his piece I’m about to share has been pressing on my heart lately. And everywhere I turn there are these little nudges from the universe reminding me and making me feel like I have to write this. I write this for the little boy I was, the teenager and then the man I’ve become. But more importantly for those young men and women who like me didn’t/don’t have any positive role models growing up that they can associate with. As a young boy I knew was different. I could feel it. I knew the word gay was associated with something very bad. So bad that you might ‘die’ from it. So I had this fear. And then there were these sleazy men who lived a lie and wanted to exploit me. And needless to say they wronged me and abused me. Just to a few days later ignore me in the stationary shop with their wife and children. To leave me feeling shamed and confused. But years on I am completely free from that so this is not what I want to talk about. If anything it’s just a part of the bigger picture.
You see the night a group of thugs on motorcycles circled around me and beat me with bottles over my head after a very successful fashion show (I was dabbling in fashion design for a few years in my early twenties) caused so much fear in my heart. I was covered in blood. I kept hearing faggot whilst looking down at one of my white designs getting stained with my own blood before the next beating against my head would take place. This lovely South African couple came driving past and shouted for me to jump in their pickup. She kept holding my trembling body and spoke to me like my mother would. I was so struck by this having grown up in a segregated country. This was only a few years after apartheid was abolished. We were followed by these thugs and had to actually park in front of the police station for them to drive past. Much later when I had to identify one of these men I lied and said that I didn’t recognise any of them out of fear of being beaten up again.
You see as a man in his forties up until recently I’ve still been told that I should not be sat at the same table and share the same food because of my sexuality by some people. And by others that I am possessed by an evil spirit. And as ludicrous as this might sound this is unfortunately the reality that so many other people face daily. And it breaks my heart. Because there is nothing worse than going through life thinking you don’t matter and that your life has no value merely because of your sexuality etc I am one of the lucky ones because for me I know that I matter.
So when people comment and say my work is too homoerotic I can’t help but smile and think, but it’s okay for years on end to objectify women and have them half nude on almost every piece of media. Would that be the comment if I posted more nude women? And I don’t create my work on that premise. For me it’s about telling a story. About the light, the art, the creation.. I digress… 🙂
I submitted these photos to Vogue recently. It’s self portraits of myself and Dan. A lovely young man I dated briefly a few years back. He used to call it our Disney period as it was very brief but joyous for the most part. He came into my life at just the right time. It was some time after I had broken up with a man I was with for many years and thought I would share the rest of my life with. This photo showcases to me joy and happiness and laughter during a very trying time in my life. Usually I don’t share intimate photos like this but during this isolation period so many wonderful things are coming to the surface of my heart lately that I feel like sharing.
Maybe my story doesn’t flow as one in the way that I want to tell it. But what I want that young boy or girl to know somewhere in the world or anyone else is that You matter. Your life matters. You deserve to be heard and seen. No matter your sexuality, race, gender, etc.
I am thankful for all those challenging times I went through. As I remained strong despite all those negative voices. And everything takes you to where you need to be. My sexuality doesn’t define me.. Its just a part of me.
And real unconditional love breaks through any prejudice. My hope is that with each passing day my heart will be more open and more filled with love and that less and less people will suffer injustice just for authentically being themselves. What kind of life would your life be if you couldn’t just be You?