Limit(less) Project: Gaylord

Limit(less) is a documentary photography project by Mikael Owunna exploring the visual aesthetics of LGBTQ African immigrants. 

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Gaylord: Gay Congolese (Shot in Sweden)

Q. What’s your name, country of origin, ethnicity, pronouns, and how do you identify in terms of your LGBTQ identity?

Gaylord. Congo -  Republic Democratic de Congo. Mougala and the other one on my father’s side is Moukongo. For my family and colleagues, it’s “il” (he), but with my other gay friends, it can be “she” or- (laughs) you understand? I’m gay. 

Q. How would you describe your style?

My style? I’m normal. Really for me, I’m just normal. Because when I was young, I imagine to have my own style. My unique style. My signature of my personality. Simple. It’s normal for me, but not for other people- I don’t know why (laughs). But for me it looks normal, it looks banal, it’s just a second face of my personality, because fashion is not true personality. Fashion- it is the other face. It’s my hobby.

Q. How do you think your style incorporates/blends elements of your African and LGBTQ identity?

No, my style just reflects who I am. I’m black, I’m proud to be black and all people see me that way. 

Q. Was there ever a time where you felt pushed away from your African or LGBTQ identities? If so, how did you overcome that personally?

No, I was born gay. The first time when you feel like that you feel like you’re alone in the world. I didn’t grow up in Africa, I grew up in Europe. At the beginning, I didn’t think it was normal because I didn’t think a man could be with another man. But it wasn’t because of culture or religion. My mother is really really- I never had this sentiment to be- they know but they never wanted to occupy my life.

I left my family when I was 18. Everyone knew I was gay. But when you are gay, I think you have to go out from the family to prove- to prove that you’re a man and to prove yourself, that you’re the winner. It’s very hard. When you tell your family the first 1 year, 2 years is hard and you have to prove that you’re independent. I wanted to go myself. It’s not because I’m gay or not, I wanted to go myself.

Q. How is your relationship with your family, and what does being “accepted” by your family look like for you?

First of all, in my family everyone learns to respect each other. And when I go out of my family house I protect my privacy first. I tell my aunt “hi aunt, hi brother.” But my bitches life? (laughs). My mom never asks me what I do, because I work and have normal life.

They know but they don’t want to talk about it because it’s love- they want to protect that. When I was young you’re with your family, your brother, your sisters. They would say “you will grow up to have a wife” and I always (laugh) said “I would never” and I was very girly (laugh).

I protect my family, you know, I show to be gay is not to be the shy of my family. You must respect. For example, with your cousin you must study good, have a job. When you have that they can forget that you are gay. Because your mom has to be proud of your life.

I didn’t grow up in an African community, I arrived in Europe at 3 years old and I went to school in different parts of France and there were no black people- only me- all the people were white. And after during holiday I can see my family. But not too much.

I want my family to be proud of me. To be proud of my life. Being gay- you don’t want to change in the eyes of your family.

I’m a very difficult person and when I want something or want to prove something, everyone must accept me as I am. I stay very quiet and respect, but if you don’t like I don’t care. I prefer to be alone, if you hate me it’s your problem.

Q. What would you have to say to people who say that being LGBTQ is “un-African”?

In Africa they see nothing because when you go to Africa when you are young and everytime you see maybe - inside your family- everytime you see 2 men everytime they go together, do everything together. They can have wife, but it exists very very long time. The Africans never accept that because it’s defile. But- I’m African, I’m proud gay African. When you’re gay and you go to Africa, you must protect yourself. Everywhere I go- I speak for myself - it’s like GAY. Africans… in French we would say bête- stupid.  In general, if they say that [being gay is] in Europe it’s only in Europe.

I had one friend who is Cameroonian and his mother went to Maribu -  where they do black magic- and different church because she wasn’t comfortable with me being gay. It’s stupid.

Q. How was participating in the Limit(less) shoot?

I enjoying. It was good, it was naturally. You do it very naturally and it was good. It’s very natural and I love natural relation and it’s very polite when you did that. I’m not frustrated. 

Q. What are you most excited about for Limit(less)?

It’s good for freedom. And I think African people they must look that. Because you have so many people suffering for that. And when you are parent, you prefer your children suffering over love because they have different sexual orientation? 

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