Niels Jansen will be the first transgender man to ever participate at Mr Gay Europe.
The 44 years old contestant will be representing Denmark and hopes that his participation will encourage other transgender man to enter the competition in the future.
Niels has been fighting for the rights of all transgender people in Denmark and now will take his message of kindness and acceptance to Poland.
How did you come across the Mr Gay Denmark competitions and what made you apply?
I’ve known about the competition for years, it used to part of Pride week.
Back then it was a very different concept, where it was all about giving the deletages shots and send them out on stage in swimwear.
There haven’t actually been a contest in the past couple of years, but they decided to reboot it this year with a new concept. They wanted to find a man that could be an ambassador for the entire community.
I’ve been an activist for years, so I thought that sounded good.
They also decided to let anyone that identified as a man compete. They couldn’t have excluded me anyway, I’m gay and have been legally male for a long time, but I thought it was a nice gesture.
But what really made me apply was there that there has never been a national Mr Gay winner ever, and I wanted to have a shot at being the first one.
What was the selection process like?
There were a lot of categories we had to compete in. It was a draining and emotional process for me.
The way I do activism, the only way that really works for me, is that I put my heart and soul into it. And it was hard to stand among cisgender men that were handsome and fit into the classical Mr Gay mold knowing, that if that was what the judges wanted, I never had a shot.
When people think of Mr Gay they usually don’t envision a man like me. It wasn’t just the trans thing. I’m a geeky introvert, I have mental health problems and nobody ever looks twice at me in a gay bar. Yet they saw what I was about and selected me.
What does it take to become Mr Gay Denmark?
I think you have to be a respected member of the community. And you need for people to believe in you. At least, I think that is why I won.
What changed in your life since you’ve won the competition?
I feel less lonely.
It feels so good to get validation from the gay male community, that normally doesn’t validate a man like me. It was a very moving experience.
It also felt very good to start working on my project for Mr Gay Europe.
The project is called Gay Shame and I interview men about how they have been hurt by other members of the LGBTQIA+ community and share their stories.
Having the opportunity to just sit down and have deep conversations about things that really matter is such a fulfilling experience. It heals me to know that I am not alone.
Since 2014, and thanks to activists like yourself, Denmark has been approving laws to protect transgender rights, like the removal of castration as a legal requirement for sex change and the removal “transsexualism” from the psychiatric diagnostic, and sparking dialogue all over Europe. Is the Danish society views on transgender people also changing or do you feel there is still a long way to go?
There is unfortunately a long way to go, still.
I get so angry that even though we removed the psychiatric diagnosis, nothing has changed. It’s still the same psychiatrists that asks us inappropriate questions about our sex lives that we need to talk to if we need medical treatment. They just call the diagnosis something else.
Look, what we wanted was to be removed from psychiatry and get diagnosed depending of what treatment we needed. We didn’t get that. We got a pat on the back, that’s all. We still don’t have access to proper care, and it is infuriating.
As far as the general population go, Danish newspapers publish opinion pieces on transgender issues without even listening to us or understanding the problem. Just recently with the whole Scarlett Johansen debacle, they absolutely refused to acknowledge that it is an insult to transgender men to let a woman play us is a movie.
Also, there is a very vocal group of TERF’s (trans exclusive radical feminists) that have plenty of access to the media, and will tell anyone that my transgender sisters are rapists. When London Pride was hijacked by some of the same people, we asked Copenhagen Pride to protect us from the same thing happening here, and when Copenhagen Pride backed us up in no uncertain terms, these TERFs went crazy. But we are ready to march in the pride parade, no matter what they try.
You’re the first transgender man to ever compete in Mr Gay Europe. Do you hope your participation will encourage other transgender man to participate in competitions like these?
I hope that I will encourage every single transperson, men, women and non-binary to live their dreams. To insist on taking up space in a world that is not giving us any space unless we take it. You’re not too old. It’s never too late. You are trans enough and man/woman/non-binary enough to do anything. This world was not made for us, so we have to claim it.
Nowadays it is extremely easy to criticise others from behind a screen specially on social media and dating apps . In your introduction you mention some of the less kind comments you receive. How do you deal with criticism?
A lot of transphobia is actually framed as “criticism”, and that I don’t respond to that at all. My existence is not a debate. I have a policy of not debating anything on Facebook or social media anymore, unless it is in closed groups with a strong moderation policy. I block a lot of people. I think my time is better spent having face-to-face conversations with people that matter. As a trans person, you have to protect yourself.
Next stop: Warsaw, Poland! What would you like to achieve at the Mr Gay Europe stage?
I hope to survive. That is a little bit of a joke, but also somewhat serious. I suffer from anxiety as many transpeople do, and being stressed and not getting enough sleep could have serious consequences for my mental health. So I hope to get trough it, and I will be proud of my accomplishments, no matter what. I hope to reach a lot of people and tell them, that yes, you can be transgender and gay, and that I belong on that stage just as much as anyone else.
Any message you would like to leave to our readers?
Check out my project and consider voting for me for Mr Gay Europe. And also, whatever you are going through, however you have been hurt, however dark things are, you are not alone. Know that you are beautiful and we need you in this world.
If you would like to vote for Niels you can do so on Mr Gay Europe’s page.
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Daddyhunt — the hunt continues
Exploring the dynamics of inter-generational dating and relationships, web-series Daddyhunt is back with a new series.
I caught up with Casey Crawford — General Manager of Daddyhunt and an Executive Producer of the series — for a behind-the-scenes look at Season 3.
Are you surprised by the success of the Daddyhunt series?
Daddyhunt was wonderfully surprised by the positive reaction to Season 1 of Daddyhunt: The Serial, especially the incredible amount of requests for more episodes. We credit that success with the fact that the show deals with real-world issues and challenges. We continually try to portray the dynamics of inter-generational relationships and other topics in authentic ways, and I think that resonates with our viewers.
The BHOC — Building Healthy Online Communities — partnership began with the second series of Daddyhunt, what was the audience response like to the incorporation of health messages in the series?
The BHOC partnership grew out of conversations that our CEO, Carl Sandler, had with Dan Wohlfeiler of BHOC. Carl and Dan both realised that a public-private partnership could reach the people that Dan’s organisation was targeting with their public health messages.
The audience response has been overwhelming positive. On YouTube alone, the Season 2 episodes and public services announcements have been viewed more than 8.8 million times. We’ve also received countless messages on our social media channels thanking us for incorporating health messages into the show and educating people about these important topics.
Season 3 of the series includes a more diverse cast. What was the casting process?
Dan and I started talking about what a Season 3 might look like right after releasing Episode 1 of Season 2. We knew that we wanted to reach a more diverse audience, and that meant including greater diversity in the cast. Once we figured out the story-line, the casting fell into place.
For example, viewers that watched Seasons 1 and Season 2 will remember AJ’s relationship with the two Antonios. We knew for Season 3 that we wanted to show Antonio and Antonio on the screen, and so crafted a way for that to happen with the story-line.
You’re tackling slightly more complicated health messages in season 3 — is that difficult from a creative perspective?
Any time you’re tackling complicated topics, it creates challenges in the creative process. We wanted to keep the series light and authentic and not come across as preachy, but we also wanted to educate people about important health issues facing our community. I’d like to think that we got the balance right.
Is the series an effective way to attract more users to the Daddyhunt app?
The series does attract more brand awareness for Daddyhunt, and we do experience an uptick in downloads of the app or joins via the website. Inter-generational relationships are becoming more common, and when you do a good job of portraying those relationships in an authentic way, people take notice.
Daddyhunt is a community where we want everyone to feel welcome regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or HIV status — we make that clear with the issues that we tackle in the series. It’s an effective tool for introducing people to Daddyhunt and encouraging them want to join the Daddyhunt community.
What do you hope that people feel when watching the Daddyhunt series?
Our goal is for people to come away from the show with a sense of hope. We’re living in challenging times. In the series, we see that all relationships go through ups and downs, but it’s how you learn and grow from the low moments that will make the relationship stronger in the end. So, ultimately, if people see that inter-generational relationships can work, and that HIV-positive and HIV-negative people can be in a relationship, we’ve accomplished some of our goals.
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