"Homeboy" featured in the Huffington Post: http://huff.to/Lx2tNf
and in Advocate.com: http://bit.ly/StcX0v
Dino Dinco interviewed and photographed several of the men from the "Homeboy" project for Tokion Magazine (Tokyo / Los Angeles).
Excerpted quotes and images from these interviews follow:
Joshue, 26 -- Medical Technician / R.N.
"Basically, the life of a gangster is sex, drugs and violence. You can't get enough. Oh, and of course, jail."
"I was sexually active with women because everyone was doing it. It was not by choice. I just didn't want to be called a pussy."
"[When I heard homophobic remarks from my homeboys, I felt fear.] I didn't want them to find out that I was this way. I had made some kind of status for myself within the gang. People knew that I was down for my shit and for them to find out that I liked guys would crush my world as well as theirs. It was very difficult. I felt like, 'Okay, these are supposed to be my homies -- they're my friends. I can turn to them for anything. But how can I turn to them and tell them I'm gay?"
"I was first intimate with another man when I was 16. I was with one of my homeboys at a party and we were really drunk. He asked me to walk with him to the restroom. I walked with him and we took a leak on a rival gang's name [tagged on the wall]. He was staring at me, saying, "Look.look." He started playing with himself and then touching me. He jacked me off. We started kissing and that's it. We never talked about it again. I still remember even to this day. Afterwards, I thought about it and I liked it. It felt good. In my mind, I couldn't wait to be with a guy sexually all the way. But it was more of an emotional thing. He was my friend. We were compatible. We were down for each other. You can say that I did like the sexual part, but emotions had a lot to do with it."
"I left the gang because I had a cousin who was killed. It was like my whole family started falling apart. I didn't want to wind up like him and not be able to leave my family anything but sorrow. I thought it was time for me to move on and become somebody."
"I got married at the age of 21 because of pressure from the family. They all knew that I was gay. I have a daughter with her. She's five years old. We were married for about a year. She was more accepting of my previous relationship to a man because she was bisexual."
"I came out to my family on a Christmas day. You could hear plates shattering and people talking shit. My grandmother got up and said that if they [the family] didn't like it, they could take their plate home and eat it at their house."
"Most of my homies are dead now. I still talk to the ones that are still alive. Actually, one of them got AIDS from a girl. He'd always mess around and tell me, 'You're going to die from AIDS' and stupid shit like that. He was infected by a [girl] that everyone was with. I wasn't with her, thank God."
Joe, 24 - Receptionist
" I was in a gang for ten years, up until five years ago. I grew up in a gang. All my friends are from gangs. My parents were in a gang. It's just the thing."
"One of my gay homegirls took me to a gay party when I was 18. I wanted to go to see how the gay people partied. I messed around with a guy there and it was all right. During, I thought, "What am I doing? It's another guy that I'm kissing." but it felt good. I cried afterwards thinking, 'A guy and a guy are not supposed to be together.' There were all kinds of things going through my head."
"All my homegirls were lesbians. And I have a gay uncle. It was the bomb kicking it with [gay people]."
"Being in a gang is like a family. It's a family thing. They watch your back. It's also hard."
"HIV wasn't talked about, but the homies would tell us to 'watch your back' [use a condom or abstain from sex with someone] because someone used needles [to inject drugs] or they'd been around."
Regarding condom use: "At a party, a hyna [a young woman] would 'pull the train' [engage in sex with a series of gang members during a party, for example]. All those fools [gang members] didn't have condoms."
"I had a girlfriend for a long time, but I still messed around with other hynas all the time. And use rubbers? Nope. Never used rubbers."
"Most of my homegirls were gay, so the homeboys would have to respect the homegirls." .
"Everyone knows about me, so it's all good."
"I was married and have two children. I'm very close to my kids. My ex-wife and I are good friends."
"Back in the day, I was just looking for looks [in another man]. Now, I look for what's in the heart, because that's all that counts."
"I came out on The Rickie Lake Show. The topic of the show was girls who wanted to "de-flower" men in gay couples. That's how my family found out. Only my mom knew I was going to be on it. The rest of my family then found out. They accept me no matter what. I got closer to my family because of it."
"My homeboys know I'm gay. I'm just the same old Joe to them, because when I was in the gang, I represented myself. I didn't act gay. I grew up with them since I was small and I'm just the same old Joe. My homies don't even bring it up. I have that respect."
"I want to have a good career. I'd like a good boyfriend in the future, but right now, I want to work on myself and being with my kids. I have kids and I have responsibilities."
Marco, 26 -- Career college employee
"I was about 16 when I joined a gang. It was sort of an accident. I was hanging out with my cousin and he wrote up a name on a building under [the initials of a gang]. One of the main heads showed up and asked who the hell was that. Jokingly, everybody pointed to me and the main head asked if I wanted to get jumped in. I said, "Fuck it." It was the thing to do at the time."
"I think I was first attracted to men around 14. I ignored these feeling. I thought something was wrong with me and that if I just ignored it, it will eventually pass."
"At the time, there were certain people I had crushes on, but I thought I was just being psycho."
"I always thought that gay people were like the ones I saw on TV. You know.ugly and raunchy. I never thought gay people could look like me."
"Like any experience, [being in a gang] teaches you a little more about life. I was in a gang for about three years."
"It was common talk about sex with the homies."training" chicks ["pulling the train"] and scrap like that. I wasn't sexually active with women at the time. My stories always had to be made up. I at least had to scam off of one chick once a month to keep people from suspecting anything. Nobody knew the better. When I finally came out, everyone was in shock because I had so many girls calling me."
"We never talked about STDs, HIV, AIDS. That was something that happened to other people. Rubbers were never being used during sex."
"I knew a lot of hardcore gay bashers. It never bothered me because I didn't think it affected me."
"I was forced out of the gang. I wanted to make something better for myself and started to stay away more. It wasn't cool with everybody. Towards my final years, I knew that nothing was going to happen in my life unless I made it for myself. I started taking school more seriously and wanted to get out of Los Angeles."
"The best thing to do when you're getting jumped in is to crawl into a ball and block your head or your face. Getting jumped out is a lot worse because they catch you by surprise and it's not timed. They don't finish beating on you until it's over."
"I came out to my family when I was 22. I was living by myself. It just sort of happened. I was drunk and my mom stopped by my apartment. She told me that I looked really depressed and asked me what was wrong. I don't know what possessed me to say it but I just blurted it out and told her, 'Mom, I think I'm gay.' Then, I told the people who I knew were the biggest chismosos
(gossips) and let it get around like that. It was easier to break it down that way."
"I didn't like the gay world. I wasn't used to it. I didn't think I'd be treated like a woman. That came as a big shock to me. Everyone sees you as a woman and I couldn't deal with that."
"It's very hard to trust gay people. In the straight world, I knew everybody had my back. In the gay world, you know everybody will run."
"Before I came out, I had respect in the neighborhood. Now that I'm out, I've lost my respect. I'm just a nobody. It bothers me a lot."
"My homeboys know I'm gay but they've never brought it up."
"I want to be with somebody who's been through the same thing I went through."
"I want to be extremely successful, make lots of money and provide for my family."
Pete, 38 -- Program Coordinator for Bienestar, Los Angeles
" I joined the gang when I was about 16 years old. At the time, I was shy and a little chunky and a nerd in the school band. People made fun of me. I was always a loner. I bumped into a friend who was dressed all baggy and I asked him why he was dressed like that. He had already joined the gang."
"When I came home for the first time dressed in baggy [gang]
clothes, my mom freaked. She threatened to burn my clothes and kick me out of the house. When I woke up the next morning, my [baggy] clothes were gone. I went out and bought more baggy clothes and kept them at my friend's house, where I could change into my gang attire."
"I think I got a sense of belonging by being in a gang. It felt good to be invited to something."
"I think the attraction to men had always been there. I thought that it was a phase that would go away. I didn't act on it when I was in a gang."
"I was jumped into the gang by five of the gang members. We had to pick a song - an Oldie -- and would get jumped in while the song played. Knowing that, I picked "Smile Now, Cry Later" because it was the shortest Oldie I knew - about a minute and five seconds long. At the end of the song, everyone congratulated you, gave you the brother hug and said, 'You're part of us.'"
"The gang felt like an extended family. It helped me to be stronger and more outspoken."
"All the sex that I had with girls while in a gang was unprotected."
"When I was in the gang, I spoke really badly against gays, including my own cousins. I called them faggots and said that I'd kick their ass, jump them, that kind of thing, when I saw them. It was pretty bad. I think I felt that way because of the environment I was in. I was also always drunk and high. I just didn't care. I was able to apologize to them years later."
"I was 31 years old when I was first intimate with another man. I had just come out of the seminary. It felt really good, but all these taboo things were going through my head. After the whole experience, I realized that it felt good. All this pressure came off my shoulders."
"I left the gang because of seeing my friends being killed around me. Also, rival gang members shot at my house one night when I was having a party. My mom had been standing at the kitchen window. Just after she had left the kitchen, a bullet came through the window where she had been. She later asked me, "Do you want me dead?"
"I started going to church with my parents. I spoke to a priest who wanted me to go on a retreat. I went and it was an awakening."
"I was never jumped out. I just kept away from the gang. My homeboys thought that I was hanging out with rival gang members. They saw that I was getting involved in the church."
Pete, 38 -- Program Coordinator for Bienestar, Los Angeles (cont.)
"I like a man who is honest and down to earth, who's not into the mind games. Also, someone who is not in the closet."
"I think some gay men are attracted to the gangster look because they like the tough exterior.the masculinity.the machismo ."