.
I dated some other wonderful and beautiful women for a few years. Then while working in Washington, DC I happened upon this younger man who wanted to go to dinner. His kindness, caring got to me and we dated for six months. Sadly it ended but we both ended up happy later. He said when he departed, “Ron, you will meet someone soon, he will be good to you and you to him.” Not long after, I was at Northeastern University in Boston in the dining room. There I noticed a beautiful and quite stunning Asian man glancing toward me. After we both glanced, we had lunch together, then he asked for a date. I returned to Boston where he and many members of his family were there. We went together! They all liked me. That was in July of 1997.
Sixteen years later, from Portland, Maine to Orlando FL, to our beautiful heaven in Vancouver, British Columbia , Ben and I have loved each other and respected one another every day. Every time I look at his face, the joy inside my heart almost makes me weep. Never to fade!
Too, My sons, grandchildren, friends all embrace Ben. They love him. Likewise I am so lucky that his family loves me very much and we are so close. They are my family, too. Our home is one of peace and love. We are a team!
Initially because I held many public and high profile jobs (Police Chief, School Administrator and now therapist/counsellor) many folks had much to say to me and sadly some behind my back when I fell in love with another man 16 years earlier. The state of gays in the world has changed a great deal from those days; now gay folks are accepted and few make a big deal about gay people in 2013. I was glad to be in the early days. I tell people, I would have fallen in love with Ben whether he had been a man or a woman. His qualities of giving of himself, his humility, core values, kindness and respect for all that lives are huge points of attraction. Being good looking is nice, but that fades for everyone. We all grow old. I am happy that Ben’s enduring qualities will never fade.
Moving to Vancouver was the best decision we could have made, suggested by his sister, Sungya, who had visited here. Every day has been a joy! Our gay friends we met when we first moved here are still are close friends. Vancouver’s gay population is well accepted. There are still those who hate, but overall, being gay here has not
been a big deal for many years. Gay men and women have straight friends, they live in houses and condos throughout the Metro area. There is a gay village, called Davie. It’s funky.
Where we live, New Westminster, has been turning into a sought after community (known as highly supportive to gays) for gay singles and couples. The community reminds me of communities I lived in as a kid in Maine. To sum, Ben said it best when we arrived here in July, 2005. “I finally feel so secure and happy.” Since then Ben and I both became dual citizens of our own birth country and Canada.
I am happy with who I am. During the Winter of my life, it really feels like Spring. It feels right.
This project and the stories that are told are good , supportive tools to help any gay man who is thinking about coming out. We live very short lives. The hope for all of us is to start living that life in a creative, meaningful way that is filled with comfortable love. Being honest, loving yourself and coming to terms with who you are signals the right time to sing to the world about who you are. Sing in quiet melody, shout a song to the mountains – your choice. But sing. When your soul says you are ready.”
Ben, in his own words:“I think I have always liked men from when I was little. I thought that I was the only one in this world having these kind of feelings. It’s liked having a big secret and I didn’t dare to share it to anyone. First feelings came when I was young and at summer camp in Singapore. I did not know
though what those feelings were.
I later had a boyfriend in Bangkok when I attended the university there. We did everything there, even opening a clothing store at an upscale mall. Sadly, we grew apart. I was sad and decided to move to the United States.
Soon I was off to graduate school in Boston. There I met many interesting men but none like Ron. I adored him from when I met him. So did my family.When I graduated with a Masters degree, I moved to Portland, Maine to be with Ron and his family. We lived in an ocean-side townhouse near a college. It was beautiful. I was so happy. Ron always had a committed plan and he was always kind to me. I worked as a math teacher at the high school where Ron was an administrator.
Soon we moved to Orlando with dreams of moving to beautiful Vancouver. Vancouver never disappointed. It is the most beautiful place with many friendly people. The moment we arrived, we had so many friends! Many of those friends are our friends today.
Ron and I were never much for clubbing or going out. We always enjoy each other company. He is my everything…my partner…my best friend and my soul. I think we complete each other!
Advice? Be true to who you are – only you can decide the road to your own happiness and joy. You control your destiny. You have that gift, that freedom.”
Andrew, in his own words:“One thing that I regret is completely blowing an opportunity to come out to my grandmother, despite the fact that she totally opened the door for me to do so. When I was about 15 years old she took me to a restaurant in Portland known for its original mid century modern interior. She took me there because she knew I wanted to study architecture and because she had been friends with the architect who designed it. I recall her saying something to the effect of, “You know, (so-and-so) was a really nice man and a very talented architect. I think you could make really wonderful things just like he did. He was also gay. People are born that way and it’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Just look at what he was able to do.” I sort of panicked and nodded my head and said nothing. She must have sensed that I wasn’t ready to talk about it, so she smiled and we moved on to something else. It’s only looking back on that conversation now that I realize how fortunate I was to have a grandparent in the 90s who was both accepting of gay people and forthright with their opinions on homosexuality. Didn’t seem like much at the time, but I guess it was.
She died while I was living abroad in college and I wasn’t able to attend the funeral, which was rough. And I know there’s not much to be done, but I wish I could tell her that I was pretty alright with being gay fairly early on because of a conversation that she and I never really had to begin with. The little story about her friend the architect was, I guess, all I needed to hear.”
Alexander, in his own words: “(Being gay means) Estar a favor de la diversidad y de la libertad de ser quien uno quiere ser, sin necesidad de encajar o cumplir ciertos patrones. No solo es la atracción física que uno siente hacia a otro varón, sino que abarca las mismas necesidades que todas las personas tienen: Amar y ser amado.
Me siento bastante feliz de tener familiares y amigos que me apoyan, me quieren, eso me da fuerzas para no tener miedo. Pero el mundo no está compuesto solo por esas personas y te das cuenta que afuera hay mucha gente mala, que odia, que no entiende y en muchos casos agrede y mata. Podría mencionar eso como un reto, no debería serlo, pero esa es la situación. En más de una ocasión me han hecho sentir mucho miedo y odiar el hecho de ser gay, he tenido experiencias desagradables de homofobia y otros tipos de discriminación. Cuando he estado con chicos me ha costado expresar mi amor hacia ellos con libertad en las calles, debido al maldito miedo de ser agredido.
Pero no todo es oscuridad. Por otro lado, ha sido genial conocer muchos chicos gays, lesbianas, transexuales a través de los años. Cuando ingresé a la universidad todo cambió, conocí mucha gente, todos diversos en todos los aspectos. Eso abrió mi mente y la de ellos, era una retroalimentación. Fue así que junto a amigos impulsamos un grupo LGTB en la universidad donde estudiábamos, nos volvimos más activistas o al menos es lo que intentamos. Ahora el grupo sigue en pie y ha crecido increíblemente. Yo ya no milito, me he metido de lleno a la fotografía y proyectos personales, quizás pueda sonar egoísta pero a veces a las justas tengo tiempo para lo que estoy haciendo. Pero me hace feliz saber que muchas cosas han cambiado en la universidad desde entonces y en la sociedad en general. Siento que ahora se toca más los temas LGTB, siento que hay más visibilidad pero de hecho hay mucho aún por hacer.
(The gay community in Lima is) Pequeña, con mucho ímpetu pero que puede resultar compleja. Hay muchas ganas por parte de muchas personas y movimientos de generar cambios. Y últimamente más por parte de jóvenes, chicos que se emocionan y se convencen como todos de que tenemos que ser generadores de cambios. Pero somos una sociedad bastante diversa, llena de diferencias que a la larga crea más diferencias entre toda esta gente y los grupos terminan disolviéndose, algunos chicos prefieren alejarse y luchar de una forma más silenciosa, lo cual puede ser criticado por otros y ello genera más fastidio y al final puede terminar siendo un gran lío.
Es algo que yo particularmente he observado. También a veces hay lucha de protagonismo e intereses personales y siento que esos pequeños detalles pueden terminar desviando la lucha por la que todos nos unimos, que es el de generar una mejor sociedad, sin discriminación y con igualdad de derechos para todos.
Creo que he salido del clóset más de una vez porque al inicio trataba de ocultarlo, temía, trataba de aparentar. Pero ahora que de alguna forma vivo con más libertad, ya no siento necesidad de hacerlo. Si me conoces, lo intuyes o conversando lo llegas a saber. Antes me daba terror llegar a la pregunta: “¿Y tienes novia?”. Ahora simplemente puedo hablar con ligereza de que me gustan los chicos y listo. No siento la necesidad de preparar a las personas o prepararme para anunciarlo.
Pero hubo un tiempo en que ello era distinto. En todo caso, la salida de clóset que considero importante fue la de casa.
El primero en saberlo fue mi primo mayor que es como mi hermano, lo supo abruptamente porque me vio con un chico. Se enojó, no me habló un tiempo pero luego de procesarlo, se calmó y me ofreció todo su apoyo. Creció conmigo y asumo que al igual que mis padres esperaba que yo fuera heterosexual.
Mi madre lloró mucho, se sentía confundida pero luego de semanas se calmó y las cosas para hoy han mejorado increíblemente, somos mucho más cercanos e incluso en la medida que puede me apoya en la lucha. La quiero demasiado y ella a mí, es una gran madre y mejor amiga.
Mi hermana menor simplemente me dijo “¿Tanto nerviosismo para eso? Ya lo sabía, todo bien, vamos a compartir más gustos ahora”. Me sorprendió, fue quien lo tomó de mejor manera.
Mi padre quizás es el que no lo ha tomado tan bien, lloraba mucho, se sentía culpable. Nunca reaccionó tan mal, me ofreció su apoyo, nunca lo ha dejado de hacer pero trata de no tocar el tema de mi homosexualidad. Y me apena porque ese aspecto es importante también en mi vida. Quisiera y espero que algún día él pueda verme con un chico y ser feliz como en ese momento lo podría ser yo.
El resto de familiares y amigos lo han llegado a saber por mis publicaciones en Facebook, diálogos cuando hay reuniones familiares, entre otras mil formas. Ya no me causa miedo, preocupación o frustración.
No están solos, solo deben observar mejor. Aprendan constantemente, equivóquense, vivan, luchen. No tengan miedo. Sean libres. Es un consejo que también me lo doy a mi mismo siempre.”
“(Being gay means) being in favor of diversity and freedom to be who you want to be without needing to fit or meet certain standards. It’s not just the physical attraction one feels for another man, but rather covers the same needs that all people have: to love and be loved.
I feel quite happy to have family and friends who support me, love me, and that gives me strength to be fearless. But the world is not made up of only those people and you realize that many bad people out there have hate, and do not understand and many are often assaulted and killed. I could mention that as a challenge, it should not be, but that’s the situation. On more than one occasion I have felt much fear and hate for being gay, I have had unpleasant experiences of homophobia and other discrimination. When I’ve been with guys I don’t express my love for them freely in the streets, because of the fear of being attacked.
But not all is dark. On the other hand, it has been great to meet a lot of gay guys, lesbians, transsexuals through the years. When I entered college, everything changed, I met many people, all different in all aspects. That opened my mind and theirs. With friends we created a LGBT group at the university where we studied, and we became more activists or at least we tried. Now the group is still standing and has grown incredibly. I have fully embraced photography and personal projects, it could sound selfish but sometimes I have just the time for what I’m doing. But it makes me happy to know that many things have changed since then in college and in society in general. I feel like I played more LGBT issues, I feel that there is more visibility but in fact there is much still to do.
The gay community in Lima is small, but with much momentum and can be complex. There really is a desire by many people and movements to create change. And lately more young guys get excited and convinced that there has to be changes. But we are a very diverse society, full of differences that ultimately create more differences between these people and groups end up dissolving, some guys prefer to go away and fight in a quieter way, which can be criticized by others and this creates more nuisance and in the end it may end up being a big mess.
I’ve also noticed something else. Sometimes there is a struggle for leadership and personal interests and I feel that those little details can end up diverting from the reason that we come together, which is to create a better society, without discrimination and with equal rights for all.
I think I came out of the closet more than once since in the beginning I tried to hide it . But now that some live more freely, I feel no need to do so. If you know me, you get the sense by talking and you get to know. Before I was terrified to get to the question, “Do you have a girlfriend?”. Now I can just speak lightly of the guys I like and go. I do not feel the need to prepare people or ready myself to announce it.
But there was a time when it was different. In any case, the coming out that I consider important was at home.
The first to know was my older cousin who is like my brother, he knew abruptly because he saw me with a guy. He was angry, he did not tell me a while to process it but then calmed down and offered his support. He grew up with me and I take that as my parents expected me to be heterosexual.
My mother cried a lot, felt confused, but calmed down after weeks and things have improved incredibly. Today, we are much closer and even to the extent that she can support me in the fight. I love her too much and she to me, is a great mother and best friend.
My younger sister just said “So much excitement for that? I knew, all right, we’ll share more interests now. “I was surprised, she was the one who took it best.
My father is the one who perhaps has not taken it so well, he cried a lot, he felt guilty. He never reacted so badly, he offered his support, he has never failed to support me but tries not to touch the subject of my homosexuality. And I am sorry that this aspect is also important in my life. I wish and hope that one day he can see me with a guy and be happy as as I am.
Other relatives and friends have come to know through my Facebook posts, dialogues when family gatherings, among a thousand other ways. It no longer causes fear, worry or frustration.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) You are not alone, only observe better. Constantly learn, equivóquense, live, fight. Do not be afraid. They are free. It is advice that I would also give myself forever.”
William, in his own words:“Being gay for me now means alot of things, and inside these things is being true with myself, happy more than sad. Against all the bad things that happened with a gay guy in school I decided to transform the experience into the power to be whatever I want, but being happy always, and if not I will work hard to find the happiness being myself.
My challenges happened when I decided to study a thing that I knew that in my hometown will not work, that was being a graphic designer in a small city. So I decided to move to São Paulo and needed to work hard to find myself in this city. Now I`m here for 3 years in a relationship and we have our apartament, so I think the things are really working now.
The gay community in São Paulo for me is very cool and diversified, now we have more space than before and its more safer to walk and be whatever you want. But as many cities of the world some things need to change and the people need to be more open minded.
Coming out from the closet was more easy than I thought it would be, my mother and dad now accepts me and my boyfriend very, very well.
(If I could talk to myself before coming out) I could say: Be happy being yourself, no matter what happen.”
Stephane, in his own words:“Being gay is part of who I am but it’s just one part. It doesn’t define everything. Being an artist, being a French-Vietnamese: these are also part of who I am and therefore also define my personality. But nonetheless, the gay part is important and I’m happy with it.
I’m lucky enough to live in an accepting environment (family, friends, work) and in a big city, so I don’t really think about it very often. I don’t make such a big deal of it, at least at this stage of my life.
But if I’m lucky enough to be accepted here, I know it’s not the case everywhere. I’m very worried when I read reports on homophobia all over the world (including France). There is still a long way to go.
I think that for most people, one of the biggest challenges is to accept who you are and embrace it. Accept your differences whether it’s being gay in a mostly straight world, or whether it’s being Asian in a Western country. My challenge was to find my own balance. The challenge is perpetual but as I’m growing old, I learn to care less.
(With regards to coming out) It happened when I was a bit more than nineteen and still a student. I was living with my parents in the suburbs of Paris. At the time, I was already seeing my boyfriend and staying over at his place, in Paris. My mother was probably thinking that I was spending too much time in the city. More than what my studies required anyway. So she started to have doubts.
When she asked me, I told her the truth. She was extremely upset and for the next two weeks, she barely spoke to me. Surprisingly enough, my father was the one who tried to calm her down. As gays, we are often worry about our fathers’ reaction, but it turns out that, sometimes, fathers understand more, or faster. Go figure why. Anyway, after two weeks, one evening, I came home and found my mother unexpectedly in a good mood. And on top of it, she had prepared one of my favourite Vietnamese meals, one that takes time. In our culture, or at least in our family, we often express our feelings with food rather than words. And there, I could sense something had changed. Indeed, during that week-end, my mother told me that it occurred to her that she had to accept and love her children as they are. And that was it. It wasn’t that bad after all!
I’m not sure I’m an expert on (the gay community in Paris) since I don’t go out a lot and am not totally immersed in the gay community or connected to the LGBT organizations. I used to write for gay media when I was younger and I’m still interested in gay issues but I’m not sure I’m the best person to comment on the gay community. Today, my network of friends is a mix of gay, straight, young and old people from various worlds. That’s my « community » in a way.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Don’t be afraid to be different. It’s much more fun and much more exciting, after all.”
Jay, in his own words:“I was an awkward middle schooler going through puberty the first time that I saw a photo of two men kissing and it immediately made sense to me. I knew by the time that I was 13 that I wasn’t straight, but it took me several coming-outs and a lot of soul-searching to really figure out where I fit into the LGBTQ+ family. As a teenager in Florida the term “queer” as an identifying term was not circulating within my social circles, so I identified as gay. But as a girl dating another girl, people would hear this and say “oh, you’re a lesbian”, but I wasnt. And I didn’t have the terminology or the understanding to figure out exactly why, much less explain that to others. I knew I was attracted to men, but not as a woman. I also knew I was attracted to women, but that I wasn’t a lesbian. When I started identifying as trans things started to come into focus. And when I first hooked up with a cis guy as a male-identified person, I felt liberated. For the first time, all of my bulbs were illuminated at once. My gender and sexuality were finally harmonizing in a way that I didn’t think was possible when I was younger. It’s been six years since I first started going by male pronouns and three years since I started taking testosterone. Within that time, my identity has naturally changed shape as I continue to grow as a person and form new relationships with myself and others. At this moment in time, I identify as a queer non-binary trans-masculine person and my pronouns are he/his/him. I date people of all gender identities/expressions, and identifying as queer has allowed my sexual identity and my gender identity to grow together instead of conflict like they used to. I assume that my identity will continue to shift throughout my life, but I know that my roots are firmly planted in my identity as a queer individual. To me, it’s a term that is as wonderfully ambiguous as my non-binary body and it has replaced those gaps in my identity that I struggled with as a teenager. In short, identifying as queer has made me whole.
I’ve had an incredibly privileged life, even as a queer/trans person. There was a period of time when I first came out as trans (and concurrently started college), where I truly thought that I was going to have to choose between transitioning and having a relationship with my mom, whom I’ve always been super close with. I had a tough couple of years, but I’m happy to say that my mom and I are even closer now than we were before and my entire family (extended as well) have accepted and supported me throughout most of my transition.
I had two major coming-out experiences and a third minor one. When I was 13 I came out to my mom at a restaurant when I realized I had a crush on my friend at the time. I remember being nervous, but it also never occurred to me to not tell her how I was feeling. She and the rest of my family were supportive even when I started dating my best friend just a year later. At 17 or 18 I came out as trans to my mom, expecting the same acceptance I received as a kid, but instead I was met with a lot of push back, rooted in fear and misconceptions, that I hadn’t expected. At 22 my eight year relationship came to an end and I started dating a gay cis man, which required another sort of coming out for everyone who knew my ex partner and I and had assumed that I identified as a straight male. At this point, I’m about as out as I can be and the fact that I feel safe enough to live as an openly queer/trans person is due to my privilege as a white male-passing individual living in a very queer-friendly city. For me, the recent visibility the trans community has received has affected me in a mostly positive way, but for a lot of other trans folks, the extra attention that comes with the preliminary stages of visibility is not always a positive thing and it’s important that we’re aware of the differences in every trans/queer persons experience.
I’m really not super involved in the LGBTQ+ social scene in Portland, but I know that there’s quite a bit going on here specifically in the queer/trans communities. For me, the city as a whole feels very friendly and accepting compared to how it felt living down south, and that’s really what I was looking for when I moved here. I don’t feel like I have to always be going to a group/event or making an appearance just to feel connected to the community.
I wish that I could go back and tell my middle-school self what being trans actually meant. I remember that my mom asked me once when I was about 15 if I wanted to be a boy (she framed it as “You don’t want to become a boy or anything though right?”) and I replied something along the lines of, “No, I like my boobs too much, it would have been cool if I was born a boy, but I wasnt”. I had such a vague/skewed sense of what it actually meant to be a transgender person, that it took me until college to really understand that I could socially transition without having to physically transition and later, that I could physically transition without planning to get surgery. I also would have loved to go back and provide my younger self with the term “queer” since it has given me the strongest sense of community and my strongest sense of self and I wish I had had that under my belt a little bit sooner.”
Vincent, in his own words:“Lately, I identify as queer.
I choose that term because it feels more inclusive and allows me to connect with many other folks in the community going through vastly different experiences, but also because I believe it’s versatility is powerful. Queerness gives me the reigns of my own identity — rather than being defined for me by politics or other peoples perceptions. It’s something that always rests in my own hands, and can be molded to serve a better me at any time. Like a lot of folks in my generation (maybe), I feel a freedom in my queerdom, not unlike a talisman or amulet of sorts.
This image of power and even magic contained with queer identity is something I’ve carried with me since coming out as a teenager. Early on I was very taken with the Native American (My grandfather was born in the Navajo reservation) term Two-Spirit. I liked it immediately because it seemed to suit me. It allowed for how I could dream of myself as a mother, express myself with a softness and emotional intelligence, and also be comfortable in my body. I generally refrain from using words like masculine or feminine, because I don’t think they exist, and question their role in how we define ourselves. But in those limited terms, I have always connected with both, and feel incredibly blessed to be queer so that I can dance between them without any self-doubt.
Of course, the years I’ve spent “out”, could be measured in degrees of how comfortable I am in that very thing. It can be challenging to know if one’s limits are self-defined or made by society. Am I disinclined to wear a dress because it isn’t in me? Or is it out of fear? In those instances lately, I’ve been choosing to do it anyway and evaluate afterward. Charge into the fear, as my roommate puts it.
Queer as I am now, I first came out as gay, though not quite in the traditional (if coming out can be seen as traditional?) sense.
I was lucky enough for my parents to find some incriminating evidence (**cough** porn) on my laptop when I was about twelve, and so I was thankfully spared having to come out to my entire Christian family and church for that matter. Looking back, I can safely say it didn’t go well. Having to answer questions of faith and heaven and hell (neither of which I believe in) early on, was far from fun and nothing I would have chosen for myself. The upside was that going through it all relatively young, allowed me at seventeen to casually say to friends “oh yeah, this is my boyfriend so-and-so.” I trusted that they could fill in the blanks for themselves. I had no interest in self-identifying myself for anyone and still don’t to this day. But I make a point of being open about my life — which includes my relationships and even sexual experiences — at all times.
This is relatively easy I’d say in Portland, so I am extremely grateful for that, knowing that in most of the world this is not the case. Though it’s true, Portland very much still lacks in diversity in terms of color, I can’t really say I’ve lacked for a moment queer connection of all sorts. I moved here just two years ago (new years day 2015) and it’s the first time in my life that I struggle to think of one friend in my personal life that isn’t queer in some way. Which is surprising to me, given that I spent the last decade in San Francisco. I’m not sure why it is but Portland to me has held a welcome sign for me that no other city’s queer community has.
If I were to speak to my younger self, I would tell myself not to give too many fucks about what anyone else thinks, to follow my own path, make mistakes without fear and above all not to get too debilitated by comparing myself with other people’s successes.”
Mauricio, in his own words: “I remember being just 11 or 12 years old and one night going to bed crying; I had spent the afternoon at one of my closest Friends house hanging out with him and some others Friends from school, at one point (I don’t remember why) one of them said I was weird and different because I liked boys, my other friends agreed but none of us really understood what that meant, all I knew was I was being set apart from the rest of my friends and it hurt. That night my mom asked what was wrong and called my dad into my room, I told them what had happened and how I did not understand why being different was wrong, I was so sad…
Without hesitating my dad said that there was nothing wrong with me and that of course I was different from everyone else, that that’s something we all have in common, differences. Then my mom asked me if I knew exactly what those kids were talking about, I said “I think they were saying I’m gay” and she said no one had the right to tell me what I am, and that if I actually was it was only a part of me to be proud of, like my brown eyes and my large ears. I slept like a baby that night.
I never came out, I just never felt like I had to tell anyone that I’m into guys and not girls, my friends and family know I’m gay because they asked and I said yes; at first I think I avoided confrontation fearing rejection, but happily that didn’t last long, the thing is I grew up surrounded by loving people, I know I’m extremely lucky because of this, and thanks to that I’m a proud young man, kind and confident and in the search of true happiness.
I’m not really in touch with the gay community in Buenos Aires, I try to be aware of what’s happening all the time but I keep my distance, because I respect it so much, I’m still trying to understand myself and when I feel ready I know I want to take an active part in it; years ago I decided I wouldn’t let my sexuality define who I am and I know that people fighting for our rights have been responsible for this being possible and I’m so thankful, but I guess the truth was, until a few years ago, I didn’t want to belong to anything, I just wanted to be free. When the night the marriage equality bill passed I decided I wanted to be there to see it, so I stayed up all night waiting for the results in la Plaza del Congresso, happy, knowing that history was about to happen and that many people were closer to equality in the country I decided to call home. That night I discovered that in order to be happily different everybody has to have chances in life.
I think the only thing I would advise my younger self would be to trust more in people, it took me a while to do it and when it happened I started living life at it’s fullest, closer to happiness surrounded by people whom I love and who love me.”
Štěpán, in his own words:“I remember all the days I spent in bed with my laptop. I desperately needed proof that all the stuff I felt was a real thing. I didn’t doubt my homosexuality. At the age of fifteen I was pretty sure that I was gay. I just felt so alone. I was searching online for what I could not find in real life. I was looking for love because I didn’t see it anywhere around me. Well, I saw a plenty of love except the gay love. I was living with my parents in a small village, so it’s no surprise that I couldn’t find any gay guys. I had nobody to talk to and I felt like gay love was something virtual, something I couldn’t achieve in real life.
However, to me being gay doesn’t mean being alone. I was a lonely gay boy once but these times are over. I still feel lonely once in a while. But we all do every now and then, I guess.
For me, to be gay has more sides. The first side is public. By saying ‘I am gay’ I am making a public statement. These three words mean that I am not hiding, that my life is not in contradiction to my feelings. This is not important just for me but also for the wider group of guys who remain in closet afraid of coming out. This declaration is my strongest weapon.
The other side is more personal, intimate. It’s hiding my more vulnerable self. The one I’m not usually showing to other people. The one which craves for all that things my heterosexual friends had. First teenage love, first dates, first innocent public kiss. And of course those things my heterosexual friends will have. Marriage, family. This face is my inner struggle to believe that I can live a happy life even as a gay man. I don’t feel these doubts often but they are still a part of me, no matter how irrational they are.
So after all what being gay really means for me is being little an activist all the time. Being visible and open about my life.
Luckily a lot of things went good for me during the last year. I moved to Prague. I am studying at a university. My short article in which I incidentally outed myself got published in a national magazine. And I found love (and I lost it but that is a different story). When I look back now I find it unbelievable how things have changed. For the first time in my life I feel like everything is as it should be. I am incredibly grateful for that. But besides being grateful I think I owe something to my younger self. To that lonely young guy who felt so lost. And I’ve found a way how to pay this debt. As I said before — by saying ‘I am gay’ out loud, one can affect a whole community. I don’t want to waste that opportunity. So I’ve decided to publish my own zine about gay men. A zine that would show ordinary stuff which gay guys have to deal with every day.
But this zine would be more than just paying off. I miss an honest image of the gay community in local media. Even the gay media promote prejudice. They are trying to sell so they mostly write about sex. I would like to change that as I feel that showing stories of gay men without making them obscene, without the need to provoke, can positively affect the attitude of the society towards the community.
Back then in the first year of high school I was fighting with my dad a lot. Once we had an awful argument. I remember him saying
“You’ve been so overly emotional ever since childhood. So unnatural.”
I told him that the word unnatural is so hurtful when you are gay.
“Is it true?” he asked me quietly. “Are you gay?”
“Yeah, I am pretty sure,” I said and left the room. Then I didn’t speak to him for a whole month. So from a present day perspective it seems that he was kind of right. I was a drama queen.
But despite the dreadful beginning, my parents never judged me for who I am. For long time we didn’t discuss my sexuality. But that changed when I told my mother how important is for me to share my private life with her and dad. Since then she’s been truly supportive.
Prague actually seems pretty queer friendly to me. The queer community is most visible during August when Prague Pride is held. For the rest of the year the community seems to be more invisible and sometimes even looks like a private party. However, there is a lot of events happening during the year. Nevertheless, Prague isn’t that big, so after some time you feel like you know everyone because you always meet same folks.
If I had to chance to speak to myself at the age of sixteen, I would say “Fuck Grindr.” You are still a boy and these guys will fuck you and leave you. And you will feel like shit. You will blame yourself. You will think you can’t find love. And you will blame yourself again. And even years after that you will still think that it was all your fault.”