Kenny, in his own words:“(Being gay) just means instead of having a girlfriend, I’ll have a boyfriend. It’s that simple to me.
The last eighteen years and a half have been a challenge for me. I’m not the smartest kid so I have always had to double the effort in everything that I do just to barely catch up with people. This has been true for almost twenty years of my life, and has been more true ever since I came out. (Greatest success) Finishing college and finishing my masters degree.
(With regards to coming out) (my parents) didn’t yell. They were mad at for another reason at the time, because my grades in college weren’t as I had expected. And then I came out to them, and at the time they didn’t react as horribly as I thought they would. But over time, they went on to make clear their opinion on that matter, which is that they expect me to fulfill my duty, which is to get married and most importantly produce offspring. And I’m clear on their opinions, I’m not sure that I can meet it, and I’m sure that I cannot meet it.
In many ways (the gay community in Phnom Penh) bears some resemblance to the one in Thailand. It’s still a new one, and it’s vibrant, and they are searching for their own identity. All subcultures of gay men in Phnom Penh.
(With regards to advice to my younger self) Stop punishing yourself.”
Dylan, in his own words:“I identify as gay, but for most of my life I didn’t know what that meant. I think that’s a newer term. I grew up just knowing that I liked boys and I always thought of girls as friends.
Everyone knew I hung out with the girls and I think girls thought of me as a girl. They would would say, “no boys can play with us,” and the other boys would be mad, because I was allowed to, and the girls would say, “only Dylan. Only Dylan can play with us.”
Then as I got older another boy would ask to kiss me, or would ask what it was like to kiss another boy, so I would show them.
It was just easy being gay. That’s the way it always was. It wasn’t until I got older and had to explain it to older people, or tried to fit in with guys that thought I was strange that I became more closeted. I became closeted for a while, because I wanted more male friends, but I think the guys I was friends with knew and would probably have been open minded if I’d known why I was different or how to describe it.
I never really came out. I think everyone just knew how I was. I was with older boys from a very young age and it was just natural. One time, after my first real boyfriend and I had moved in together, my mom sat me down and asked me if I was gay. I said I didn’t know. I guess. Something like that, and then they just started letting my boyfriend come to Christmas dinner and my family learned to love him too.
I don’t really feel like there is a gay community in Portland. I think that that’s why gay people like it here, because we can just be gay and nobody really thinks about it. I did go to a lesbian bar that happens once a month, and really there were only about 5 gay guys and no straight men there, and the lesbians kind of had us on the outskirts of the group, like “we’re not going to put up with any of your gay shit. Tonight’s our night.” It really shocked me, because I’ve never had lesbian friends and I was surprised by the diversity of women that were there. It was about 200 women and most of them didn’t fit any one stereotype. They dance different than gay guys was my biggest observation.
I think I would rather take advice from my younger self than give it. I was much more bold and excited about things when I was younger. I think I was very excited to be, to do, and to have. I’m kind of focused on my future self at the moment, because I don’t want to get stuck in too much of a routine and I want to be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle. Maybe I would tell my younger self, “Good job! You’re doing great! Keep going!”
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.”
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.”
Derek, in his own words:“Being gay is only a part of yourself, you are made up of many beautiful things and are endlessly worth more than you think.
One major challenge I’ve had is reconciling my beliefs with my sexuality. I think everyone has contradicting aspects that make up who they are, it doesn’t mean that you’re messed up it just means that you’re an individual. You can find success in identifying with not just one part of yourself but by taking each piece and making it your own.
I’d like to feel like I was apart of (the gay community in Los Angeles) but I’ve heard it can become very cliquey and incestuous.
You can’t be friendly to someone at a bar without them thinking you want to get in their pants. Actually, you probably shouldn’t try to make friends at bars, everyone’s horny (unless…). You really just have to be confident, find your place and the people you want to surround yourself with, that’s when it becomes easy.
I knew I was gay ever since I was a little navy cardigan wearing Catholic schoolboy. I didn’t come out until my Junior year of high school, even though my parents had found a gay porn zine I had hidden when I was a Sophomore. My parents and family have become very accepting but at times their different views get the best of them, but that’s family.
(Advice I’d give my younger self). Age 13: Don’t hide your porn in your jacket pockets, you have siblings who like to borrow your clothes. Oops.
Age 16: Don’t worry about what other people think.
Age 18: Don’t be afraid to date and make mistakes, you’ll be fine.”
Bobby, in his own words:“Being gay means to me being myself. Being gay is just part of me as being straight is what’s part of straight people.
My biggest challenge and also success was my 6 month trip to South Africa. It was my first trip all by myself. It was both exciting and scary. I had the most amazing time there and met some amazing people, but I also learned a lot about myself.
My coming out story is a bit different than others’. I was dating this guy and I told some friends. In a week the entire school knew I was dating a 6 year older guy. So I didn’t really come out by choice.
To my parents on the other hand: I came out during a fight. I had a date with that guy, but didn’t tell my parents anything, so they were waiting for me for dinner. Once I finally came home they just started and (of course) they were angry at me. So we were arguing about stuff and I just blurted out that I was on a date with a guy.
The gay community (in Amsterdam) is quite small actually. I’m not talking about numbers, but it’s almost like everyone knows each other. A colleague once told me about this guy I dated a year before. He didn’t know the guy and I only told a few friends about that guy and somehow he knew about us. I’m always surprised if I don’t have mutual friends with guys. Sometimes I think it isn’t even possible anymore.
I think we can learn a lot from Cape Town if it comes to acceptance. Amsterdam is placed as a place where everything is accepted and yes of course we can’t complain. However, if I’d walk through Amsterdam holding hands with a guy, people will call names or look back (in my experience). In my first two months in Cape Town I’ve seen more guys holding hands on the streets than in one or maybe two years in Amsterdam. Plus nobody seemed to care. In Cape Town there’s (just as in Amsterdam) a lot of diversity. Different religions, origins and so on and people seem to have respect for one another in the form of minding their own business.”
Jared, in his own words:” I never knew my biological parents (mother was Dutch & German, father was black) and I was adopted and raised on a rural farm in southern Michigan by an American Indian and Irish family. I had a happy childhood, happier than most. I survived my mother’s two divorces, and being the eldest I was the head of household while mom worked as a single parent. I never begrudged my mother for making me grow up to be a man at the age of 15 as I helped my siblings with homework, learned to cook and took care of the household tasks. I never regretted it either, despite missing out on a social life outside of school. It instilled responsibility and maturity in me, and it taught me that sometimes we have to sacrifice.
Throughout childhood and well into my teenage years Superman was my idol, even after I was too old to be reading comics – I still saved my allowance and bought Action Comics, Justice League and others – they were my escape and fueled my imagination. I wanted to be Superman, and could never understand the fascination with a fictional character until many years later. This was also around the time I started writing; I started my first novella and found a new way to escape the churning feelings and emotions that were starting to come to the surface as I started to notice my male peers.
I had told my mother I might be gay when I was 13. She told me if that was the case, we would unpack my birth certificate, she would burn it, I would pack my clothes and leave, and that she would never want to see me again. The next day at school I asked a girl to go steady with me, but the furthest I went with a girl was a kiss on the cheek of my prom date after dropping her off. Five years later I came out again, and that was the day I became a man. I refused to live a lie, to be someone who I wasn’t, and if my family could not accept me for who I was, then it was their loss. I was living with my grandmother, and though she and my aunt came around, my coming out only caused the relationship between my mother and I to deteriorate. She spoke to me once more, coming back to town for an afternoon when I was 19 to sit me down and have a “talk”. The minute she opened her mouth I knew she was going to tell me I was adopted, and she did, and that was the only thing she told me, leaving me to figure out the rest. She later passed away in 2005, and I wish she had accepted my ignored peace offerings instead of wasting all those years over hate and ignorance.
After high school in small town Michigan I had the good fortune to be “adopted” by “the committee” – a small group of gay men in their late 20s to late 30s for dinner parties, game nights – my first time falling in love, first boyfriend, first gay bar. Again in life, I was lucky to have never been bullied for who I was, and was comfortable with my ethnicity and sexual preference in the village (literally) where I was lived as the token black gay man.
I moved to Florida shortly thereafter to Tampa (which to me at the time was a metropolis compared to Quincy MI). It was there that I grew and evolved – fell in love with the beach, discovered leather and BDSM, developed a love of photography, returned to my writing as well as my love of comic books and had a string of relationships that never lasted more than a few years, but still managed to salvage a friendship with each of them, even to this day. It was at this time I created Jared’s World, a Yahoo group (also on Facebook) that over the years has grown to over 5,000 members. It has served as my online family, a group of primarily gay men from all around the world that offered a place to escape after a hard day’s work or a bad day, a place to vent, to share and to be supported through rough times. One person CAN make a difference and this group proves it.
Darker days would follow as I explored the drug, club and sex culture in Tampa – got my ass in trouble a few times but got up, took responsibility, dusted myself off and moved on, head held up. Went to countless hours of therapy to learn who I was and what made me tick, why my relationships failed, and it all helped, it truly did, to gain a better understanding of myself. I was never ashamed for being gay, was never proud to be gay – I just preferred the company of men. Through a quirk of fate I located my biological siblings (my bio parents had passed away in 2001), which was the last piece of the puzzle – my first question was “What am I?” I found out my father was black (hence my skin tone and not the “American Indian” lie my mother had told me growing up), and that my mother was Dutch and German (so THAT was where my fascination with boots and leather came from). At long last, at the age of 34 I had an identity. A somewhat convoluted one, but I was my own melting pot through my families, and that was when I chose the moniker amanofcolours as my online ID, swiping it from an Icehouse record album called Man of Colours – it was the perfect fit.
2008 was the most spectacular year of my entire life. I took a voluntary buyout from my job, bought a one way ticket and boarded an airplane with two suitcases and a dream to New York City. Finally, after all these years of dreaming of living in the Big Apple, my dream had come true. There have been ups and downs, but it was the best decision I have ever made and have never looked back. I have a small close knit group of friends, and I pretty much do my own thing – exploring NYC and its history like a kid in a candy store, snapping thousands of pictures as I hone and improve my work, returning to my writing, growing my eBay boot business beyond my wildest dreams, going to the theater and experiencing so many things I have never done before, and will never be able to do again. My first NYC Pride parade – the energy, the love, the pride – that was a defining experience that made me realize I was indeed proud to be gay. The gay community in NYC is very diverse, yet it has its splinter groups. I still haven’t found my niche, and don’t think that I will, and that is okay. I am just me, and I am just fine with who I am and the man I have become.
A few years back I was sitting in my Jersey City apartment reading a Superman comic book that had recently been released and it hit me. After all these years of looking up to the man who personified “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, I realized why I loved Superman so much. He never knew his real parents, but they sent him away for a chance at a better life, as my biological parents had done for me. Clark Kent and I both grew up in rural areas, had our struggles fitting in, and later we would move to our respective metropolises to work in the newspaper industry. Granted I can’t fly (one day I WILL skydive though), have x ray vision or leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I do have super strength to have made it this far, I have my vulnerabilities, a love and compassion for my fellow man, I have hope for humanity and I can see the good that is in people. It is not my place to judge anyone, because I myself have been judged many a time. If only folks could just accept people for who they are (like I have been accepted throughout my life), the world could be so much better.
Looking back on my life, I have made some mistakes, but I have no regrets, would never want to go back to change anything, because I would not be who I am or where I am today. As Kylie would say, “I wouldn’t change a thing…” Up, up and away……”
Lionel, in his own words:“Je suis né dans une région rurale du centre de la France. Mon premier contact avec l’homosexualité s’est fait par le biais de mes camarades de classe du primaire qui me traitaient de fille manquée, de femmelette ou de tapette à la récré. Mon comportement devait trahir une identité dont je n’avais pas du tout conscience. C’est vers mes 9 ans, lorsque je suis tombé amoureux du garçon qui flirtait avec ma meilleure copine de classe que j’ai commencé à trouver cela étrange et anormal.
A la vérité de cette évidence, j’ai commencé à être conscient de ma propre homosexualité et de l’homophobie latente et omniprésente de mon environnement familial et géographique. J’ai alors très mal vécu le fait d’être homosexuel, imaginant ma vie comme une destinée de malheur et de solitude assurée.
Les années collège ont été très violentes car la construction de ma propre identité était totalement centrée sur cette différence qui me pesait énormément et qui me mettait en décalage total avec mes camarades. J’étais très triste et je me sentais particulièrement seul. La musique et le cinéma sont alors devenus des refuges particulièrement apaisants. Des artistes comme Mylène Farmer, les Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue ou Madonna exprimaient la force d’être différent. Les films « Philadelphia » et « Beautiful Thing » furent les déclencheurs d’une certaine forme d’acceptation de moi-même et de mon homosexualité.
Après le bac, j’ai pu expérimenter l’émancipation du foyer familial pendant quelques mois à Poitiers. Ils ont été révélateurs de mon envie d’exil et de la certitude qu’être diplômé serait la clé de mon indépendance. C’est pendant ces années étudiantes que j’ai fait mon premier coming-out auprès d’un de mes amis. C’était en 1997. Ce fut une libération incroyable, mon ami m’acceptant totalement tel que j’étais. Il était donc possible de vivre réellement homosexuel et en harmonie avec les autres.
L’année suivante, en 1998, c’est auprès de ma sœur que je fis mon coming-out. Nous sommes très proches et nous nous étions rendus à Paris pour assister au concert de Whitney Houston dont ma sœur était particulièrement admiratrice. Ce jour-là, dans la file d’attente, nous avions attendu et discuté tout l’après-midi avec un couple d’homosexuels. Dès le lendemain, de retour à la maison, je lui avais tendu le magazine « Têtu » que j’avais pris l’habitude de lire depuis un an pour m’informer sur la culture homosexuelle. Elle fut soulagée de cette annonce envisagée et notre rapport s’en trouva renforcé.
Lors de ma formation en masso-kinésithérapie, je fis mon coming-out assez rapidement auprès de certains de mes camarades de classe. Tous l’acceptèrent sans problèmes même si certains n’avaient jamais été confrontés à l’homosexualité. Assumer son homosexualité est un geste et un choix militant très important car il permet à l’autre de se confronter à ses propres peurs ou ignorance et d’en discuter si besoin.
L’étape suivante fut celle de le dire à mes parents. C’est la plus dure et la plus stressante. La peur du rejet est très réelle. Cette étape, que j’aimerais que chaque homosexuel puisse faire, est une différence profonde avec les hétérosexuels qui n’ont pas à s’inventer une vie, masquer ou fuir une réalité de façon aussi permanente. C’est terriblement éprouvant d’être dans le contrôle de soi et de son identité face aux autres alors que le conflit intérieur est si grand. Mes parents l’ont très bien acceptée. Ils m’ont toujours soutenu et défendu. Ils ont perdu la plupart de leurs amis à cause de cela. Les plus fidèles, intelligents et humains sont restés. Je trouve cela très dur pour notre entourage qui n’a pas choisi cette différence de se retrouver confronté à la bêtise humaine. D’un autre côté, cela permet de faire tomber les masques et de révéler la vraie nature des liens qui unissent les gens.
Dès 1997, j’ai pu rendre régulièrement visite à une amie originaire de la même ville natale que moi et qui s’était installée à Paris. J’y ai découvert le Marais, la communauté homosexuelle. D’un seul coup, j’ai pris réellement conscience que je n’étais pas seul. Accepter son homosexualité est une chose, envisager de la vivre de façon heureuse en est une autre. J’ai alors côtoyé des garçons et des filles tous ouvertement gays et lesbiens, c’était une bouffée d’oxygène incroyable pour moi et une source de joie très positive aussi.
En 2001, mon diplôme de kiné en poche, je me suis donc installé à Paris. Quelques jours après mon arrivée, j’ai rencontré un garçon avec qui j’ai vécu ma première histoire d’amour qui aura duré 6 ans. Nous nous étions pacsés et avions célébré cette union comme un mariage avec famille et amis dans la salle des mariages du IIIème arrondissement : quelle chose incroyable pour moi ! Ça reste un souvenir très fort.
Aujourd’hui, je ne suis plus en couple avec lui. Après une seconde relation, passionnelle et destructrice, j’ai retrouvé mon équilibre amoureux avec Jean. Nous nous sommes rencontrés en novembre 2013. Il m’apporte beaucoup d’amour et de sérénité alors que je ne pensais plus pouvoir y goûter. Notre relation est profonde, sincère et partagée.
Je suis profondément heureux de mon parcours. Etre homosexuel n’est pas une fatalité aujourd’hui en France. Et ce, malgré le regain d’homophobie assumée, lié au projet de loi de mariage homosexuel qui a fini par être voté en 2013 après des mois de manifestations haineuses et homophobes. Je mesure ma chance d’être dans un pays comme celui-ci. J’aurai pu naître ailleurs et être pendu pour ce que je suis. C’est une phrase terrible à écrire mais une réalité dans certains pays. Etre homosexuel m’a sûrement amené à grandir plus vite, à prendre conscience de la brutalité du monde. Avec le recul et l’expérience, je crois qu’être homosexuel a été une véritable chance pour moi. Cela a fortement construit ma personnalité. Si j’avais le choix, je ne souhaiterais pas changer mon orientation sexuelle. Elle m’a poussé à être un être humain beaucoup plus ouvert et conscient des autres.
Participer à ce projet est un vrai bonheur car Kevin cherche à montrer une réalité qui fait sens pour moi : l’homosexualité ne se conjugue pas d’une seule façon. C’est une différence comme il en existe tant d’autres. Alors même si elle ancre en nous tous des expériences communes, chaque homosexuel est d’abord un être humain à part entière, riche de ses multiples différences et expériences.”
“I was born in a rural area of central France. My first contact with homosexuality was made through my primary school classmates who called me missed daughter of sissy fagot or at recess. My behavior was to betray an identity that I had no conscience of at all. It was around 9 years old when I fell in love with the boy who was flirting with my best classmate that I began to find it strange and abnormal.
The truth of this evidence, I began to be aware of my own latent homosexuality and homophobia and ubiquitous my family and geographical environment. I then felt very badly being homosexual, imagining my life as a destiny of misfortune and ensured solitude.
The college years were very violent because the construction of my own identity was totally focused on this difference that weighed on me enormously and that put me out of step with my classmates. I was very sad and I felt particularly alone. Music and cinema then became particularly soothing shelters. Artists like Mylène Farmer, the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue and Madonna expressing the strength to be different. Movies “Philadelphia” and a “Beautiful Thing” triggered some form of acceptance of myself and of my homosexuality.
After high school, I was able to experience the emancipation from the family home for a few months in Poitiers. This was indicative of my desire of exile and the certainty that being a graduate would be the key to my independence. It was during these student years that I made my first coming out with one of my friends. That was in 1997. It was an incredible release, my friend totally accepting me as I was. It was therefore possible to actually live as a homosexual and in harmony with others.
The following year, in 1998, with my sister I made my coming-out. We are very close and we had gone to Paris to attend the concert of Whitney Houston, who my sister was a particular admirer. That day, in the queue, we waited and discussed all afternoon with a gay couple. The next day, back at home, I handed her the “stubborn” magazine that I had taken the habit of reading for a year to inform me about the homosexual culture. She was relieved of the proposed announcement and our rapport was given a boost.
During my training in physiotherapy, I had my coming-out rather quickly with some of my classmates. All accepted it without problems even though some had never been confronted with homosexuality. Assuming one’s homosexuality is a gesture and an important militant choice because it allows others to confront his own fears and ignorance and discuss if necessary.
The next step was the one to tell my parents. This is the hardest and most stressful. Fear of rejection is very real. This stage, as is the case for every homosexual, is a profound difference to heterosexuals who do not have to invent a life, hide or escape from a reality as permanently. It’s terribly stressful to be in self-control and identity against the other while the inner conflict is so great. My parents were very well accepting. They have always supported me and defended me. They lost most of their friends because of it. Loyal, intelligent and humane stayed. I find it very hard for those around us who have not chosen this difference to be faced with human stupidity. On the other hand, it allows one to take off the masks and reveal the true nature of the links between people.
In 1997 I was able to regularly visit a friend from the same hometown as me and who had settled in Paris. I discovered the Marais, the gay community. Suddenly, I actually realized that I was not alone. Accepting one’s homosexuality is one thing, consider a life happily lived is another. I then rubbed with the boys and girls whom were all openly gay and lesbians, it was an incredible breath of fresh air for me and a source of joy as very positive.
In 2001, I earned my physio degree, so I’ve moved to Paris. A few days after my arrival, I met a guy I had my first love story with that lasted 6 years. We had PACS and had celebrated this union as a marriage with family and friends in the third arrondissement marriages room: what an incredible thing for me! It’s still a very strong memory.
Today I am no longer in a relationship with him. After a second relationship, passionate and destructive, I found my balance in love with Jean. We met in November 2013. He brings me a lot of love and serenity while I thought being able to taste it. Our relationship is deep, sincere and shared.
I am very happy with my career. Being gay is not a fatality in France today. Despite the resurgence of homophobia assumed, linked to the gay marriage bill that was finally passed in 2013 after months of hateful and homophobic manifestations. I measure my chance to be in a country like this. Had I been born elsewhere I could be hanged for who I am. This is a terrible sentence to write but a reality in some countries. Being gay surely forced me to grow faster and become aware of the brutality of the world. With hindsight and experience, I believe that being gay was a real opportunity for me. This strongly built my personality. If I had the choice, I would not change my sexual orientation. It pushed me to be a much more open and aware human being of others.
Participating in this project is a joy because Kevin tries to show a reality that makes sense to me: homosexuality is not experienced in one way. There is a difference as there are many. Even if we anchor all common experiences every homosexual is first a human being full, rich in multiple differences and experiences.”
Jean, in his own words:“Being gay actually means nothing to me. I never realized I was gay. I realized I was not straight. Being attracted to guys has never been an issue for me. Since I was a child, I always imagined myself falling for the hero, not the heroin. The word “gay” itself only has a meaning today, for our generation, because people are still defined by their sexual orientation. The most commonly accepted orientation being heterosexuality, being gay is still an issue, a pride, a taboo, a reason to love, hate, kill or fight for. If, as I hope, this criteria fades in the future in the way we define ourselves, the words “gay” and “straight” will be outdated.
My coming out was not made to come out as a gay person. It was made to come out in the sense of extract myself. My social surrounding was conservative, religious, wealthy and traditional. Realizing I did not fit the expectations linked to my gender (date girls, be a competitor, practice sports, etc) did not scare me. I was scared by the fact that what was expected from me was the opposite of what I wanted for myself. When I am scared I attack (nothing scares me more than the idea of running away, hearing a predator just after me…)
So my coming out was made as an attack, sudden and sharp. Everybody I knew even from sight including my parents of course were aware of it in a flash. I was sixteen and the word spread extremely quickly. One day I was the shy and lonely boy, the next I was the gay guy who assumed it. It actually made me very popular with many people (mostly girls actually), which was totally unexpected. Those who had a problem with it never expressed it. They were so hard trying to fit in any way possible, than this way of dealing with that subject broke all their codes. They were harmless and I was free.
The gay community in Paris is very sinister and dull. The Marais is probably the shallowest place I’ve ever been to. There are no political or intellectual issues. It is all about appearance, money and cruising. All the interesting and alternative places are shut down to be replaced by tacky and luxurious bars and shops. I am really sad to say that the stupidest things I heard live in my whole life were heard in the Marais. This place is like a bubble protected from any trouble common people face anywhere else. If you are poor, old, ugly, sad, lost (several choices possible) then you are out. If you are able to hide your problems, or if one of these problems is balanced by a quality (poor and lost but cute/ugly and dull but wealthy) you can manage your way through the maze. This description is very sharp and of course it is possible to meet beautiful persons in the Marais, but there is undeniably a thick sadness stuck to this place. Anyway being a Parisian since I was born, I am glad the Marais exists, as a place I can feel totally light with my boyfriend, but I never stay long.
The thing I would teach myself as a younger self would be not to mix erection with affection. It’s taken me a long while to understand this, and I went through a lot of pain.
Going through the Gay men project is a very rich experience. All those very different points of view, all these intimate confidences are very enlightening over others and oneself. Some persons go through very hard times accepting their homosexuality, and their first fight is against themselves. I don’t know how I would have dealt with this issue, but I have deep respect for those who made this journey. After a while reading those stories and watching these very sensitive and intimate pictures, I feel very ignorant and humble. This project helps me opening my eyes, mind and heart. Answering those questions is a very hard task (this is why it took me so long to send the answers).
Kevin, when you came to our place to take the pictures, I had no precise idea of what this project really meant. I had just had a quick look over it, mostly over pictures. We had a very pleasant time with you, talking and posing. You left quite suddenly and I watched you going away from the fifth floor window. When I saw you walking fast in the street, I’ve had the feeling you were lost in yourself. I could not explain why. Maybe the way you moved, in a very intense and restrained way. If felt as if you were both running away and rushing at something you knew nothing of. This made me have a real look at the project. It took me a very long time to read all those stories. And then I discovered the “A personal diary” section. I realized this very strong feeling I’d had about you, watching you from the window was right. What you do is amazing Kevin, and this journey will lead you to yourself, no doubt about it. Your expectations are probably way smaller than what you will actually get from this experience. You do not travel alone, but you take us all with you, the persons who participate to the project, but also those who read it online. This is huge from a man seeking the sense of life. Thank you for that Kevin.”
Rudy, in his own words:“I think the queer scene in LA is very diverse and yet can be segregated at the same time. What I love about it though is that it is something that just keeps evolving and if you don’t see yourself as part of any scene you can create it. I know so many rad queer people in this city who have created spaces for people to gather or be creative. That is not to say that I don’t get nary or frustrated at times with the gay scene in Los Angeles but that’s a whole other story.
I grew up in East LA and am the youngest of eight. Growing up my parents instilled a very strong work ethic. They also made me believe I could do anything I set my mind to. As I grew up here in the states I began to see things a little differently than most of my family. I was drawn to Punk as it seemed to be the outlet I needed to express myself. I knew I was gay at a young age and kinda just accepted it. It was hard for my parents to deal with me and my crazy clothes, music, and way of living that I never really thought about coming out. Eventually I was forced to come out and it did not go over very well. Though as the years have gone by my parents have accepted me for the person I am. They are proud to call me their son. I am still that Mexicano Queer Punk teen at heart and I would not have it any other way. Lastly everything that I have ever done or accomplished in life is a direct result of that work ethic/I can do anything attitude I learned from my parents.”