Every year it is the same. I mean, I ask myself the question and a few others do the same; Why on earth are you doing this; the Mr Gay Europe competition? God knows it is not a walk in the park. Not that I’m complaining. I mean, I meet a lot of fantastic people, both delegates and supporters, but this something I do besides my regular job and even if I have really good people working along with me, to plan and produce such an event really takes its toll on a guy.

From day one it has been a lot to think about. When you start working with such a colourful bouquet of producers and delegates from all over Europe, you are bound to come across some weed and thorns on the way. Not that that has been the rule; but I soon learned that each and every one has to be treated individually; delegate, producer and country: thus the slogan “Unity through diversity”.

As well as asking myself, I sometimes feel the urge to ask the producers and delegates why they are participating in Mr Gay Europe. I have a feeling I would get as many answers as there are producers and delegates to that question.

Mr Gay Europe has a vision and a mission statement and sometimes I just have to draw a line and put my foot down. Like the one time I found out that one of the producers was using the national competition as casting for porn movies. I don’t like to see our guys in that sort of movies, neither do I fancy producers who think that Mr Gay Europe delegates are perfect go-go dancers in bars and nightclubs.

Quite a few people think that I do this to get to know cute and hot guys. Okay, if that was the deal, then I respectfully would suggest trying Grindr, Scruff, GayRomeo or Gaydar instead; that would be much more convenient, quicker and a lot cheaper.

This year Mr Gay Europe took place in Sweden and Norway. We let the guys have a taste of urban Sweden and rural and rustic Norway; from the vibrant and wonderful city of Stockholm – yes, it is one of my favourite cities in the world – to the calm and tranquil village of Oppdal, high up in the mountains in Norway.

I feel confident that Mr Gay Europe finally has found its format. This year was a great “package deal”, with bits of everything and still enough time for the lads to bond and get to know each other, connect and build networks. The international finale of Mr Gay Europe needs to be of such a format that the different delegates from all the different countries of Europe can feel at home, at ease and welcome.

This year’s delegates were a group of incredible individuals. But what I want to share with all of you this time is not something that happened with any of the delegates, but with someone that showed up for one of our events.

One of the challenges for the delegates was to put up a fashion show at the local mall. They put a lot of effort into the challenge and the locals were really curious and excited about the show. As I came to the mall the evening of the show I caught a glimpse of a young, awkward guy in his late teens, he was standing to the side all by himself, looking a bit lost. As I was walking by him, I meet his eyes and he looked like he was about to leave. But something made him hesitate and as I passed him I nodded my head and smiled at him.

Someone saw me! I could read the anxiety in his eyes but I kept on smiling, trying to tell him “it is going to be all right,” before I had to run over to the others, the show was about to begin.

The show was really great! It was a lot of fun and it also had a very moving part with the guys thanking the local community for their warm welcome. And of course it had a great finale.

As the audience was cheering at the Mr Gay Europe delegates, I caught a glimpse of the young guy again. He was at the front of the audience; clapping, cheering and smiling. His whole attitude had changed, and for whatever reason I thought to myself, the kid really looks happy and proud.

And there you have it. If just one kid, boy or girl, somewhere in Europe, straightens up, relaxes and feels pride, takes a step forward into the crowd and feel they belong – well, that’s why I do this, because that one kid is worth it all.

Tore Aasheim
Co-founder and owner of Mr Gay Europe.