Back in the 1980's, when I was still in high-school, I was still deep in the closet and struggling to understand my attraction towards men. Obviously, there wasn't nearly as much LGBT visibility out there in media, and positive role models were hard to find.
One amazing exception was a cartoon strip that ran on a local college newspaper. I forget the name but I always remembered its author, Ivan Velez, Jr.
The strip, which ran in Syracuse University's The Daily Orange, told the story of a group of college friends and their travails. It also depicted the struggles of a big, hulky, hairy college athlete in coming to terms with being gay.
It was one of the first times I ever saw a masculine man being depicted as being gay in a positive way and, to this day, I've remembered the strip as having a key role in helping me to feel comfortable in who I was.
Ivan went on to draw a groundbreaking series of comic books called "Tales of the Closet" and has gone on to host a series of panels by other gay comic book artists. Most recently, he's also organized a series of events at the NYC LGBT Community Center he's named "Oso Oro" in which bearish male models pose for aspiring cartoonists and artists (trust me, it's much funner than it sounds).
Right now, Ivan is engaged in a brand new effort called the "Eye Am A Man" project which he plans to launch next month. The project, which Ivan is launching as a multi-artist show, seeks to explore the connection of masculinity and sexual orientation as filtered through the interpretation of the artists' ethnic and gender identities.
For his part of the show, Ivan would like for people to submit photos or videos of themselves holding a sign that meets the guidelines on his site.
I am more than glad to spread the word and hope you will participate.