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.”
Erik, in his own words:“What does being gay mean to me? I feel if I do not give some philosophical answer I will not win Mr. Gay America! With all joking aside, it is more about an acceptance of one’s self rather than the acceptance most gay men look for from family, friends, or society. When I wakeup each morning I feel happy to be me and am ready to live this charmed life I have been blessed with. Most people, gay or straight, are not able to do that, because they have not accepted the fact that each of us has a charge and higher calling in life.
Life itself is the greatest challenge of all and it is the one challenge we all must face, but each of us yield an infinite amount of paths to the finish. My greatest challenge is myself! I would say I am a very independent, honest, and caring person. When it comes to the subject of dating and relationships I seem to dismiss these qualities in potential partners.”
TJ, in his own words: “I don’t know that being gay means anything intrinsically besides denoting my sexual preference, but to be gay means you live life as an Other, an aberration, defined in opposition to straightness which is ‘normal’.
It means the world is not made for you.
I grew up in a small town in Alaska so my view of the world was also small. There weren’t any openly gay adults and there were very few representations of gay men in the media I consumed, most of which were one-dimensional stereotypes or defined by having AIDS.
My family was not religious or conservative, but conversations I heard around homosexuality in school, around town, and on the news, made it clear to me that I could not expect to receive dignity or legal equality, I did not deserve it. And though I didn’t believe my life was worth less than other lives, I knew that if everyone else believed it then it might as well be true.
For a long time it was difficult to imagine a future for myself. A future that felt meaningful.
I grew up afraid of the world I inhabited. I saw how casually boys and men inflicted violence on each other. Being gay (even perceived as gay) was automatically a reason to have violence inflicted on you, whether through intimidation or actual physical violence. It made me cautious, overly aware of my voice, my mannerisms, my body, and it’s proximity to other bodies. Even now, even in Portland, I cannot completely stop myself from feeling afraid; it’s conditioned in me. To reach for another man’s hand as we walk together in public is a deliberate decision I make. I still don’t trust the world I live in, and I don’t know that I should.
I grew up with secrets, which I believed would keep me safe, and made me feel distant from my family. I learned to sublimate my desires. I grew up independent, believing I could only rely on myself, determined to be my own man. I grew up lonely. I grew up tenacious, focused on getting out of Alaska, organizing my life around this goal. I grew up internalizing shame, and when people told me I didn’t ‘seem gay’ I took it as a compliment. I grew up with low expectations, not wanting to be disappointed. I grew up with walls, to keep other from hurting me. I grew up and learned there is power in the feminine, in empathy, in traits straight men weren’t allowed to access. I grew up believing I was irrevocably damaged by the pain I experienced, that no one would want to date me. I grew up and stopped apologizing for myself; it was not my job to make people comfortable. I grew up and had my first kiss; I was 21. I grew up to trust my family later than I wanted to. I grew up and dated, badly at first, but better as I got older. I grew up and noticed when I fell into old ways of thinking that did not serve me anymore. I learned to take my mental health seriously. I grew up and stopped being afraid of being alone; being worthy of love and having a relationship are not the same thing. I learned to take down the walls when it mattered, to risk being hurt. I learned to move through pain. I grew up to be honest, with myself, with family, with boyfriends. I grew up to be more optimistic, not an optimist, but more optimistic. I grew up stronger that I ever could have imagined.
That’s what being gay has meant to me. To come to terms with being an Other. To try and thrive in a world that’s not made for you. I feel lucky that I have.
I hope it’s easier for those growing up now.
I knew I was gay from a young age, years before I knew the word for what I was. But I also knew this wasn’t something I could talk about with anyone; it felt dangerous. I started coming out to my friends in Middle School. By high school I knew four or five other gay guys, we weren’t all friends, but we were all aware of each other. I didn’t date; I wasn’t ready for that. I came out to my mother right before I left for college, it felt important to do, to close the gap I felt between us. I waited till we were alone one night and told her, she didn’t get angry or cry. I remember she told me she was scared for me. But we couldn’t have a real conversation about it for years. After college I was living in Seattle and my parents planned to visit, so I told my mom that I wanted them to meet my then-boyfriend. This meant I finally needed to tell my dad I was gay. She told me she would do it. I let her; it felt easier. Then she told everyone else in the family and it just became a fact. A few years ago I took my (different) then-boyfriend to my brother’s wedding, the first time anyone in my family had met someone I dated, and it felt surprisingly natural. It was strange to me how effortlessly acceptance suddenly appeared, like it all happened behind the scenes.
(With regards to the gay community in Portland) I’m a terrible person to ask, I hardly go out. But I know it’s there and it’s strong and I’m glad it exists.
I’ve generally become more political as I’ve gotten older, I’ve aged into the demographic that reads the news for fun now instead of doing things that are actually fun. Also we’re about to enter four years of a Republican controlled Congress and White House (probably followed by the Supreme Court) so I’m preparing myself to stay engaged through what I fear will be a tough time for a lot of people I care about. My rights exist because people before me did the work, work they didn’t always know was going to pay off, and the work isn’t over. It’s probably going to get harder for a while, but I can’t let the work stop. To me, that also means working to protect and advance progress for other members of the LGBTQ community with less privilege, specifically trans people. As a person of color I also want to see conversations around race continue nationally, as well as in the LGBTQ movement, as we move forward.
I would tell my younger self what I tell myself now when I’m struggling through hard times: You don’t know what you mean to other people and you don’t know what will happen in the future.”
Francisco, in his own words:“I don’t think being gay means you need to be political, but I do think it means you need to be brave. I believe that confidence—the way you daily conquer things—is an example and point of reference to friends, co-workers, lovers, friends, and kids that don’t otherwise have a resource to see that.
Junot Diaz has this great quote from a talk he gave in Jersey. “You guys know about vampires?” He asks. “You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”
Growing up in white bread Chicago suburbia, I felt like a vampire. I never saw gay parents, or dudes wearing short shorts, or action TV series with queer protagonists. The greatest challenge was, and still is, finding everyday gay heroes to learn from or aspire to. And so I guess I’ve made it my mantra as a writer and as a person to seek out those heroes and to create the reflections I never saw when I was 10, sitting in my room peeling through Greek Mythology books, praying that I’d find a gay romance, a dude rescuing a dude in distress, any fleck of something that proved to me that one day I could save the day or conquer something. I wanted the gay guy to pick up the sword, I guess.
The day I came out to my parents (I was 18?) I had packed a bag. I’d brought my escape kit to the Art Institute where I would spend the day and thereafter, run away forever and live in my boyfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s guest bedroom for as long as possible until I figured out where to go from there. And I mean, yeah, wow, I was a manic and dumb kid in high school. But I think part of what I was feeling was unprepared and ill-equipped. I had no weapon.
The year I moved to New York was the best year of my life, and so much of that has to do with the gay companionship I’ve found here and will continue to find here. I’ve built some pretty terrible relationships in my day and escaping those ghosts had everything to do with knowing new gay men who scarcely accept less than they deserve. I work for a gay magazine called Hello Mr. that creates this kinda ineffable bond between gay men. It’s been a commonplace for key friendships, and I guess put up those mirrors I’d been aching for as a kid—the reflections of everyday heroes I could one day know or love or become.
Kinda wish I could send a tweet from the future into the past saying “@fransquishco! You’re going to be okay! You have gay friends! Parts of your heart are growing back!” But I guess since I can’t do that, the next best thing is writing for kids like me, little reassurances and mirrors. Or at least that’s the goal.
And I’m still looking for gay friends! Be friends with me! I’m big on picnics and any place where they serve you coffee in a ceramic mug.”
Vitor, in his own words:“Ser gay me fez ser uma pessoa melhor, me ajudou a olhar para o outro com mais carinho e tolerância. Levei um tempo para aceitar a minha orientação sexual, mas hoje me sinto bem, pleno e realizado. A parte difícil é lidar com a sociedade e o preconceito. O Brasil é um país bem machista e ainda precisamos convencer uma galera de que não somos diferentes de ninguém e que merecemos o mesmo respeito e direitos das outras pessoas.
Certamente o maior desafio que a vida me deu foi o de alcançar a minha independência financeira. Nem sempre pode-se contar com o apoio das outras pessoas quando se é gay e nesse sentido ser independente foi fundamental para mim.
Já não morava com meus pais quando me assumi, mas a reação foi surpreendente. Tive muito medo, mas sentia que precisava contar. Minha mãe me disse que eu não era o primeiro e não seria o ultimo e que o amor que ela sentia por mim não mudaria jamais. Isso foi muito importante para mim. Hoje não falamos sobre esse assunto, mas não preciso mais mentir ou inventar histórias e isso é muito bom.
Acho a comunidade gay bem dispersa em Brasília. Aqui todos se conhecem pelo menos de vista, mas ainda mantemos uma certa distância uns dos outros. O engajamento é pequeno e não há um movimento LGBT consolidado. Apenas uma vez por ano é que pode-se ver muitos gays reunidos, na parada gay.
Se eu pudesse mandar um recado para mim há 10 anos seria: ouça o seu coração e faça aquilo que é certo para você. Perdi muito tempo tentando me adaptar ao que os outros diziam que era certo e sofri bastante.”
“Being gay has made me a better person, helped me to look at others with more kindness and tolerance. It took me a while to accept my sexual orientation, but today I feel good, full and fulfilled. The hard part is dealing with society and prejudice. Brazil is a very macho country and we still need to convince a galley that we are no different from anyone else and that we deserve the same respect and rights of others.
Certainly the biggest challenge that life gave me was to achieve my financial independence. One can not always count on the support of others when one is gay and in that sense being independent was key for me.
(With regards to coming out) I no longer lived with my parents when I told them, but the reaction was surprising. I was too afraid, but felt the need to tell. My mother told me I was not the first and would not be the last and that the loved me and her feelings for me would not change ever. This was very important to me. Today we do not talk about this, but I don’t need to lie or make up stories and that’s very good.
I think the gay community well dispersed in Brasilia. Here everyone knows at least each other by sight, but still maintain a certain distance from one another. The engagement is small and there is a consolidated LGBT movement. Only once a year can you can see many assembled gays in a gay parade.
If I could send a message to myself 10 years ago it would be: listen to your heart and do what is right for you. I lost a lot of time trying to fit in to what others said it was right and suffered enough.”
Hans, in his own words:“Being gay means to me being able to enjoy my sexuality in all aspects. I like to have interests, points of view and a sense of life that is different than other people, BUT it doesn´t mean that i deserve less human and civil rights than straight people. It´s unfair. What I do in my bed doesn’t define me, I´m more than that: I´m A PERSON.
The challenges I have had in my life was to be openly gay among my family, some friends and at work (at first instance it was difficult, but you have to show that you deserve respect like any other person) and the fight to get equal civil rights in my country …we´re still fighting….
The gay community in Lima is so varied and different between their members, from gays who are openly gay and support LGTBI rights, to those who think and fight against their own rights (many of them are politicians and members of the catholic clergy who have strong religious beliefs ). Fortunately the young LGTBI generation and some straight people support equality and fight against homophobia, but we have a lot to do.
(With regards to coming out) I was studying medicine at university and liked to go to gay clubs. When I was 22 years old my mother asked my about my sexual preferences, and I lied: I said ” I like both men and women”. My mother was confused. The next year I decided to come out. I invited her to dinner out and while we were eating I told her : ” Do you remember when you asked me about my sexual preferences? Well, I like men, I have always liked them.” My mother’s first reaction was to say: :You have to study in a foreign country, I don´t want people to hurt you.” We came back home and didn’t talk about the issue for about two months. By that time I usually liked (and still like) “Will and Grace.” One night I was studying in my bedroom and she yelled: “Hans, come to dinner with me, Will and Grace is going to start”… and since then I knew she was changing her mind. That sitcom helped me so much, showing a positive image of gay people to my mother and all audience….
The advice I´d give to my younger self would be: “Don´t give up on what you think you deserve, always study and be nice with people who need your help.”
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.”
Julian, in his own words: “Ser gay significa para mi tener la convicción de que cada uno es libre de amar y querer a una persona de su mismo sexo. Decir que soy gay es un reto a las posibilidades de amor que la sociedad impone.
Aceptar mi sexualidad ha sido uno de los más grandes retos que he tenido. Antes era horrible como mi mente trabajaba en que cosas decir y que hacía o que no para que la gente no lo note. Era agotador y siempre me sentía intranquilo. En mi hogar me veían molesto siempre y no sabían por qué y yo tampoco sentía que podía decirlo. Luego de aceptar quien soy todo comenzó a mejorar y ahora siento que las relaciones que tengo con los demás son más honestas que antes.
La comunidad gay en Lima es aún pequeña, no hay mucha visibilidad pero creo que se están abriendo grandes oportunidades y avances que la gente está consiguiendo. Creo que de aca a unos años seremos más fuertes y con capacidad de presión para generar políticas públicas hacia la población y una sociedad sin discriminación.
Yo sabía que me gustaban los hombres desde pequeño y en secundaria comenzaron a sospechar pero la reacción de ellos no fue nada bueno así que lo negué. Fue recién en el verano del 2009 gracias al apoyo de mis amigos que les dije que era, fue todo un proceso y sigue siendo. Mi madre hace unos meses me dijo “lo único que quiero es que seas feliz”, ella tiene miedo de cómo la gente me pueda tratar en el futuro, por eso también es que decidí luchar por mis derechos, para demostrarle que su deseo y el mío son posibles.
Le diría que ser gay no es el fin del mundo, que nadie me va a castigar, es un camino duro pero aceptarse es lo mejor que te puede pasar y que hay gente que te seguirá queriendo incluso aún más por ser honesto contigo mismo.”
“Being gay means to me to have the conviction that everyone is free to love and love a person of the same sex. To say that I’m gay is a challenge to the possibilities of love that society imposes.
Accepting my sexuality has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had. Before it was horrible as my mind worked about how to say things or act for people not to notice my sexuality. It was exhausting and I always felt uneasy. At home I always looked annoyed and people did not know why and I felt that I could not say what was happening. After accepting who I am everything started to improve and now I feel that I have more honest relationships with others than before.
The gay community in Lima is still small, there is not much visibility but I think they are opening great opportunities and developments for people to receive. I think from here in a few years we will be stronger and able to pressure to generate public policies towards the population and have a society without discrimination.
I knew I liked men since childhood but my parents began to suspect when I was 16 but their reaction was not good so I refused to accept my sexual orientation. It was not until the summer of 2009 thanks to the support of my friends that I told to my parents, it was a process and remains so. My mother a few months ago said “all I want is your happiness” she is afraid of how people can treat me in the future, so I also decided to fight for my rights, to demonstrate her desires and mine are possible.
(To my younger self) I would say that being gay is not the end of the world, no one is going to punish you, it’s a hard road but accepting it is the best that can happen and there are people who still love you even more for being honest with yourself.”
Thang, in his own words:“I’ve been examining half-scraps of my childhood. They are pieces of distant life that have no form or meaning. They are things that just happened like lint.”
Michael, in his own words:“To me, being gay doesn’t mean anything different than being straight. There are the obvious things, of course, like who I’m staring at in the gym versus who the guy I’m staring at is staring at, but being “out” is an entirely different thing. It’s gratifying in a way that I can scarcely find words to describe. It’s like when you envision your future self, you project a great future that often times seems light years away. Then one day, you find that some part of your dreams has been realized. Having come out recently, I feel that I can accomplish my other, more outward goals and become the future self that I envisioned now that I have an internal foundation that is absolutely fundamental to my adult development—literally a launching pad.
As far as challenges go, I’ve been terribly lucky. I have immensely supportive family and friends that I can count on, and I am very fortunate to have been born after a generation of great civil rights progress, although we are perhaps in the middle of our biggest victories to date. The real challenge for me has been growing into myself and identifying what I want, or more importantly, figuring out what I don’t want. Since I moved to New York in late 2011, I have definitely been the kid in the homo candy shop. It’s been absolutely fantastic but sometimes the things you think will make you happy end up having the opposite effect. Regardless, I advocate this trial-and-error.
Being gay in New York is perfect and horrible. On one hand, there is relatively no judgment from the public, an acceptance I’ve been starving for since I was young. Also, there are so many men with similar stories to my own, and it seems like they’re everywhere; it’s easy to find a community here. But that’s also the biggest issue when it comes to relationships: there are so many options to choose from for everything—food, clothes, significant others—, investing in any one thing is difficult. Relationships are easily strained.
I still consider myself lucky though. Growing up in Kansas, I really did think that the “phase” I was going through would pass, that I would straighten out and be just like everyone else. When I realized finally that it wasn’t a phase, I never really beat myself up about it. To me, it was matter-of-fact, and I am very rational. Even though those days were only two years ago, it feels like ages. Now, things are good. I’m good. I can look forward to what’s ahead, and only because I’ve experienced what’s behind.”