I was raised this way.
I was raised to believe everyone is the same. I learned from home that regardless of the outside, inside we are all the same. I guess being raised by immigrant parents, you do get a slightly different different view on life. Everything isn’t straight forward, and you learn a few things the hard way.
Most kids will experience being bullied. I too had a few kids coming after me. But I learned to let it wash over me and not to let it get to me. It didn’t take me long to figure out that those who bullied didn’t have it so good themselves. That on the inside they had to be pretty miserable and didn’t know any better how to let their frustrations out.
I also learned that it’s not just nationality that doesn’t matter, skin colour doesn’t either. I was raised in a pretty sheltered, little town in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Trust me, realising that was a huge deal. In my 20’s I was still pretty naive. I was living on my own for the first time and I was now in Oslo. I really didn’t have a clue about a lot of things. I don’t think I even realised what someone being gay was. I just hadn’t thought about it.
Enter Tore (Tore Aasheim, President of MGE). He headhunted me for a job (but that is a whole other story), and we’d been working together for a few months before the rumor-mill reached me. He was, gasp, gay! Oh the glee from those who told me. I thought about it for a minute, all right, so he’s gay. Cool. And that was that. It was back to business as usual. It just wasn’t a big deal, and when I felt comfortable enough to ask about something so personal, I talked to Tore about it. Being able to ask question when I’ve had them, and have them answered makes a difference. Even now I’ll be asking questions. I figure it’s better to ask than make some crazy shit up and believe it to be the truth.
After that a few years passed, and in 2004 I was thrown into the melee that is gay men, drama, queens and everything Mr Gay. Intimidating as hell, and scary! But I was naive no more. Things I’ve seen and heard would singe your eyebrows and burn your ears. I’ve been part of this circus on and off ever since, and a full time member of the team for five years now. And one question I get asked again and again, is why do you do this?
My answer hasn’t changed; I believe everyone is the same. We all love and we all hate, we all hurt and we cry, we feel joy and we laugh. We all want the same thing, to be treated the same and to be happy. From when I was a kid, through my teens, 20’s and 30’s I’ve learned one thing. We are the same. It doesn’t matter that we’re all different, because on the inside we’re all the same.
But it’s not your fight!
Isn’t it though? If I don’t fight for others, who will fight for me? I fight for our rights; mine, yours and everyone else’s. It’s not that long ago that men and women stood shoulder to shoulder and fought for women’s rights. The right to be in charge of your own body and person, the right to vote, the right to have a say. In many parts of the world, that fight is still going on. But I have those rights. Someone else fought so that I could take those rights for granted. So now I fight for LGBT, so that you one day may take those same rights for granted just as I do. It is my fight, because somewhere down the line I could lose my rights. Just look at how far Trump has made it on hate and fear. Look at how in USA, land of the great, they’re taking away women’s rights to their own body by making laws that forbid abortion. If it keeps up, women losing their rights isn’t too far fetched.
So is it not my fight? Why me? Who else? I don’t see anyone else lining up to do my job. Mr Gay Europe isn’t the biggest thing out there, we don’t have the biggest impact on the world – but we make a difference! It doesn’t matter how small a difference, we matter. Mr Gay Europe matters. And that has been my vision for the competition all along. To matter. To make a difference. I don’t get paid for the job I do, my payment is all the amazing people I meet along the way. The friends I’ve made. It’s the people who with their stories inspire me. There are days I just want to give up, there are days I’ve had it with the drama. But when the going gets tough, something always pops up in this crazy world of Mr Gay that makes me smile, and I know that it’s worth it. I’m fighting the good fight.
That’s why I do this. That’s why this is my fight.