Kyle, in his own words:It’s a little strange for me participating in a photography series called the “Gay Men Project” when I don’t really personally use the term gay to refer to my own identity. Back in 2008, after taking a series of undergrad courses in feminist theory, particularly looking at how race and class influenced gender or sexuality, I started using the term queer to prefer to a political that better represented the aims of my writing and activism, that better represented self-inflicted and external threats to my ability to thrive as the kind of person I wanted to be.
That being said, I was drawn to the project because the images I saw were not only aesthetically pleasing, but appealed to my own writing project that is currently ongoing, a project that has been informed by a series of tumultuous events in my own life— including repeated incidences of homophobia, including a severe assault in New York City’s West Village back March 2011 that required reconstructive surgery. Queer Embraces, the name of the project, refers to the way in which my identity and my movement through cities informs how I define what it means to belong—to other men, to those cities, to the ways in which my being visible is an act of personal transformation with political possibilities.
For me, The Gay Men Project matters because of the fact that despite all of the reforms in terms of LGBTQ rights, so many of the men, myself included, face day-to-day struggles simply by being on the streets. I actively choose to wear a lot of thrift store clothes that are designed for women, which has lead to backlash in virtually every city I have traveled. When I write about HIV/AIDS, sexual health, or what it means to hookup with other men in the age of phone and Internet apps, I still face discrimination, even from gay men who are supposed to be part of the same community I belong to. All of this to say that for me, being visible and honest about who you are remains as important today as it was during the Compton’s Cafeteria riot or Stonewall because so many inequalities exist.
I’m not really sure exactly what my participation, my being photographed, will do. But I hope that it is, like my creative writing or journalism, a testament to the public life I lead and the struggles that I have to remain visible and not actively silence my desires.
Hoang, in his own words:“People are born in a game of life and gay people are born in harder level of the game.
To me, being gay doesn’t mean anything, being yourself is matter. Because when you are who you are, what you are you will know what to do. During my “boy-time” being gay was all about discovering my own questions and gave myself the defend when hearing that is not ok, is freak and unnatural, especial with a shy boy like me.
My (coming out) story, it happened a bit late, I always wait for the right moment and it happened when I was 25. First I came out to my close friend, I think she is ready for it, and it was relief to me with her caring: “that’s why I took you to see another gay friend of mine”. That made me more confident to talked to another friends. But it didn’t work easy to my mom, she was confuse and hasn’t believed it yet, she still think everything has its cure… she believe it is a choice and can fix it. This gonna be a challenge, still is my challenge…
But now with more confident to be who I am , what I am to care less about people’s opinions to care more about what I wanna be and how I wanna be. As a gay man I believe we should not to sensitive about what people think and say about gay. I believe that love is fair to everyone, has no different and I believe gay is a part of the life, no one can deny. That is a fact and I’m happy to be a one of it.”
Chad, in his own words:“I grew up in LaGrange, a suburb of Louisville, KY. I had a wonderful childhood with a very close and very Christian family. My parents were always supportive and involved in all my extra curricular activities in school such as band, choir and theater. Being raised in an Assembly of God church, Christianity was a big part of my life. I even lived in the Christian dorm at the University of Kentucky which is where I would meet my future wife. Yes…I was married…to a woman. I got married when I was 20 years old because I loved her and that was “what I was supposed to do”. After a year and a half, I decided that the relationship was a farce and I was tired of fighting the internal battle that was my sexuality. I came to the conclusion that God would want me to be happy and not in a state of constant struggle. Looking back, I can realize that I was gay my whole life but denial and the fear of going to Hell is a powerful thing. The thing I remember the most from coming out to my parents is their response. “We still love you but we’re not gonna give up hope on you” At the time, I was just relieved that they didn’t disown me. I didn’t realize it was going to be a journey for them as well…one that, thankfully, ended at acceptance.
I don’t regret anything I’ve done in the past because that journey is the reason I am where I am and what I am today which is truly happy and in love with my partner, Tim. I knew from our first date that this was the man that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Not only is he gorgeous but he’s smart, outgoing and adventurous. As far as characteristic traits, he’s the perfect “yin” to my “yang”. His spontaneity, at times, challenges me but makes me love him more in the end. I like to plan our adventures…he doesn’t. It’s not uncommon for him to unexpectedly pick me up from work with a change of clothes and we’re off!
Wherever our life takes us, it’s a comfort to know that we will be side by side through it all.’
Tim, in his own words:“I grew up in the suburbs just outside of Louisville. For most of my childhood and early teen years, I was an active member of the rural Southern Baptist church that my family still attends to this day. That church was the center of most of my family and social activities, so needless to say, it seemed like we were there whenever the doors were open. I was happy there. It felt safe being surrounded by my family & friends and though some will probably find this odd, even as I began to understand and deal with the realization that I was gay- I felt more comfortable at that small church than I did in my middle school or high school. Although I was being taught beliefs at my church that I would eventually have to part with, at least I was never called a “fag”, was never questioned about why I never had girlfriends and was never bullied about being more interested in singing than in playing sports as I was during middle school and the first years of high school. Although my religious beliefs have changed- I still look back at those years as some of the safest and happiest of my childhood.
I began to “come out” to close friends in my early twenties. It was such a fun, scary, exciting & awesome time for me! I had spent so many years making sure that I acted a certain way or said the right thing so that no one would suspect anything and more importantly, so that everyone would like me. It was during this time that I began making friends who liked me without any of my normal walls or guards in place… and that feeling was simply amazing. I also started a relationship with a man that I would eventually move to Atlanta, GA with for several years. There, I was able figure out and become comfortable with who I was, develop my own thoughts and rules about my life, and meet some amazing friends! When that relationship came to an end, I decided it was time to leave Atlanta and head back to Louisville. Little did I know what those years in Atlanta were actually preparing me for!
After arriving back in Louisville, I bought a house, fixed it up, started a new job and adopted my wonderful dog “Jadie”. I was settling in to what I thought would be a long span of being “happily single”….and then along came Chad! To say meeting him caught me off guard would be an understatement. I was so attracted to him from the second I saw him. He is the most open, candid, & confident person I have ever met- not to mention the obvious fact that he is so HOT and has eyes that will freeze you in your tracks! Before long, we were loading up the UHaul and he was leaving his apartment downtown for the quiet life in the ‘burbs! We’ve been together almost 5 years now and still my favorite part of the day is when I see his face show up on my phone and when I hear his car door shut in the driveway when he comes home from work.
Before I met him, I had labeled many pivotal moments in my life such as moving away from home, leaving jobs, and making it through the end of friendships and relationships as failures or low points. My partnership with Chad quickly made me realize that all these events, no matter how difficult and painful they were to go through, were preparing not only to meet him, but to truly be settled enough, smart enough and mature enough for the possibility of a life-long partnership with this amazing man. Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to watch our separate families come together and form wonderful friendships and to bring our family of close but previously separate friends together and witness even more close friendships develop from that..”
Things are great and getting better- not only for me on personal level, but also for the gay community as a whole. The dramatic changes that have taken place over recent years only adds to the excitement I have about my future with Chad!”