Heroes don’t always wear capes. (Other than in my geek-inspired fantasies, of course, in which the pervading eternal question remains: would you rather top Thor or bottom for Superman? But I digress…)
I’ve met many inspiring individuals during my time working in gay media and in the various roles that I’ve had engaging with the LGBTQ community.
Jaida Essence Hall for the Attitude September issue (Photography: Magnus Hastings)
Our experiences are plentiful and varied, and I’m continually overwhelmed by new stories that remind me how powerful we as queer people can be, both as individuals, or united under the banners of gender and sexual diversity.
This issue features many prodigious examples of this. In Postcards from Queer Malaysia, we meet seven people – gay and trans men – who live relatively open lives in a country that lags behind the progressive policies of its neighbouring Asian nations, Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines, in terms of LGBTQ equality.
Photography: Liam Campbell
These people proudly let us into their lives, speak about Kuala Lumpur’s burgeoning gay scene and share intimate insights into the difficulties they face in building a life in a society that is conditioned to despise them.
We also meet Edafe Okporo, from Nigeria, who buried his feelings towards men and became a pastor before his sexuality could be hidden no more and forced him to flee his native country for the freedom that New York offered.
Photography: Christopher Tomás
Today, he continues his human rights work and has found peace and balance between his belief in God and his sexual identity.
In Real Bodies this issue (which is quite possibly my favourite feature in Attitude), we hear Giuseppe Forchia’s story. Born in a small town in Italy, Giuseppe found himself at the mercy of an angry father, whose predisposition to violence and aggressive masculinity put Giuseppe in danger on many occasions.
Photography: Francisco Gomez de Villaboa
Escaping the perilous situation, Giuseppe moved to London, where he struggled on a long road towards learning to love himself and his body.
We also feature author Douglas Stuart, whose book, Shuggie Bain, has been longlisted for the Booker Prize. His story of growing up gay in working-class Glasgow with a substance-abusing mother is as uplifting as it is heart-rending.
Photography: Clive Smith
At the centre of these stories is the same message: a search for love. And not necessarily the romantic kind, but emotional, supportive, nurturing and caring love — be it from a community or friends, and in spite of the protestations of anti-LGBTQ people in society. Too often it seems that the concept of humanity is lost on many humans.
We’ve still got a way to go, but it’s through brave individuals like these, who share their stories with us, that we can continue to make steps towards a world where we all feel that little bit less alone.