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“I wasn’t about to crawl back into the closet…”

Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar on Unsplash

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Part 25

Toni was coming to visit. I had spoken to her on the phone, and was somewhat dismayed to find that my timing had been slightly off. I had known for quite some time that she had been unhappy in her job, but on speaking to her I found that a month earlier she had started a job with Dolce & Gabbana, in their Bond street store, and she seemed to be quite happy with it, however the money was really bad, so she was keen to work for me as well. This was exactly what I didn’t want, as there was more than enough work to keep one person busy full time, and I didn’t want someone who would treat it as a second string, but we agreed to meet and talk about it anyway, so I had booked her in for mid August. In the meantime, I had given her the phone numbers for Anna, and Hasan, and she had called both of them too, so I now had their numbers and they were expecting my calls.
I had also written to Daniel and Dimitrius. I knew Daniel was very busy with his own business, but I figured that Dimitrius wasn’t working at all, and rather stupidly, it seems, decided that he might be glad of some cash, I also thought that since I had bailed him out on several occasions, providing somewhere to crash when the two of them had quarrelled countless times, not to mention being extremely generous in furnishing him with free drugs whenever he had visited, he might feel a little benevolent towards me, and at least be able to help running errands when Toni could not.
I rang Daniel and had a conversation with both of them, and they both agreed to visit, so I booked them in on the same day as Toni. My plan was coming together. Meanwhile the main issue was my cellmate. Having only just arrived, I was not at this stage working, but neither was he! For a start he had a little friend, and whilst we were unlocked, about three hours per day in total, they would run downstairs and play cards together, leaving me free to access the computer and continue my writing and editing, but in the many hours in which we were locked up, time which would have been invaluable to me, particularly with it being August, with nothing of any value on the television, He was insistent on watching constant repeats of The Simpsons!
In desperation one night, I figured that if I couldn’t work whilst he was awake, I could probably manage it whilst he was sleeping, so after about three days of pondering, I got up at 3am one morning and started typing. He never turned a hair! At 7.30am when he eventually opened his eyes, I had been working solidly for about four and a half hours, and had made excellent in-roads. When I asked him if I had disturbed him, he assured me that he hadn’t heard a thing, so from that day onwards, this became my routine. Within two weeks I had edited to the point that I was happy. I had started with 140,000 words, and having gleaned from Rachel that the normal size for a novel was around 75,000 minimum, I had known that I needed to cut it back, so in the end, the final draft was 124,000, and I finally felt I had achieved something worthwhile, and allowed myself to feel a little more confident, and even proud.
At this rate, once I’d had the visit, and garnished support, I could arrange for Louisa Hawkes to burn the book to CD and send it out, and we were right on target to have it on sale by September 1. I was even starting to get a little excited about this! In the two weeks between my arrival and the proposed visit, I had been on the phone to Toni on numerous occasions, and owing to the bulk of my belongings still being divided between Edd and Tom, they hated each other, and had been in constant competition with each other, but now that I had fallen out with both of them, we figured it best to consolidate everything into one place, so she had taken it upon herself to collect it all, and store it until my release.
All of a sudden, in just a couple of days it felt as if the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I had been so worried about all these little items, and they had been contributing to my constant anxiety, not knowing who I could trust, and who was out to get me. It seemed I had made the right decision on employing someone to look after all this stuff - it had been left for so long, and had got somewhat out of hand. There was so much to do,and now I felt that I was running out of time.
When I had arrived in Thameside, I’d realised that considerable time had already passed, and I now had a little less than 400 days to go. On the 28th August I would be starting my last year of incarceration. Sure, it was still a long time behind bars, but somehow it seemed less daunting when it was under twelve months. I was now so busy coordinating everything, and making sure the targets were met with my writing, that I didn’t notice the time so much. I had a goal, and a purpose, and I was doing something I loved, so it didn’t really matter where I did it. Of course the regime, the stupid people I had to deal with on a daily basis, and the issues with the cellmate were a bit of a thorn in my side, but in those five hours every morning before anyone else was awake, I was able to completely lose myself in the task at hand, and I somehow had an escape from the reality of day to day living.
In a sense, I had substituted my dependence on alcohol and drugs for a new dependence on my writing projects, and they had become my self-medication. Just the simple act of committing my story, thoughts and feelings to the screen, made me feel better. I had been angry about the things that had happened to me, and about the way people who I had thought were my friends had treated me, but also angry with myself for getting into this situation, but by writing about it I was forced to think about everything that had happened over the past two years, and also about the actions of myself and those around me.
In order to write about it all, I needed to fully understand it, so I began to read books that dealt with addiction, self-medication, anti-social behaviour, depression and anxiety. Coincidentally, the book club helped with this also. One of the author visits we’d had was from Amy Liptrot, about her book The Outrun. This was more of a memoir, and she insists that it is not a self help book, but it discussed her addiction to alcohol, and her decision to move back to her family in the Orkney Islands. I drew tremendous comfort from this, firstly in the fact that a successful future was possible, as there had been times where I had been convinced that I would never get out of here, and that I could not come back from this situation, now that everyone knew what I had done and that I was here.
The other occurrence to lift my spirits was the receipt of a reply from the governor to my lawyer, stating that I had been placed on hold for medical purposes, and in order to complete my listener training with the Samaritans. This guaranteed my stay for six months, and provided I had completed listener training by then, I would then be held for a further six months. Finally I could plan the next year, and I could be sure that I would have the time to complete the next two books I had planned for the series, indeed I even dared to hope that I might have two books published in time for Christmas.
By this time I was spending every available moment on the computer. As soon as bobby, my cellmate disappeared I was straight onto it, and then of course every morning from 3am until 8am I would attack it with a vengeance. On a good morning I could churn out around 5000 words, and on a good day, when Bobby was at the gym, or at education, the figure would be double that. With the first book I had really just started writing without any plan or structure, and once I’d finished the first draft, I could not remember whether I had included a point or not, which made the editing somewhat more time consuming. This time, I was so much more organised. I had written a two-page outline, detailing chapter headings, and what I wanted to include under each one, and then on a Sunday night, I would examine the chapters I wanted to write for the following week, and add lists of all the topics within that chapter in more detail.
I had become so much more organised since arriving back at Thameside, and I think this had a lot to do with my state of mind,and the fact that I now had a purpose. The new book was flying onto the pages, and I think the other advantage now was that since I had been writing every day for at the very least three hours a day, I was becoming better at it. I had been horrified how rusty I’d been, when I started writing again, after having time away from it, having been more focused on drugs and sex for the previous twelve months, and when I had first come into prison, so focused on feeling sorry for myself. The first time I had sat down in front of the screen and started to write, I had read it back and been mortified. A feeling of utter uselessness had washed over me, and I had been unable to fathom how my skills had deteriorated so quickly in what I thought was such a short space of time, but I think, as with any form of skill, or artistic pursuit, practice makes perfect, and it is the same with writing. To begin with I doubted whether I had the ability to carry on after the first 500 words, but I had committed myself to writing the first book, and told all my remaining friends that I was going to write it, so I had to continue, if only to save face with them as well as everyone else.
Saturday morning dawned and I was sitting at the computer as usual, cellmate being still asleep meant I could write for even longer than normal, although I knew that I would have little chance of continuing during the day. I looked up with a start at the sound of banging on the cell door and a woman looking through the window. Immigration, she called as paperwork came flying under the door. Have a look at this and you have 21 days to reply. My first glance told me it was my deportation order, and I already knew from others at Maidstone that I needed to sign it and send it back if I wanted to go. By now I had pretty much decided, although I hadn’t thought much about it over the past couple of weeks, but with the recent referendum decision, coupled with that old troll Theresa May being made Prime Minister, I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to hang around here! I made a snap decision and told her to wait while I signed it and handed it back under the door, much to her surprise.
The UKBA had goneto great lengths to ensure this end, having transferred me to Maidstone, but had they just sat me down and apprised me of the options in the first place, it would have saved all of us a great deal of drama! Just like jumping out of a plane, or off a cliff on a bungee, once the decision is made, everything becomes a lot easier to deal with and so it was with this. Now that Britain was leaving the EU, I no longer wanted to be here. I was rather pleased that I had in fact never surrendered my passport and become a British citizen or for that matter even a resident. Their tax rates were exorbitant, and without the EU as a trading partner, I was pretty sure that the economy would collapse over time. Indeed the pound had fallen immediately following the news of the referendum outcome and things were only going to get worse. Furthermore, I could not see how that awful woman Theresa May was ever going to have the strength of leadership to pilot the country through difficult negotiations which would be necessary in getting the best deal for the country. At the moment everything was in turmoil, and no one knew what the terms of departure would be, but already there were rumours that Britain would be asked to pay an exit bill in the tens of millions of pounds, according to obligations to which they were already committed. Some had estimated that it would even be as high as £100 Billion.
All of that though, was of no consequence to me whatsoever, I wanted out, and I had now signed the form to facilitate it. This of course made me eligible for my nine months discount on sentence,and I could now confidently plan to be leaving on or about the 28th August 2017. Meanwhile I had applied for my old jobs back and had been met with opposition. Louisa Hawkes emailed back to say that my peer workers job with imaging software had been taken, as did Neil in the Library, regarding my Shannon Trust mentors position, and I had still not heard from either the Print shop, or Equalities and Diversities, however by the amounts of inmates sporting their shirts it was pretty clear that there were already numerous peer workers there too. I didn’t really want to work anyway, in fact, if anything I wanted my cellmate to go to work so that I could get on with my writing. The money would have been handy, but frankly apart from phone credit, I didn’t really need that much anyway.
After my brief flirt with the canteen, only to find that everything available for purchase was cheap crap anyway, and junk food which only served to add pounds to my waistline which I didn’t need, so apart from essentials such as shampoo, and writing pads, there was precious little else I needed. I had rather set myself up into quite a convenient routine, despite my surroundings, but as with everything in the prison service, the minute you think you have everything sorted, some idiot officer will come along and fuck it up, and as usual, I didn’t have long to wait.
Out of the blue, the phone rang in my cell. This was a rare occurrence. Incoming calls were prohibited from those on the outside so it could only have been an internal department, and this time it was the Career Service Advisor, asking me what sort of job I wanted, something I had thought was pretty obvious, given that I had already applied to go back to the print shop, or to equalities and diversities, and failing that, I had also applied as an education peer mentor, so she must have had all of those applications on her desk, and I would have thought that had there been no vacancies in any of those fields, the question should have been not “What sort of job do you want” but “sorry, all the positions you’ve applied for are full, this is what we have on offer.” Clearly this was too difficult to understand, so I spent the next five minutes telling her what I had done in the past, and what experience I had on the outside, whereupon she assured me she would see what she could do.
A week later, I got a reply on my CMS. “Your name has come to the top of the list for Labour board and you have been put forward for consideration for a position as Green office workshops. You will be advised when a position is available.” I had no idea what ‘Green Office’ meant, and frankly had no desire to know, but I was pretty sure it didn’t sound good! A week later I was summoned to attend, having been told it was somewhere in the print shop, so I wandered down to the workshops with interest, albeit short lived! The job? Packing recycled ink cartridges into boxes. On this occasion though, I was not required, which suited me fine, and I marched straight back to the wing and the S.O. to find out what could be done. There was no way in hell I was going to sit in what amounted to a special needs workshop all day packing ink cartridges in boxes, when I could be continuing in my cell, on something which would be of benefit to me on my release! Where the fuck was the logic? The S.O. agreed but advised me that if I told the officer I didn’t want to work there on the first session I attended, they could remove me from the list and find me something more suitable.
Next day, I did just that, and was met with the typical “You have to work here, you can’t change you’re allocation for one month. If you don’t attend you’ll be given an IEP.” At this I saw red! How bloody ridiculous! I explained that I hadn’t applied for this job, that I didn’t want it, and that I had no intention of doing it, and further more that it was an insult to my intelligence and a slap in the face to all the work I had done on a voluntary basis for the prison in the past, and that if she didn’t do something about it, I would lodge a formal complaint about her. The IEP was fed under my door within half an hour of returning to my cell - The excuse? For being rude and abusive! So now it was abusive to stand up for one’s rights and complain about incompetent staff?
Back to the S.O I went at the first opportunity, only to be told there was nothing he could do. Once again I was being sent around and around in circles, with everyone passing the buck and refusing to put their name to anything. The IEP of course put paid to any chance I had of applying for enhanced status for the next three months, but given that I had only been back here for two weeks, it didn’t really make much difference, as I already had a three-month wait anyway, and two extra weeks wouldn’t exactly kill me! I was so bloody angry though at the injustice of it all that I resolved not to apply again anyway.
The officers were very good at recording everything on our files to cover their own arses, so they knew full well, that I had already been through the three-month waiting period for it on my first visit, and they also knew that I had been a model prisoner, so they should also have known that I wouldn’t have been ‘rude and abusive’ as she had so aggressively asserted. I filed an appeal against the I.E.P. with little hope of so much as an answer, but I figured it would be helpful to at least have a copy of it on record in my files should anything come up in the future.
The longer I had spent in prison the less trust I had for any of the staff, and in fact nowadays, every time I requested something or asked a question, I took the answers with a grain of salt. I wondered on numerous occasions whether I was becoming unnecessarily paranoid, but in each instance my hunch proved valid.
This week’s book club offering was called ‘It’s all in your head’ by Suzanne Edwards, which, as the name suggests, discussed cases she had seen as a doctor, where people had shown symptoms when there had been nothing organically wrong with them, and explored the phenomenon of psycho-somatic illness. I found the book fascinating, but it also made me think about my own situation, and I wondered whether I was doing the same on a smaller scale, with my own illnesses, and certainly with my fear of everything around me and how it all played into the hands of my perceived paranoia. I spent many hours thinking about this, but when I spoke to others, they also told similar stories to my experiences, particularly with the staff and the prison system in general.
The main problem I had in coping with it all, was that I just could not believe that any business could be so badly run. The unnecessary wastage was palpable, and the staff seemed to go out of their way to torment and provoke the inmates. It was almost as if they were doing it for sport. It had to be deliberate, because no-one, not even special needs employees could be so stupid and so inherently malicious and evil in their antics.
Since my arrival, I’d had a couple of, to me, fairly serious ailments, but each time I had discussed them with the doctor they had fallen on deaf ears. The first one was that whilst I’d been having my teeth renovated, The Dentist had found a couple of lumps on my throat which didn’t seem to be disappearing. At the time I had presumed that they might be something to do with the vast amounts of Crystal Meth that I had been consuming, at the peak of my drugs rampage, or that they may have occurred through dehydration, also from excessive drugs use, however with them, the fact remained that there was something physically wrong with me, something which apparently could be physically seen, and furthermore, something with which a raft of medical practitioners had deemed serious enough to warrant further exploratory procedures, and in fact they had been worried that they may well be cancerous.
This of course had caused me a great deal of worry, having already survived two previous bouts of cancer in other areas of my body, so I knew full well of the importance of catching these things early for the best possible prognosis. This thought process, I knew, was not paranoia, however the staff at HMP Thameside saw no problem whatsoever in playing Russian Roulette with my life, as each time the hospital had re-scheduled an appointment for me to have the scans, The prison omitted to transport me to the hospital for this to happen. This of course made me more and more anxious with every cancellation letter I received, but I was powerless to act, save to repeat the process by taking the letter to the officer on the wing, who would photocopy it and send it to heath-care, and assure me it would be re-booked and then the following month the whole procedure would repeat itself again.
The other issue I’d had was that a since I had been here, I had been struggling with horrendous excessive gas, and had developed trapped wind which was extremely painful, and kept me awake at night. I had spoken of this to the G.P. also, but it had been simply passed off as due to diet change, and he had assured me it would get better in time. I understood the rationale behind this theory, as the diet was indeed pretty horrendous, and I had been subjected to it for some six months now, so I was pretty certain that if it was going to get better, it would have done so by now. On top of this, I had long since tired of the greasy offerings, which left a hideous orange oil slick on the plate after each meal, so since my return from Maidstone, I had resolved only to order salads, which were an infinitely more healthy option, even allowing for the fact that they were exactly the same content every day, apart from the protein component, which varied between processed ham, processed turkey, cold roast beef slices, Tinned Tuna or pork pies. It was all pretty bland, but at least it didn’t make me feel like I had swallowed an oil refinery! I had been on this diet for some three weeks by this stage so surely if my problems were dietary related, they should be starting to show some improvement by now, but instead, I was sure they were getting worse! All I could do again, was continue to book appointments with the Doctor, and hope that eventually someone took me seriously, but with every rejection answer it made me more anxious.
Again, I was not alone in this either. For a start whenever anyone booked an appointment with the GP there was usually a waiting list of around four weeks. Not so great if you were gasping your last breath! Usually by the time you got to see the doctor, you were either dead or had recovered! Once you got into the system, the level of health-care was generally pretty good, however the hardest part was actually being seen.
I had been lucky that I had seen Jayne, the sexual health nurse from the start, and as I knew she was always available on a Tuesday, I had booked an appointment with her during my induction screening. A week later when I saw her, I told her of my fear, and she managed to circumvent the system, booking me an urgent appointment with the GP for the following week. She also booked me in for an appointment with the podiatrist because although my feet were less sore than they had been when I first arrived, I still had a rather nasty fungal infection on them I was keen to have cleared up!
Talk turned to the gay support group that had been set up in Belmarsh, of which she had been instrumental in instigating. She was keen to start a similar one here, and wondered whether I would help her with it. Although I had not generally made my sexuality public, I definitely hadn’t tried to hide it,and she felt that I could be a positive role model to others in the prison who were not as confident as me.
It was interesting that her perception of me was confident as I certainly didn’t feel that way, although to be fair, whether I was gay or not was the least of my worries, and I had taken the attitude on my arrival that having fought so hard to come out some twenty years earlier, I wasn’t about to crawl back into the closet in here, however she rightly reasoned that for the majority of the gay population in here, they were too frightened to mention their sexuality for fear of bullying or violence.
In this day and age it was horrific that this should be the case, however it was certain that one couldn’t rely on the officers whose job it was to keep anyone safe, so I tended to agree with her that it may help if there was a monthly forum where members of the LGBTQ community within the prison could gather to talk about things that were bothering them.
Jayne had also discussed the idea of a separate HIV discussion group, as there were apparently a number of Heterosexual guys who had been diagnosed with HIV since they had been in Prison, but this was a far more difficult situation to acknowledge or admit here than the mere fact of being gay. Ignorance from many within the community meant that to admit to being HIV positive would automatically mean to be assumed gay, and even though with modern advances in medicine, the prognosis was the same nowadays as someone without the virus, It was amazing how many people, particularly from African or Caribbean origin, regarded HIV as worse than leprosy, and more contagious, however we agreed that the first step should be to initiate the LGBTQ forum, and then we could look at starting something similar for HIV positive inmates, once this one was up and running. I promised to do what I could to help her with them both.
The biggest problem from the start, with both forums would be to overcome the fantastic occurrence of racism and minority discrimination amongst the staff within the prison, but as I’ve said before, prisons in Britain are merely a microcosm of British society in general, and even though the British are very vocal in seeming to do the right thing, and showing to the world how liberal they are and how accepting and tolerant, behind closed doors they are all in fact exactly the opposite, but just too weak to say what they really thought in public. This was was becoming increasingly evident the further into the ‘Brexit’ (I had come to hate that word!) debate we became embroiled as a nation.
Meanwhile, walking back from the library, late on a Wednesday afternoon, I looked up to find Louisa looming ever closer in front of me, calling out my name. “Do I look good?” she asked. How could answer that? She stood in front of me, wearing a black nylon turtle-neck sweater which had been stretched to almost breaking point over her ample bosom, accompanied by a shiny dark grey checked tweed-like mini skirt, revealing grubby grey colour opaque tights stretching down to black court shoes which her feet were bulging out of. Add to that a pale grey blue cardigan and she looked like a ship in full sail! “See, I don’t scrub up bad, do I” she answered her own question with a leery grin. Unusually for me, I found myself completely lost for words. I was not entirely sure that this new look was an improvement on the polyester slacks she normally poured herself into, but I held my tongue. “What’s the occasion?” I managed to blurt out. “Oh, I’ve just been for the interview for my position.” She answered. “I’ve been doing the job for four months now, and the bastards have made me interview for it again.” “How did it go?” “Not good, I think I might have fucked it up, but I’ll know in a week or so.”
I must admit to feeling a little sorry for her. They had offered her the position, dangling the carrot as it were, having given her the somewhat ridiculous title of “Acting Assistant Manager of Education” and then thrown her in at the deep end with absolutely no support whatsoever, then re-advertised the position, but at the same time I had first hand experience of her terrible teaching skills, so I was not surprised that she had found herself in this predicament. “Good Luck!” I replied, as I extricated myself and walked away.
Back in my cell,and with my first book finished and having started my second, I decided that even though I couldn’t have my job back in Imaging Software, now that I was ‘unemployed’, I might still be able to schedule a couple of sessions with which to complete my book covers, and Louisa might still be able to email them out to someone outside of the prison, as she had done with numerous students while I had worked for her in the past. After all, they were my intellectual property, so at the very least, she should be able to burn them to disc as she had promised months earlier, so I applied through the CMS, and sure enough, I was scheduled for an afternoon the following week.

Double Bubble

Double Bubble is the third book in The Chemsex Trilogy - a series of books written by Cameron Yorke about his experience with Chemsex, addiction, and imprisonment in the UK.

We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male. This is the 25th instalment in the serialisation. Go back to read earlier instalments.

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Arts & Culture

Photography that embraces naked men

“Stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet…”

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Arrested Movement by Anthony Patrick Manieri (image supplied)
Arrested Movement by Anthony Patrick Manieri (image supplied)

I caught up with photographer Anthony Patrick Manieri to talk about his ongoing series of work known as Arrested Movement.

Why do you think this project has captured the imagination of gay men around the world?

Because we’re all the same really, except we don’t all look alike. We usually just see what society deems to be the ‘perfect’ body types, flashed across TV and social media all the time.

This project encompasses a wide variety of men that are photographed equally and beautifully. I feel that the variety of men and body shapes being highlighted are recognisable to most men. We need to see diversity represented more in the media. That, and also the idea of male body positivity is refreshing in a world where the media seems to only push female body positivity. In this day and age, where depression and anxiety are extremely commonplace, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone in the struggle.

Why are men so keen to be photographed by you for this project?

Because we all want to fit in. We all want to be accepted, and here is a photographic series celebrating all men, all body types, and showcasing them artistically. I think men look at this and can relate and identify with some of the participating models, because they see themselves in the photos.

Most of the men you’ve photographed for this project appear to be first-time models, most likely being professionally photographed naked for the first time. Was that experience confronting for many of your models?

From what I’ve seen, and from what some of my assistants mentioned to me, for most of the men that participate there’s a definite shift in their overall energy levels from when they first arrive at the studio to when they’re done. One assistant asked me — “What is going on in the studio? Because when they arrive they’re quite scared, some even shake with nerves, but when they leave they glow and have this sense of empowerment.”

I make sure that the studio is private and a safe space for them to try and feel as comfortable as possible. I brief them, and coach them with suggestions of possible body movement. I also stop periodically to show the gentlemen their progression so far in the shoot.

Most men, after seeing themselves on the screen during the shoot, are delightfully impressed by how they look. They look at themselves in a positive light artistically, and not what they usually expect to see. I talk to them about how their hands are positioned, their facial expressions, pointing of their feet, and the overall lines of their bodies in the frame.

When you’re not quite happy with your body, putting yourself out there is brave. I watch some men almost lose themselves in the moment and in the music. I’m grateful that I get to witness such a personal moment of self-evolution. For others, they’re determined to take an amazing photo, so they push themselves so that their final image is strong and unique.

Should everyone tackle a naked photo shoot at some point in their lives?

I don’t know if that’s the answer. What people should do is take time to appreciate and accept themselves, to put themselves first. Fill their own cups before extinguishing their energy with others. Uniqueness is special. It’s okay to look different on the outside, because we’re all the same on the inside.

How is the project continuing to evolve?

I’m currently working on the design of the book — I’ll be releasing a Kickstarter page this Fall. I’m also looking at gallery spaces to have the first of many shows.

Are you still actively shooting guys for this project?

I’m still actively photographing men. If it were up to me, I’d be in a different city every weekend photographing.

Since I’m funding this myself, I need to take breaks between cities. Travelling, studio costs, and hotels add up quickly. There are a few cities in the US, Canada, and Mexico that I’d like to do before heading back to Europe. Beyond that, there’s talk of Australia, and possibly some cities in South America for 2019.

How can we help each other feel better about our bodies?

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I think we really need to be kind to ourselves, and each other — daily. Judgement and self-judgement is such a human flaw, it’s like a vibrational plague. We should be detaching ourselves from our smart-phones and social media regularly. Yoga and meditation are great ways to feel centred and grounded, to be in tune with our higher self. Eating right always makes for a happier body and mind. We need to encourage and validate each other to be the best we can be.

What do the images that you’ve captured through this project tell us about gay men and their relationship with their bodies?

Gay culture is meant to be inclusive, and we celebrate that inclusiveness. Though within the gay community, there’s such a divide between men. We’re labelled and put in categories, therefore creating almost a hierarchy of what’s acceptable.

Body-image and self-esteem start in your own mind, not on Instagram. We need to literally stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. We need to make mental health a priority in the gay community.

I hope that when people see this project, they know their worth, they know that they’re beautiful, and that it’s okay to be different.

Meet the participants

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