By Christopher Harrity
Originally published on Advocate.com March 04 2014 6:00 AM ET
The idea behind the Gay Men Project is quite simple. For the past two years Kevin Truong has traveled to cities across the world and photographed as many gay men as he can. So far he's photographed nearly 400 men, in 15 cities, seven countries, and four continents. He then asks each man to write down his story. He publishes all of these photos, along with the personal testimonials of each individual, at TheGayMenProject.com. Below and on the following pages are some examples from the collection that include excerpted quotes from the subjects. If you want to support Kevin's project, go to its Kickstarter page.
João Victor, Engineer, Rio De Janeiro
João, in his own words: “I had my sexuality stamped on me by other people when I didn’t even had traces of some kind of sexual drive. When I first noticed that I was different from the other boys, when I finally understood the looks, the giggles, the bullying, I had nothing to do but to deny to myself who I was and do my best to fit in that world that I had been told that I didn’t belong to."
Edern, Advertising Manager, Paris
Edern, in his own French words: "Être gay, pour moi, c’est comme aimer les Speculoos, avoir les yeux marrons ou chausser du 43. Sans me définir, c’est une caractéristique immuable que je n’ai pas choisie et qui fait partie de moi."
Edu, Quality Assurance Test Leader, São Paulo
Edu, in his own words: “I think being gay is just a part of my personality, but it is not the main thing about me. I think either gay or straight, I would be looking for the same things. You know, I’m a human being who wants to be loved, to grow, to experiment things, and so on."
Thiago, Event Producer, Rio De Janiero
Thiago, in his own Portuguese words: “Ser gay para mim significa saber quem sou e o que quero. Significa assumir os meus sentimentos e não reprimi-los por causa dos outros. Ser feliz como eu sou dando importância a mim. É entender que o amor indefere do sexo, mas que sexo é um fato para se ter uma vida mais prazerosa, saudável e prolongada."
Noam and Daniel, Architects, Tel Aviv
Noam and Daniel, in their own words: “Tel Aviv is quite a liberal place within a not-always-liberal country. It is a bubble, in many ways parallel to how NYC is viewed within the U.S."
Thach, Wardrobe Stylist, Ho Chi Minh City
Thach, in his own words: “When I was 18, I told my mom that I was gay. Both of us cried a lot. She was worried that I had been affected by my gay friends and she wanted me to go to see doctors. I explained to her that I was not sick, it was just who I am. After calming down, she said she could not force me to be someone else and told me to become a good man and make my family proud."
Alessio, Student, New York City
Alessio, in his own words: “For me being gay just means being romantically attracted to men."
Jascha and Kevin, Design/Communications, Boston
Kevin, in his own words: “For all of the challenges I had growing up gay, I can see now the path being laid out for me. Had I not felt so different from others, I may not have felt the need to leave my conservative hometown for college. If things weren’t tough for me as a closeted gay kid, I may not have studied psychology to figure out myself and learn how to deal with others too. I may not have done drugs either, I guess (which for all the negative they brought, I actually credit with breaking me of my shyness)."
Ron, Writer/Retired Professor/Church Musician, New York City
Ron, in his own words: "What does it mean to me to be gay? It means that I look at guys, not women, when I walk down the street; that my dreams and fantasies are about guys, and that I have looked among guys for my special companion. Many of my closest friends are women — indeed, because they know I am gay, this removes a barrier; we can be more relaxed with one another. Many gay men share an artistic spirit, which fits my deep love for classical music, my wish to perform. But there is also enormous diversity among gay males. Just as heterosexuals are very diverse, the same is true among us. Indeed, we enjoy expressing our individuality. Not every gay man loves classical music or seeks a monogamous relationship or is religious, though statistics show that gay men are on the average more religious than straight men in spite of the oppression that many of us have received at the hands of our churches and religious bodies. Somehow the spiritual side remains, the link to God, and that to me seems related to the fact that we are often artistic or musicians or actors."
Wu, Management Consultant, Paris
Wu, in his own Mandarin words: “巴黎人喜欢用压着韵的儿语来形容日常的生活：métro, boulot, dodo，就是坐地铁，上班，睡觉。有人觉得是在抱怨生活的单调，在我看来更是一种对小日子的调侃。这是我印象中的巴黎人，一边享受着采菊东篱下悠然见南山，一边向往着铁马冰河入梦来。可以毫不吝啬的在花神咖啡馆呆一整个温暖的下午，手里却也是攥着一本《Liar’s Poker》津津有味。
Aldo, Photographer, Los Angeles
Aldo, in his own words: “Kevin, I have been out for such a long time and feel so comfortable with being gay that thinking about what being gay means to me is as strange as asking a straight man what being straight means to him. There was a point early in my life where I spent a lot of time and energy struggling to accept my attraction to men. It was not an easy process — coming from a Catholic background and all. But with the help of gay organizations and good friends, I finally got to a point where I could say that I truly love being gay and would not change it if there was a pill to make me straight."
Yoshi and Bill, Gallery Owners, Vancouver, Canada
Bill, in his own words: “(With regards to being gay) Well, an easy answer to that would be I feel like a Mac in a PC world. Which is pretty much held true for the last 20 or 30 years. The Macintosh computer (being gay) allowed me to do things that otherwise I would not have thought possible. The world up until recently saw things in a mechanical binary, black-or-white, either/or light. Straight/Gay. Very PC. Light has many colors!
Yoshi, in his own words: “Hula has changed my perspective on life. The teachings of hula are the teachings of life. They are learned using your six senses and your whole being as you get in harmony with nature. I realized what the hula has taught me is crucial to me as a photographer and an artist. It is about loving all things that nature provides, being compassionate and cooperative, respecting each other, and nurturing a sincere and humble heart. It is far more important to reshape one’s state of mind than to learn to do the dance moves."
Jacob and Hayden, Musician and Musician/Director, Los Angeles
Jacob, in his own words: “Being gay is AMAZING. It means I can wear cutoff shorts and a lady wig to a club and nobody will think anything of it. I haven’t tried it yet, but I appreciate the option."
Andy and Mark, with their son, Ben, Baltimore
Andy, in his own words: “We have been together 18 years, or as I like to joke, 10 happy years.
“I was in the audience when I first spotted Mark, playing the role of Mother Abbess in a campy version of The Sound of Music. Wearing a habit, Mark brought down the house with his falsetto rendition of 'Climb Every Mountain.' You’ve got to find the life you were born to live.”
“I came out late, tragically and comically looking into all kinds of conversion programs before coming to terms with my sexuality while in graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill. With two gay sisters, Mark came out earlier to himself but to his parents only after meeting me.
“In 2001, Mark and I returned from Vietnam with our 5-month-old son, Ben. Shy with adults but popular with his peers, Ben is bright, athletic, and an expert on advanced weapons systems. Mark created the coolest back yard in Baltimore for Ben, complete with trampoline, zip line, treehouse and water slide. Our house is always filled with the sounds of young boys laughing, having gun battles or discussing the latest Bond film.
“My dad moved in last year, adding a third loving generation to the family.”
Tim, Engineer, New York City
Tim, in his own words: “A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.”
George, Painter, New York City
George, in his own words: “I would imagine that for other gay men, the fact that they 'happen to be gay' might be more of a non-issue. But for me, I came to NYC years ago to help me more fully realize my attraction for visual arts. What I’ve found this to look like is a search for Beauty, and an overwhelming desire to make things that I feel are Beautiful, and then to show those things to others."
Kechi, Designer, New York City
Kechi, in his own words: “Being gay is the ultimate quest of finding self-worth with or without the validation of outside sources. Be it family, peers, society, etc. Just as well it means knowing who you are, what you’re about, and what you are capable of despite what the world and your current situation tells you."