Alejandro, in his own words:“Somos personas como cualquier otra, ni más ni menos, nos nombramos políticamente como homsexuales, como gays porque reivindicamos nuestra orientación homosexual, nuestra capacidad de amar, de desear a personas de nuestro mismo “sexo.”
El principal desafío: luchar contra el prejucio propio, de mi entorno y de la sociedad, desafío en el que sigo, porque nuestra sociedad sigue siendo muy TLGBfóbica. Las normas son necesarias pero es indispensable luchar contra el prejuicio cotidiano, contra el prejuciio que se da al interior de las familias y de las escuelas, en el trabajo y en la calle. Ese es el desafío más grande. Las normas sancionarán los actos de discriminación, pero es indispensable generar la condena social contra el prejuicio y las fobias.
Es complicado hablar de “comunidad” gay, mejor si hablamos de ambiente gay, éste es muy diverso en Lima. Oculto y soterrado en muchos espacios, con mucho closet y muy explícito en otros- Mucha violencia entremezclada con la etnia, la clase social y la identidad de género. Las nuevas generaciones son mucho menos prejuiciosas en cuanto a la orientaciòn sexual pero tambien hay mucho conservadurismo y las religiones contribuyen con ello.
En mis años de adolescencia y hasta los veintitantos viví en el closet, cuando conocií a Carlos mi parej fue mi primera salida personal del closet, asumirme y reinvindicando mi diferencia en mi encuentro con el activismo, luego salí del closet con mi familia cuando les comenté que al día siguiente (hace por lo menos 12 años atrás) iba a salir en televisión hablando sobre el matrimonio entre presonas dle mismo sexo y confirmarles lo que ya sabían o intuían que Carlos era mi pareja. Posteriormente las marchas, en el trabajo, con lxs amigxs, etc.
Consejo parafraseando a la Agrado de “Todo sobre mi madre” de Almodòvar: Porque serás más auténticx cuanto más te parezcas a lo que has soñado de tí mismx.
besos y felicitaciones por el proyecto que està fabuldivinregio (fabuloso, divino y regio).”
“We are people like any other, no more no less, politically called homosexual, because we claim gay as our sexual orientation, our capacity to love, our wish to be with people of the same “sex.”
The main challenge: combating prejudice, my environment and society, challenges that I follow, because our society is still very homophobic. Regulation and policy is necessary but it is essential to combat the everyday prejudices that occur within families and schools, at work and on the street. That’s the biggest challenge. The rules penalize acts of discrimination, but it is essential to generate social condemnation against prejudice and phobias.
It is difficult to talk about the gay “community”, it is very diverse in Lima. Hidden and buried in many areas, with many in the closet others experience much violence interspersed with ethnicity, social class and gender identity. The new generations are much less judgmental about the sexual exposure but there is much conservatism as a result of religions.
In my teens and even twenties I lived in the closet when I met Carlos which was when I first came out of the closet, I assumed and reinvented my difference in my meeting with activism, then I came out with my family when I mentioned the next day (at least 12 years ago) I was going to be on television talking about marriage between same sex persons and that confirmed what they already knew or sensed, that Carlos was my partner. Subsequently marches, at work, with Anarchist amigxs, etc.
If I could give my younger self advice, I’d paraphrase “All About My Mother” by Almodovar: Because you will be more authentic the more you look like what you’ve dreamed of mismx.”
Kevin, in his own words:“The most important thing I’ve come across so far is to allow. For a long time, I was denial about being gay because it wasn’t in my plans – it totally obstructed the life I thought I wanted. But it was true. Unlike every thing that I thought I needed to make my life (and my self) complete – the girlfriend, the traditional family, the ‘being normal’ – me being who I am is true. If being gay is anything to me, it’s the acceptance of your self in a way that isn’t necessarily easy. Getting rid of my old ideals and getting to see myself on daily, moment by moment basis as I am and will become has been unlike anything. With sexuality becoming as political as it has, there often times seems to be risk in that allowance. But I’m seeing that that risk makes it even more fulfilling. To stand for your life and your self when there still is a normal that sometimes stands against you instead of with you, is such an opportunity to build a type of courage that will bode well for any venture you take. Being gay is really one of the best gifts I could’ve gotten, in that way.”
Thomas, in his own words:“Queerness is creativity; it’s curation. There’s an artistry and a poetry required to define yourself by your own terms. If you are told that everything you find to be beautiful or desirable is wrong, a path is forged to a certain freedom, to decide what you think is right, and true. I know that for so many of us this creates a constant anxiety, it can be really draining emotional work. But I know that for myself, it’s what saved me. The liberating revelation that my love and my life were to be entirely my own creation. It’s inspiring.
I didn’t always feel so empowered. I grew up going to Catholic school in the Midwest. When I told my parents I would be attending a demonstration for gay rights at the Kansas State House, my mother–she’s Italian–she grabbed the kitchen counter and burst into tears, repeating, “I just want to have grandchildren.” I was fourteen. Coming out, then, seemed impossible. It would be a part of myself that I would keep hidden, I figured.
I was lucky, though, because it was at my all-boys Catholic high school that I met my best friends: the Gay Lunch Table, we called ourselves. We were young and in this ostensibly repressive environment, but it never felt like that when we were together. We had our own lingo; we made each other laugh. If anyone ever tried to give us trouble, we made a game of it, coming up with unapologetically effeminate ways to make them uncomfortable. We felt tough, and not in spite of our homosexuality, but because of it.
I try to remember that every day. I’m older now, and less afraid of who I am. But it’s a good reminder: let your confidence be a shield. I read a lot of gay authors, try to follow gay artists, and there’s such a resilient beauty that runs through our history.There is both elegance and endurance. I find it very motivating. I feel the power of a family line, like I am from a long tradition of dreamers forced to reinterpret their world. So that’s what I try to remember, and what I try to put into my own work: queerness presents an opportunity to imagine a more beautiful world. Feel the power of that, wear it like armor, and embrace the grace of being gay. “
Henri, in his own words:“To me, being gay doesn’t mean anything per se, except considering my sexual orientation : I have always seen myself as an ordinary person, a human being like millions of past, present and future others, with the same potential, the same basic personality. Yet I am aware of belonging to a minority, a fact that has its positive and its negative sides. The positive side is that I got more sensitive to racial prejudice and to any form of discrimination, and that I am strongly against labeling : nobody should be reduced to a formula. The negative side is the awareness of being obliged to justify our being gay, to defend ourselves against fear and hostility.
The first challenge was to live in a happy couple, since I didn’t imagine myself remaining single. But living with someone proved not to be simple. I was not always prone to compromise, to change ideas or to accept my wrongs. Yet there we are, Maxime and I, happily together for nearly 45 years, glad to share everything that is essential to both of us, and to plan our future life.
Another challenge was to be successful in my professional life, and I was, thanks to personal endeavours but also to chance to a certain extent.
The third challenge, or was it just a wish, was to be surrounded by a web of close friends and sincere relationships. With the help of Maxime, it has been a success.
I never said bluntly “I am gay” to my parents, but they knew Maxime and understood how close to each other we were, so when I told them that we were going to live together, things were clear. At first, my father said he was concerned about the honourability of our family, but I knew that both he and my mother would never reject their son. Later, when after some years our couple turned out to be stable and happy, they showed their affection to both of us and my father supported our marriage quite willingly (my mother had unfortunately died in the 80’s). My sister and my brother-in-law were at first reluctant to accept homosexuality, but they soon overcame their reserve and have always been in very good terms with both of us. Their son has known Maxime since he was born and never questioned our relationship or our sexual orientation. Recently, during a family lunch, when he was about 10 y.o., one of his sons asked if Maxime and I were a couple, and when I answered yes, he said “then you are in love with each other ?”, and I said yes again, but he added “but isn’t that bizarre, two men together ?”. I told him that it wasn’t, the best proof being that nobody cared. He seemed satisfied, and never changed his attitude toward us.
In my professional life, I decided, without being necessarily explicit with everybody, not to conceal my private life. I think it gave me more strength to remain true to myself and proved to be the best attitude.
To my friends I decided to be completely open, and if I lost some (but none I cared most for) because I did, I decided not to have any regret.
We don’t know if Brussels is the liveliest place in Europe, but there are enough opportunities to meet people, enough cultural and sports activities for gays with all tastes, as well as bars, sauna’s or more. Some friends from abroad find people here less sophisticated than in big cities like Paris, but we can’t really judge. Belgian citizens are fairly open and being gay is widely accepted. Yet it might be a problem being gay in a very few neighbourhoods with a majority of migrants, especially Muslims. But there are certainly conservative Christian or Jewish circles where being gay is a real problem too.
(Advice to my younger self) Study hard, exploit your capacities, don’t be afraid nor naïve, act towards people like you would like them to act towards you, never fail to pay homage to liberty, equality and fraternity, be tolerant, open and respectful to anyone but be firm in your convictions, hold on to your critical sense and never let anybody nor any book tell you how you should think and what you should believe.”
Maxime, in his own words:“Being gay means being what I am and being honest about it. If some people don’t approve, sorry it’s their problem, not mine.
Of course we are lucky to live in a society where that is possible. I always think it’s so sad when we meet young people who can’t live freely, have a relationship or simply have sex because of the stupidity of the world around them.
Being gay was a tremendous opening on the world. You realize that being different can be OK and you yourself will think twice before judging other people. Practically, it gave me and my lover/now husband a life so much richer with friends from all colours and cultures. At 69, soon 70, I don’t regret a minute of my gay life. I must say I shared that life with someone I have loved for 45 years and whom I still love more every day. Some people say that love becomes affection when you get older. Maybe, but the love part hasn’t disappeared as far as I’m concerned.
I’d say the main challenge has been to build a happy relationship with Henri day after day, which is probably not always easy, although I sometimes think we were meant and programmed to go through life together. Even our differences and our errors have taught us so much. Where would be the fun if we were completely alike with no flaws ?
Another challenge in my life was of course my profession but that’s not the subject. I did a job I liked and I was well paid for it. I even had the luxury to work with people from all over Europe which was another source of enrichment.
What was important too was not to live centred on ourselves and to try to add our little stone to the temple of humanity ; we don’t belong to a particular religion, but we strongly believe that it is important to have values and to fight for them at every possible level. The French motto « Liberty, Equality, Fraternity » is an ideal that should at least be striven for even if we know it will never be attained. And of course we ourselves have always shown concern about that ideal applied to gays all over the world.
I must have felt I was gay around 14 or 15, that means at the end of the fifties and at the beginning of the sixties. Things were not so easy at that time. Homosexuality was still condemned by law in most European countries. Moreover my parents were no intellectuals and were not prepared to have a gay son. Although I myself accepted the fact quite easily -maybe I had no morals- I didn’t come out at school or at the university. At least I never pretended to have girlfriends. With the exception of two minor episodes when I was still in college, my sexual life started at the university but with boys I met in bars not in the class rooms. My stays abroad, especially in Holland and in Germany (I recommend Munich), to improve my language knowledge were also an excellent opportunity to let off steam.
As soon as I started working with people who on the whole were quite liberal, I became more and more open and came out to my parents very quickly after I met Henri. That was in 1970. I brought him for lunch to my father and mother (separately since they were divorced) without making great speeches. It probably didn’t take them long to understand. Luckily neither Henri nor me come from very religious families. And after let’s say three or four years we were more and more considered as a part of the family. Since then, nobody whether it be family or colleagues would ever have thought to invite one of us without the other. The whole world around us knew we were a couple and treated us as such. Maybe some people didn’t approve but we live in a world of political correctness be it in Belgium or at our workplace and nobody would have dared to express a direct disapproval.
(Advice to my younger self) Advice? Don’t follow any advice! Think things over honestly! Live your life! And let’s hope it turns out as well again. If I were cruised by Henri in another life, I think I’d fall for him again and would be ready to start all over.”
Ariel, in his own words:“I have never felt guilty or shameful about being gay; however, one of the greatest experiences I faced as a result of my sexuality was letting go of the expectations that society and my family planned for me. Society tries to teach us what is right and wrong, and coming out of the closet is a rebellion against those expectations and rules. You have to learn to live not just to be accepted, but to be yourself. The world out there is a big place and there is a space for everyone.
I came out when I was very young at the age of 14. Being still an adolescent, I had to educate the people around me, especially those whom I loved the most, like my father. This was a big challenge because they had little-to-no understanding of what it meant to be gay: for them, the raunchy, dirty sex acts where the first things to come to mind. Moreover, these were always filtered through a religious/moral lens. They were not immediately able to think of the love and companionship that might be involved in my relationships. Coming out at this age was especially difficult because one depends on his/her parents for everything.
Now I’m glad I came out when I was so young because my family has had many years to process, learn, and get over their fears and prejudices. Today, I live very openly with my family and they are very accepting of my life. For example, when my boyfriend comes to visit from the United States, he stays with me in my bedroom at my father’s house. During holidays, he comes to all of the family parties, and my grandmother even buys him a present. Today, when others see this, they often tell me how lucky I am; however, what they don’t realize is that this level of acceptance took more than ten years.
Panama is a very small country with a very small gay community. Gay people want things to change, but they are too scared to do anything about it. Because of pervasive homophobia in society, many feel that there is more value in staying in the closet than taking the risk of coming out. Moreover, there is a lot of discrimination (gender, race, class, etc.) within the gay community itself. Change is happening, but it is slow and incremental.
To come out of the closet, I wrote a letter to my mother (as I was used to doing at the time to say important things), but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. She talked to my father that the same night and then the nightmare started. They thought I was confused and sent me to a psychologist the very next day. Thankfully, he was a good man and didn’t try to change me.
My mother was upset and did not talk to me for several days; however, I did not pay that much attention to either of my parents because I never thought I was doing anything wrong. After a few days, my mother got over it and soon became my best friend—I could even talk to her about boys. However, in a country where machismo runs strong, there was not much that she could do immediately to change my father. Within the space that she had, she did what she could to protect me. I was lucky to have her by my side.
For my father, it was much more difficult: he was so sure this was a choice and that this was something that I could change if I wanted to change. I could have made things easier for myself just by telling him that I was going to try to change even though I had no intention of doing so. But I refused. I told him that if it was so easy to change, that he himself should try to change his heterosexuality to be attracted to men. We stopped talking and we grew apart. Every once in a while, he would repeat his question, but I always had the same answer.
While most of my friends were out having fun at this age, I was at home grounded because I refused to change. Now, I think about it as a joke, but I was basically grounded for six years with very limited freedom or time to go to parties to socialize with friends. The upside is that I had plenty of time to read, think, and understand my sexuality and what it meant to be gay. This only made me more confident in my ability to combat their homophobia with well-articulated arguments.
Coming out is a continuous process: as we go to our jobs, hang out with friends, shop for groceries, spend time at parties, go to large dinners, we are constantly meeting new people and one never stops coming out. If you are not entirely honest or coy, people will often gossip about what you are doing, so I just prefer to be honest to remove all of their fun.”
Julien, in his own French words:“A mes yeux, être gay signifie plus qu’une simple orientation sexuelle. C’est un choix qui s’impose à nous, et conditionne un style de vie, un mode de réflexion, par rapport aux autres et à soi même. Il faut garder en tête aussi malgré tout que cela ne devance en aucun cas notre personnalité, nos goûts etc. Pour moi être gay c’est quelque chose qui me caractérise mais qui ne me définit donc pas.
Chaque jour je suis confronté au fait d’être gay, dans mon école, dois je le dire? Les élèves et les associations étant très friendly, ce n’est pas un problème, mes amis le comprenant tout a fait aussi. C’est d’ailleurs un critère important pour voir rapidement si un ami en est réellement un. Au sein de mon travail en tant que maître d’internat c’est plus délicat. Il est question d’autorité et de respect je suis donc plus discret. Cela ne concerne que moi après tout. Mais je ne m’en cache pas.
A Paris la communauté gay se caractérise par le quartier du marais dans le 4ème arrondissement, près de notre dame et de l’hôtel de ville. Très festif et multi-culturel, c’est un quartier où il fait bon vivre. De nombreux établissements friendly sont disséminés un peu autour. On y croise souvent des gens atypiques, et parfois quelques VIP.
Enfin l’histoire de mon coming ouf n’est pas aussi joyeuse que d’autres garçons de ce blog. Mes parents l’ont difficilement accepté même si l’idée fait petit a petit son chemin, et je considère que j’ai fait le maximum auprès d’eux. D’autres membres de ma famille sont au courant et l’acceptent très bien, ce qui me rend heureux. Mes amis, quant a eux l’ont tous plutôt bien pris, et cela a suscité de nombreuses questions auxquelles je réponds avec plaisir, et aujourd’hui je suis fier de tout le chemin que j’ai parcouru, au vu de la difficulté que cela présentait au départ.
Johnny, in his own words:“Looking back I find that I had more difficulty coming to terms with my humanity then my sexuality. My sexuality was relatively meaningless in the larger picture. For me, figuring out my place in the world, in the universe and existence as a whole took precedence over my attraction to another person. Naturally there was attraction, but it was not something I understood completely or tried to understand at an early age. my feelings were my feelings and they hadnt been influenced by anything other then my innermost self and though I was perhaps too young to comprehend that, I did on some spiritual level, as I suspect all living things do. It was intuitive and I didnt give it much thought. I knew I was different then my peers though, different than other boys, mainly from what I was perceiving from the world, from others. In fact it was more external pressure to address my orientation then an internal need or desire.
I’ve always been somewhat of a private person by nature, blame it on my Cancerian roots. I never felt the need to broadcast my sexual feelings, after all are my sexual encounters/fantasies anyone elses concern other then my own? I wasnt hiding, but I never heard ‘straight’ folk letting everyone know their sexual preferences or ever having the need to, but it seemed that being gay was something that others had to know about, was something period, like some kind of warning. I never thought I was a danger to anything. I approached my budding sexuality with caution because there was something powerful and even divine about it. It was like some powerful magic that had to be handled with care and so it was only once I was ready to.
There are times when life has seemed scary and too much to bear, but unto myself, I realized that my experience in the world was rarified . And I’ve always been attracted to the rare and exotic things in life. If nothing else, ‘liking guys’ has made for a richer experience of my life, I can appreciate, openly, a greater number of beautiful things for instance, and that’s just one, of an infinite number of attributes that make me unique. But thats the case with every other living thing in the universe. And in that I realized that we, as in all of us, as in everything… are one in the same.”
Eduardo, in his own words:“Ser gay para mí significa entender que todos somos diferentes y que el mundo no es como te lo pintan las convenciones sociales. Es muchísimo más. Es algo que sabemos todos los gays desde que somos niños. Y es una gran lección.
Uno de mis principales obstáculos ha sido enfrentarme a una sociedad tan represiva como la peruana. Pero es lo que me toca y le doy la pelea todos los días siendo yo mismo.
Sigue siendo muy difícil ser LGBTIQ en el Perú pero hay progresos. Creo que la coyuntura de la Unión Civil contribuyó con la visibilidad de nuestro colectivo y además colaboró con la apertura gradual de la sociedad civil en general. Hay grandes desafíos hacia adelante pero las transformaciones sociales toman su tiempo.
Les dije a mis papás que era gay apenas terminé el colegio pero al igual que yo, siempre supieron. Ellos están bien. Solo quieren que sea feliz. Es la misma apuesta que tengo yo en la vida: ser feliz.
¿Qué consejo me daría a mí mismo? Pasa más tiempo con tu familia. La voy a cagar muchas veces y está bien que sea así, pero tengo que aprender de cada error. Se que suena difícil y que el mundo parece un gran problema cuando eres más joven pero me diría que todo va a mejorar. El mundo se ve mejor a los 33. Disfruta de tu vida sin responsabilidades, mientras puedas. Sé una buena persona. Relájate. Dile a ese chico que te gusta. Se feliz.”
“Being gay to me means understanding that everyone is different and that the world is not only as you paint it in social conventions. It is much more. Being gay is something that we all know since we were children. And it’s a great lesson.
One of my biggest obstacles has been to confront such a repressive society like Peru. But it is what touches me and I have to fight every day just to be myself.
It remains very difficult to be LGBTIQ in Peru but there is progress. I think the situation of the Civil Union contributed to the visibility of our collective and also assisted with the gradual opening of the civil society in general. There are great challenges ahead but social changes take time.
I told my parents I was gay just as I finished school, but I always knew. They are fine. They just want me to be happy. It’s the same desire that I have in life: to be happy.
What advice would I give my younger myself? Spend more time with your family. I’m going to mess up often and rightly so, but I have to learn from every mistake. I know it sounds difficult and the world seems like a big problem when you’re younger, but I would say that everything will improve. The world looks better at 33. Enjoy your life without responsibilities, while you can. Be a good person. Relax. Tell that guy that you like. Be happy.”
Michael, in his own words:“Being gay is an attribute like many other attributes, it’s part of who we are, but it isn’t the whole of who we are. Although we, and many others, have faced and overcome challenges as a result of being gay, being attracted to men doesn’t define us unless we allow it. That said, being “gay” is so much more than being attracted to men. Because of the struggle that often comes with it, being gay is to be a master of the heart because you’ve spent so much time repairing your own, being gay means perseverance when everyone is telling you to give up, it means honesty in being true to yourself, it means empathy to those who may have shared your struggle, and it means pride in the value you bring, just as you are, to the community, to your profession, and to your family.
Understanding that I was gay (Michael) took much longer than most and as a result it caused a lot of turmoil in my life and the lives of those around me. Finding a loving, honest relationship, one that feeds my soul and makes me a better person is the single greatest success I’ve realized. I am a very lucky man.
By the time I came out (18 years ago) I had been a leader in the church, I was pre-med, I had been married and divorced, and had experienced such emotional struggles with who I was and who I was expected to be that I simply didn’t want to fight anymore; several times I reached the point that I simply thought that life shouldn’t have to be so hard to live. I had the sense to go get professional counseling, I surrounded myself with people who really did care about me and I got through it. I appreciate my life now so much more because of those hard times and my heart breaks for so many kids that don’t make it through. Coming out is different for everyone and it’s very personal. The key is to remember that life is worth living and you can make it because there are people that want to see you happy, even if they can’t express it the way you need to hear it.
Gays in Canyon Country? I thought we were the token gays here . I really have no idea. We have so many loving straight neighbors that we don’t want for much in Canyon Country. We have our close gay friends that live around the country that we see regularly but in Canyon Country it’s just us and the alpacas; we like it that way I think.
(Advice I’d give my younger self)
a. Calm down, don’t be in such a hurry; spend more time finding yourself and your passions.
b. Don’t be afraid to love – getting it right takes practice,
c. Don’t be afraid to trust-you will be taken advantage of so just get it out of the way now, there are lessons to be learned there,
d. Save more money- growing old with good taste is expensive.”
Aiden, in his own words:“Identifying as queer means being open minded and connecting with people from all over the world without ruling anyone out because of gender or gender identity.
This will out me to a *huge* amount of people but I feel like it’s time to let that fear go: Being trans is definitely the biggest challenge I’ve ever had at this point in my life. It’s excluded me from some people’s lives, opened me up to others and people who love me for who I am, of course. I’ve faced a lot of rejection when I’ve told people I am trans, especially in the dating scene since I’ve been told they had no idea I was trans. My rule has been if there is a possibility that pants are coming off at some point then I disclose, otherwise I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, haha.
Portland seems like such a small place and people are very tight knit. It’s been a great boost to my confidence to meet such great people and have such amazing friends in my life. I try my best to not become insular in any one community and love to boast about my good friends from all walks of life.
I’ve always known I was trans so I kind of feel I skipped the whole coming out process but, truth be known, I haven’t “come out” to my mom yet, which bothers me every day but if she were to reject me it would be absolutely devastating! Every time she visits I tell myself to just say the words, it’s totally obvious I’ve transitioned but she’s too polite(or scared)to bring it up. Yikes. Everyone else in my family pretty much knows by now. Maybe I’ll type up a letter and let her process it in her own way then we can talk about it. It’s been over 3 years now, just the elephant in the room, don’t mind him.
I transitioned very late out of fear of rejection by family, friends and lovers, which wasn’t an unfounded fear, by the way.
I would tell (my younger self) not to wait just to make others happy, sometimes yourself is all you really have and living in fear is not any way to live. I still need to take my own advice on this, obviously. I don’t have any regrets about transitioning and hopefully one day I will find someone to share my life with. Until then, stay romantic.