Tagged: kevin truong

Peter, Health Director, Nairobi, Kenya

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
Peter, in his own words: “(the situation for LGBTI individuals in Kenya) has really improved for now. I can say that is is unlike five years ago, where you would not find an exclusively openly gay clinic. It used to be hard before, but it is still not easy because when you have a stand alone clinic people fear that you might also out them–if they’re found attending the clinic, people will know they are gay. What I can say generally is, I think in this country (with regards to the) LGBTI community we are much better than most of the African countries. But still, the stigma, the discrimination, the law is still against us. (With) the penal code you can be arrested if you are assumed gay. And (one) might be discriminated on health, or going to school–we have seen people kicked out of their houses by landowners or neighbors thinking that (you are gay). They don’t even have evidence, they just assume that you might be gay. It’s still a struggle.

Generally, (the biggest challenge) is the culture. (People think) You have traveled out of the country, that is why you have brought (being gay) into this country. Or normally our funds come from outside the country, so mostly they say ‘You’ve been paid, you’ve been funded so you can continue the Western agenda.’ So basically I think (the biggest challenge) is the culture and religion.

Basically, the general thing about being an African man, if you’re a man you have to behave like a man. At a certain age you have to start courtship with girls, and after that is marriage, and after marriage is having children. That’s generally on the African continent how they perceive you. A family is between a man, woman, and children.

(With regards to progress) Africa on a whole is really hard. As we all know, in South Africa at least (being gay) is legal there, but we thought once South Africa legalized other countries would start replicating that. But it’s the other way around. We found out they wanted even stronger laws that will criminalize homosexual acts, so it’s really difficult. So I think in Africa we still have a long ways to go. But what I can say as a Kenyan, as far as we are, what we have really tried (working for) is not human rights issues or even marriage, it’s specifically on health. So when we start talking about health issues, people know that if it affects gay people it might also affect the heterosexual community. (Then) they are willing to start listening to you. They are willing to accommodate, they are willing to tolerate.

The biggest health issue for gay men is if you are sick as related to how you have sex to another man, there is a lot of stigma with the health care providers. And if they are willing to help you and to listen to you, they don’t know how to handle your case. So there is a lot of ignorance. And the other thing, especially in the rampant case of HIV and AIDS, the only health promotion that you can see in all the media, all the publications, anything that kids are growing up knowing, is that HIV can only be contracted between a man and a woman. So we have cases of people saying, ‘I didn’t know. I thought when having sex with a man, I’m safe. Because what I’ve been shown has only been man and woman. If I’m a man and have sex with a woman, that’s when I’ll contract HIV/AIDS. So if I’m with another man, I’m safe.’ So with those kind of things, we find that people don’t know if they are at risk or are at a higher risk to contract HIV/AIDS because they don’t have that information and they can’t find that information. So we are trying to bridge the gap and trying to help in that scenario and trying to come up with health promotion that says (gay men) are even more vulnerable, because we don’t see that today.

(The gay community in Nairobi) is thriving and it’s diverse because we find that a culture of Nairobi is that people don’t care what you do. Whatever you do in your house, as long as it doesn’t affect me. So you find that people have an ‘I don’t care attitude, unless it affects me.’ Unlike a city like Mombasa, which is mostly (about) majority. But you find in Nairobi people are busy, doing good to others, people want to make their living, so they won’t mind about my business. And that has made gay people live better in Nairobi, people can live freely in Nairobi. In fact, sometimes I call Nairobi the New York of East Africa. Because if you look at East Africa, Nairobi is more safe than the rest of the cities. You can get health care services, you can go to a doctor and talk about issues and the doctor doesn’t care.

I think for me, and for my hope, I have been fulfilled because I’ve been working for the LGBTI (community) for the last eight or nine years. And I’ve seen a lot of growth, and a lot of impact that we have made for the community. Because what has been happening before for the last five years was we had straight people working in a clinic which is for gay men. And they would not really understand our issues. So for now, what is happening currently, gay people are running their own clinic. So that has always been my dream, and I hope it continues. That we ourselves know the the issues had, we know what is our problem, and we are the people that are going to solve our problem. So that has been my dream and I see now that it is coming up.

So for the country, I hope one day that I will walk freely, I’ll have my partner, I can walk freely with my partner, I can go to a club and dance freely with my partner. I can do whatever other heterosexual people are able to do. Because we find most of these things we do, we hide. We go to clubs and we are kicked out, we bring money to people and they accept us for one month and then they realize we are gay people and the next month they are kicking us out. So I wish one day that we might be protected by the state, that nobody has the right to come and beat me, nobody has the right to come and kick me out of their house, nobody has the right to deny me the occupation because of my sexuality, deny health access because of my sexuality, stigmatize me in whatever situation, I hope one day we can be protected.”

http://www.ishtarmsm.org

Hans and Jens, Langeland, Denmark

photo by Kevin Truong, Jens (left) and Hans (right)
photo by Kevin Truong, Jens (left) and Hans (right)
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, Hans (left) and Jens (right)
photo by Kevin Truong, Hans (left) and Jens (right)

Originally published July, 2015.

Hans, in his own words: “To me being gay means that I am different then the majority of people in the world around me. As a young man I have had a lot of trouble accepting that, as I have a strong tendency to conform to spoken and unspoken demands. But when I was 25 I fell head over heels and quite undeniably in love with my best friend. He was straight and the situation led to the kind of drama I guess a lot of us have been through. But there was no way back for me.

I guess coming out to myself was the hardest part. Coming out to parents, brothers and sisters and friends was easy in comparison. I experienced hardly any negative reactions. The worst were the comments of some of my so called progressive friends. They said I shouldn’t label myself in such an old fashioned way and that we should transcend the dichotomy of straight and gay. Just the kind of rationalisation I had been using to deny my own sexuality. But the large majority was very positive and accepting, my mother said that she always had known….

The struggle between the wish to conform and the inability to do so because I also need to respect my own individuality, is one of my life’s themes. My coming out has helped me to become a much more free and nonconformist person then I would have been without this experience.

Sometimes I can still surprise myself by finding traces of homophobia in me. Jens and I have been living together for over 30 years now, and we have been married for more then 8. But I still find it difficult to call him my husband, especially when talking to people who don’t know me. I guess that in a way my coming out process will never stop. But then nobody is perfect. Not even perfectly gay!”

Jens, in his own words: “I’m 59 years old, Danish and married to Hans, who is Dutch, we have been together for 33 years in September.

I came out when I was 19, just before I turned 20, on Feb. 9th, 1976. I had been very depressed for a long time, felt wrong, didn’t know what was the matter. But from the moment I came out, it has been great, I have never had a negative experience being gay, never heard anything negative about being gay. I think Im very lucky being gay. The only issue has been the fact, that we didn’t have any kids. We really wanted to, we tried several things, like I tried for 2 years to have a baby with a woman, she got pregnant but lost the child. So that was not what life had for us, unfortunately, but now with what I have now, I feel Im very blessed with ‘my boys,’ the young gay guys I’m close to now are my children and I love them very much.

Hans and I met at a conference in Copenhagen in August 1982, on Friday the 13th. We spend 3 days and 4 nights together before he went back to Amsterdam. It felt so right, like coming home. Two days after he left, I called him and suggested to him that I came to Amsterdam, moved in with him. He liked the idea very much. But we agreed to talk again a couple of days later to see if we still liked the idea. We did!!! So I packed my stuff and three weeks later I left Denmark and moved to Amsterdam, one of my favourite places in the world.

That was one of my biggest successes in my life, getting out of Denmark and moving down to Hans in The Netherlands. It was hard in the beginning, very hard. I didn’t have my friends, didn’t speak the language and I was used to fucking around a lot and now I was living with Hans and had to behave, which was very hard. I didn’t have much money, had just finished my bachelor in Psychology and didn’t have a job. But I managed to earn a bit of money and later got a scholarship to start my masters in The Netherlands. Now it sounds crazy, move to another country, give up everything and start all over again, but it was great. I loved living in Amsterdam and even we had a lot of fights, it was so right, it felt so right and Im very happy and proud that we did it.

We are soulmates, from day one and still are. We don’t fight much any more, we have learned how to cope with our life together. Actually we we are together 24/7 and have been like that for 7 years, because we both stopped working early. By respecting each others differences and different wishes on what to do, we are able to have a good time. We kinda split the house in two, Hans spends his day mostly downstairs and I’m mostly upstairs all afternoon. We eat breakfast and dinner together, but not lunch. It turned out that that works better for us. We meet in the afternoon at 4 PM for an hour together, to talk and be together, share how we feel, talk about whats going on and if something is wrong we try to repair it then. On Sunday afternoon we have a relationship afternoon, do something together in the garden or the house. Afterwards we drink a beer together. It’s always very nice.

Being gay and later being with Hans has been a very important part of my life. Maybe the most important. I didn’t finish my studies, instead I started my own company, but being a business man was not very important for me and I didn’t become a psychologist, so I’m just me, a gay guy.

But I made a lot of money with my company which I sold 12 years ago, so we are able to live off our money and don’t have to work, another huge success in my life. I can do what I want to and have done so for the last 12 years.

Two years ago I started a blog on tumblr, a blog where I wanted to help young gay guys. I had found out that young gay guys are having as many problems as I did when I was young, are feeling as lousy as I did when I was young especially before I came out. I always thought, that now with internet that it was easy to be gay today, but it’s not, its very hard especially for young guys and especially for guys who live outside Northwestern Europe where I have spend most of my life. So I try to support those guys I talk with, help them with whatever they are struggling with. Mostly it’s about being gay, many are lonely, many don’t get the support from their families or friends they deserve. They can’t tell that they are gay, so they can’t share their life with anyone, the good or the bad stuff that happens, which is very tough, so they do that with me. Some guys have become very close friends, we talk a couple of hours a week. Others I speak once in a while, some I talk with only a few times. Whatever a guy needs, I try to give it to him. It can be talking about sex or often about the wish to get a boyfriend, but also about studying or finding a job or a place to live. Some are very, very lonely, so its not important what we talk about but that we talk. That they have someone who cares for them, accept and respects them as they are (gay) and who want to hear their story.

I feel that I have had a very good (gay) life. When I was young, I had a lot of boy friends, fucked around a lot, partied, having fun. Then I met Hans and kinda settled down even it was still a bit wild in our first years together. Then we became a couple of boring, hard working guys. Now being gay is not important for me, in my own life, only in my talks with ‘my boys’. Personally it’s about being with Hans, having a good life together.

I always wanted a life of good quality, thats what I fought to get and I feel I got it. I’m still enjoying myself very much and hope that Hans and I will get many more good years together. When we were together for 30 years, we agreed to go for another round of 30 years together.

To my younger self or to all my young gay friends I want to say, that it is gonna be ok. So many worry about if they will find a boyfriend, be happy as a gay guy. Well, you will. If you go for sex in your (gay) life, you can have a lot of that, but not necessarily love, but if you really want love and thats what you go for, you will find it. Of all my friends, gay guys my age, who wanted a boyfriedn, they all found one. Just focus on that, go for it and you will find it. Its possible to be happy and gay, and you can find a boy friend. The problem is that you never meet or see older gay couples, so you think its impossible, but thats not true, we are there and we are a lot, but you just never see it. But look at Hans and me, you can have the same if you want to.”

Vince, New York City

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

Vince, in his own words (first published in 2014): “February 6, 2014 was a special day. I met Kevin Truong at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 42 Street in New York City to be photographed. Participating in the Gay Men Project and being photographed in the theatre district of the Big Apple are important to me. I live in Philadelphia, but my life as a gay man began in Times Square thirty-four years ago.

I am sixty-eight now, and on my thirty-fourth birthday I stood in line on 47th Street for two-for-one tickets for a Broadway play. A girl friend met me there. She brought a birthday cake, and people in line sang “Happy Birthday” as she lit the candle. After the show we went to “Uncle Charlie’s,” a gay bar in the Village. She asked if I was gay. Well, six months later in Philadelphia I had my first sexual experience with a man. His name was Jimmy, a great guy and still a friend. When he embraced to kiss me, I remember thinking, “This is what it’s like.”

All of the years before that first sexual experience I was afraid to admit that I was attracted to men. The fear drove me crazy. But admitting that fact to myself was a first step to being a better man. No need to describe the years which followed in any great detail. My life is much like thousands of others who lived through the eighties and beyond. Close friendships were established, boyfriends came and went, and many, many died. But the man who mattered most in my life, my partner and best friend for twenty-three years, made me a “mensch.” In Yiddish, the word simple means to be a real human being. Our life seemed perfect for the first eight years. Of course, that was on the surface. We had the house in Philly, friends, jobs, supportive parents, and each other. But like any other couple, we had hard times, bad moments, frustrations, disappointments; and over our heads hung the fear of AIDS. In 1990 we decided to be tested. I tested negative, and Jon, my partner, was positive. His results came back on the eve of my forty-fifth birthday. He had planned a special birthday for me: a weekend in New York, two Broadway plays, a nice dinner, a romantic evening together. That never happened, but the next sixteen years did. How Jon became positive never mattered. How to live did. The years were tough, but he was the Energizer Bunny. He kept going and going. Jon was my life partner no matter what happened, and many things did. He died in 2006, and like the moment he received the phone call to tell him he was HIV positive, I was there to hold him and love him when he died.

Today, almost eights years later, it’s hard to believe that we could be legally married if he were alive. Unfortunately not in Philadelphia, but that too will happen. Life is good; people are wonderful; and the advice I have for a younger gay man: confront your fears, go after your dream, and be a “mensch.”