February 29th, 2012
06:36 PM ET

Q&A: ‘Gay in America’ photographer Scott Pasfield

By Nina Raja, CNN

(CNN) - New York photographer Scott Pasfield released his first digital photography project in the book, "Gay in America," last fall. With a mission to educate and destroy stereotypes about being gay, Pasfield spent three years traveling 52,000 miles across the nation to document the stories of 140 gay men.

"I hope that people see this project for what it truly is and know that it is perfectly normal to be gay," Pasfield said. "And it comes in many shapes, colors and sizes.  And that life would not be the same or nearly as beautiful without us."

Here's what Pasfield had to say about the project.

CNN: What inspired you to take on this project?

Pasfield: First and foremost I started this project to make a difference.  I wanted to make a book that I wished existed when I was a kid, one that I could learn about the realities of being gay and what my options were.   I wanted to reveal the truth about the wonderful gay men in this country and I wanted to share that knowledge with the world.  I think there is a tendency to unjustly stereotype gay men in a negative way that is perpetuated by many and that cycle really needs to stop.  I saw this book as an opportunity to do my part in taking my gifts and using them for some greater good.

CNN: What were the biggest challenges you faced as you embarked on this project? What surprised you during this journey?

Pasfield: As I started the project, getting people to believe in me was not difficult. I have a nice website, with lots of celebrity portraits, so most of these guys thought it a great opportunity to have a pro come take their picture.   I was amazed at how honest and beautiful everyone's emails were. I learned an incredible amount by just reading the thousands of replies.  And I chose men first and foremost based upon what they wrote.  I had always planned on editing the emails for the text to accompany the photos.  In that respect, the book wrote itself.  Secondly I considered other characteristics and tried my best to include as much variety as possible, based on age, race, occupation, religion and political opinion. I thought there should be as many different types of gay men as possible.

I find that the challenges on the project have only changed and actually grown for me since the book has been released.  I feel that the real work begins now, not only having to convince people of the books merits and worth, but to get its message out that being gay is normal, that you can live a happy fulfilled life in this country.  Not only gay boys and men will benefit from this book, but also their parents, family and friends.  I want them all to know that everything will be fine, that life can be wonderful and fulfilled and complete.

CNN: Do you have a favorite portrait from this compilation? Why?  

Pasfield: C'mon, really? That is easy. My favorite is the shot in the introduction of a handsome man named Nick Barletta with his partner - me.  This book would never have happened without his support. Thirteen years together and still madly in love. I must have done something good in another life to wind up with Nick.  That picture is also the last one I took for the book. That makes it pretty special, too.

CNN: How did you arrive at the title 'Gay in America?'  In what way do you identify with this theme?

Pasfield: The working title for me through the years was "Gay America."  That is how all of my files were labeled. When I made my sample book to shop around to publishers, I changed the name to "Scott Pasfield's Gay America" because it was never supposed to be the definitive collection on "Gay America," but rather, what I had found. In many ways, it was an experiment to see what would happen. It was my gay America.  When I did find Welcome Books, the title was shortened to “Gay in America” and I lost top billing.  After all, I was no Avedon, and to sell a book with an unknown author's name as the title didn't fly.  But I could live with the addition of "in," as it no longer was saying it was the collection of gay men. These men were simply "Gay In America."  I liked it.

It is a shame to me that there is no word exclusive to gay men, like “lesbian” is for homosexual women.   I used the word “gay” because it defines all homosexual men.  I didn't feel it necessary to change the working title of my files to "Gay Male America" just to appease others.  Nor did I for the book.   There are many sub-groups to the LGBTQ rainbow and I believe each should be studied independently and are worthy of their own volume.

CNN: How do you think this book will impact the way homosexuality is discussed culturally and politically?

Pasfield: I am hoping that it gets people talking in the first place.  Sparking debate of what it means to be gay is awesome.   Talk about 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' marriage equality and drag queens and cowboys.  Let's have a conversation about gay parenting, religion and politics, and how they fit into all of our lives.  I hope that parents can take comfort in this book and use it as a tool to open up that conversation with their kids.

CNN: Why did you decide to focus on gay men in America? Do you think you will ever continue this project for lesbians in America?

Pasfield: As an artist, screenwriter, novelist, or any creative person knows, starting with yourself is often a great way to conceive a project.  I used the internet to find my subjects in every conceivable way I could think of to reach people, but it worked because I was a gay man looking for gay men in online communities that were set up for us.  I soon realized the power of actually being part of the world I was trying to photograph.   I tried putting my ad up for lesbians in lesbian chat rooms, but if you want to see an ad flagged/deleted quickly, that's how you do it.  I would have had to masquerade or hire someone to connect me to women.  And that is something I did not want to do.

I would love nothing more than to do "Lesbian in America." I feel compelled to do it.  I am ready to step out of my world and at least try. I hope I can convince the same team to make that book.  There will always be people who will say that a gay man can't and shouldn't do that project, but I simply disagree with that now, after doing "Gay in America."  It's all about getting goosebumps from people's stories, making friends and taking great portraits.  Why not me?  I think it is very possible and I welcome the challenge.

CNN: Can you share the way you mapped out your journey across the nation?

Pasfield: I started close to home and plotted out trips based on who wrote [to me] and where they were.  I used my car and drove to most places, covering as much ground as quickly as possible. When I tackled the West Coast and Alaska, I found cheap flights and rental cars, and would drive like a mad man for two weeks. For Hawaii, I brought my partner and we combined the shoots with a vacation.  It was a great way to celebrate the last state for the book.

CNN: How did you find the diverse group of 140 men you decided to include? 

Pasfield: I always let the stories help me decide who to include and was looking for goosebumps through emotion.  I wanted them to be strong on their own.  I advertised pretty much online in every conceivable way I could think of and asked people to think of their friends if they wanted to forward the ad.  Once I started the ball rolling, I tried to vary the men as much as possible, in terms of their age, race, etc.  It only made sense to me.

CNN: Is there a story behind the cover of your book?

Pasfield: I had a couple of men in the services write to me about their desire to be a part of the project, but ultimately they changed their mind.  At the time, it would have involved coming out in a major way, if the book did get published, and none were ready for that.  I ended up meeting Dan Choi after I finished the initial 50 states and was in the process of looking for a publisher.  One thing led to another and I convinced him to take part.  We scheduled the shoot for a February day up in Cambridge, where he was staying. I googled the address and looked at the house in satellite view and saw the neighborhood.  I knew I would shoot him out on the street at that moment.  The neighborhood was very "all American" looking, historic and real at the same time.  And the publisher had asked for more winter shots.  I nailed it all in that one shot. And it only seemed right to put the soldier that fights for us all on the cover.

Posted by
Filed under: How we look • Sexual orientation • Where we live • Who we are
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Zosima

    Guys... question 8 explains the lack of lesbian photos. c:

    March 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zosima

      Err... 6, sorry. >w<

      March 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. torqueflite

    Yes, the pointed exclusion of GAY WOMEN is inexcusable.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. MAC

    Hey there are a lot of Gay women out there too! I am one of many. Where are our pictures? Some of us are even cute.

    March 5, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ashia

    Where are the women in these photos? Why are women often overlooked in these type of discussions?

    March 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. p41

    Looking at that photo, and all footage of "gays" makes me sick to my stomach. The vile, and putred behaviour by these barbaric people is troubling. I don't advocate the destruction of the people in this sick state of mind, body, and soul. I do know that their destruction will be at their own hands, but their souls will be consigned to hell, by GOD, if they don't repent and change from this sadistic, satanic behaviour.

    March 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • s

      Well then you shouldn't marry you sister

      March 5, 2012 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. .

    Gay in America. Go ph*k your boyfriend up the you know what.



    March 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • s

      You cousin called(wife) time to come home F*&% the cow

      March 5, 2012 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. Stuart

    I wish that some of these bible-thumpers were related to or actually knew someone that was gay. Maybe then they would see them as people who deserve the same rights as everyone else.

    March 3, 2012 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
    • sutt

      It is correct that in some cases, that is exactly the spark that starts the change. Unfortunately, in some cases, this only results in the gay person being abused emotionally, physically, spiritually, whatever. What really needs to happen is people need to grow the heck up and treat all humans with dignity and respect. People need to realize that everybody is different, but we're all humans and thus worthy of love, respect, and dignity. No, I have to disagree with you for the sake of the gay kids. I've seen it first and second hand. Although it helps sometimes, bible-thumpers don't need to be exposed to gays. They need to open their hearts and minds to things they don't know. They need to learn to think for themselves. They need to grow up. It's not just knowing somebody who is gay. It's being human and adult enough to know that it's not okay to treat them as sub-human.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      why don't you go and introduce yourself, Stewie?

      March 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. torqueflite

    Wonderful stories all, but the lack of 50% of the gay population in America serves to reinforce the stereotype here that only men are gay. Gay women deserve every bit the attention that gay men receive.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      Yup. And everyone gets a free turkey baster.

      March 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • torqueflite

        Yup...to stick in your...eye.

        March 5, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. AZ

    I feel miserable about the kids who are adopted by the gay parents... Gay parents.....>total loss....Adopted kids........Loss of generations
    huh.. May God give them guidance ...
    Man and woman make a family.
    man and man and woman and woman
    Make demons ...

    March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil Hansen

      You have no clue. I had 3 kids by a traditional 10 yr marriage. After the divorce I turned gay. I ended up raising the kids because my X decided single parenting was too much work. They are all grown now. They know I'm gay, they don't care. We are real close. They are doing fine. My sons run an internet phone service. My daughter is married to a good man and is about to have a baby. I'm going to be a gay grandpa. Lovin' it............

      March 2, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • kaden717

      You should be ashamed of yourself for saying such things. Gay people deserve the same right as straight people to have children. They can't help that they are gay and shouldn't have to change themselves because of an outdated religious system you abide by. If there was a great divine god, he was send you to hell for being closed minded.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
      • chris martin

        Wow, sending people to hell so soon? And , gay people "can't help being gay"....well, we try to help them by banning gay marriage.

        March 3, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
      • Ozymandias71

        Chris, why don't you help yourselves by doing something about the hetero divorce rate in this country? Oh yeah, it's easier to focus on someone else than your own issues.

        March 3, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
      • sutt

        chris- gay people don't need your help. They need you to help yourself. Grow up. Read some books. It may not be too late to save your brain.

        March 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
      • .

        So how are Steve and Bruce going to make a baby? By schmonking each other up the doodie hole?


        March 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      And yet the scientific studies – you know, the ones based on FACT and not ideology – show that the only problem that children of Gay and Lesbian parents are people like *you*. Nice being part of the problem, isn't it?

      March 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
      • sutt

        Well said. I can't believe how many times people have argued, "Think of the children! Do you really want them to grow up being teased???" What kind of dumbf___ thinks that's what gay parents want? NO! We want people like you to grow up and/or become extinct. Leave the kids alone. They'd be fine if they weren't teased by people like you.

        March 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stuart

      That is the most ignorant thing i have ever heard. Keep your religion out of MY life, and politics.

      March 3, 2012 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Humanist

      AZ, (what an appropriate username)… Funny, I can’t think of a single serial killer throughout history who was reared by a gay or lesbian couple. Yeah, you hetero’s clearly have it all figured out. HAhahahahaha… Maybe you should pull your head out of you AZ?

      March 3, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • sutt

      "I feel miserable. . ." I'm sure you are miserable with a poor excuse for a brain such as yours. You should read a book. Go to school. Grow up.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheDapt

      fat dumb hillbillies and fat dumb hillibillies make little fat dumb hillibillies

      March 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      what a sad and unhappy person you must be. maybe you should reread the bible and wonder exactly what it it you missed from it to categorize any loving family as "demons"...

      March 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pattysboi

      You are incorrect. My WIFE and I (we are a married lesbian FAMILY) have been happily MARRIED for almost four years. We consider ourselves a good, rock-solid, gay FAMILY. Get a grip and get counselling.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |


    March 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • torqueflite

      Do the education and get the spelling.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Yuki

    For a moment, I did a double-take and wondered if I was on the wrong site. Is this Fox news, or are people so hateful really drawn to things that are such an expression of love and happiness, that they have to try and tear it down with their bigotry?

    God almighty. Save us all from the hate.

    I'd love to read this book. I think it'll be pretty amazing. And for anyone who has a problem with it, you can just, you know, not read it? You don't have to be gay to let gay people live their lives happily. There seems to be this whole perception of, "If it's not the majority, then it is wrong, and therefore unnatural, and therefore must be shunned and hated and destroyed." That's a pretty sick mentality, I think. Just like all the arguments that were made to try to keep slaves in chains and women in the kitchen, arguments to try and keep gays in the closet are equally wrong.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Ellie

      There needs to be more people like you. You seem like your one of the only people here that are thinking straight.

      March 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hoosier Gene

    Reading some of these post I had to double check my browser address, I thought I was on Foxnews.com! The ones posting hateful and bigoted responses that is the web site where you need to be, you'll fit right in!

    Why does their love make you fear? Is it because you're jealous? Is because you have no love or compassion yourself?

    March 1, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. belky

    Holy elephant testicals Batman, being gay sounds like a real pain in the ass!

    March 1, 2012 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
    • sutt

      Being belky looks like being 8. No wait, that's clearly an unfair insult to 8-year-olds.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. WiscBadger

    How is this news? Who cares?

    March 1, 2012 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      Don't like it? Don't look at it. Problem solved.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • sutt

      If you don't care, why are you here? Crawl back into your hole, badger

      March 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LOW LYF


    March 1, 2012 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
    • belky


      March 1, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      Really? Then you must be doing it wrong!

      March 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Victor George

    America is the land of the free and the home of the brave NOT the land of asylum seeker and the home of hypocrites..definitely shouldn't be the home of gay & lesbian marriage gaining citizenship and grannies collecting social security...

    March 1, 2012 at 3:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Hehe

      Whatever you say God.

      March 1, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
    • convoluted

      and maybe not a place for victor...see how easy that was ...just disc you because of something stupid like your name, the man with two men names, that's a new trend, let's not like people with two male names...sound pretty limited george victor.

      March 1, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      victor george: gay citizens should have the same rights as straight citizens. including that to marry. if you don't like it, too bad.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Pattysboi

      So the day that YOU are left all alone because all of your children won't talk to you, and YOU deny social security will be pretty sad for you, I imagine. Relax, and get some help.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  17. Bill Brasky!!!!

    What do gay horses eat?


    March 1, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  18. chris martin

    For people who want to be "equal", why is it "gay" everything...why such labels are used by themselves is beyond me. Screams how much they want to be different...different rights maybe? Since the beginning of time, one man has overcome another...because some guy wrote all men were created equal, it has become a fantasy to all be equal at the same time. It doesn't work, it will never happen, and I wish people would recognize that instead of pushing their fantasies on other peoples lives. If we were all equal, then I want my check ! Thanks !

    March 1, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      So you think the American ideal of 'All men are created equal' is a failure? Wow, that's sad.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • sutt

      Is that an example of what dumb people call logic?

      March 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  19. chris martin

    For people who want "equality" they sure have a strange way of "saying" it. "Gay" marriage, "Gay" Rights, "Gay America" "Gay Contributions", "Gay Cafe" "Gay Bars" " Gay Community" .....We're sick of this being a larger issue than J-O-B-S in America...if the Gay community

    March 1, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • yalesouth

      you are a real nut. if the real issue is jobs, then do not waist time and effort creating a second class of citizens, give gays full rights, then you would not have anyone distracting you from the economy you are the one who created the issue.

      March 1, 2012 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
    • sutt

      The only thing of value in your words were these two gems: "We're sick" You are sick. Go seek treatment instead of trying to vomit your disease on everybody else.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |


    March 1, 2012 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71


      March 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Robert

    They complain about bullying against gays and want it to stop. Unfortunately, repairative therapy has proven to be a failure with bullies. They are just born that way. They are unable to exercise any freedom of choice in the matter. It is beyond their control. They cannot change.

    March 1, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Are we supposed to do nothing about it then? Just let the kids bully eachother. Let them destroy eachothers self worth and confidence...yeah.. Sounds like a GREAT idea.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • sutt

      Do you really feel better after making yourself known to be a fool?

      March 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  22. joey shabadoo

    good for them. one day, gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states.

    February 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      And then, hopefully, 25 years after that, marriage with animals will be legal in all 50 states. And then another 25 years before pedophilia becomes legal as well. Change takes so long.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
      • Rae

        Right Robert... because when you walk down the street and see an animal or a child you think to yourself, "sure, that's something/someone I would assume has the ability to enter into a legal contract in this country."

        Of course you don't – no one does. Yet if you met a man or woman, who were seemingly of sound mind, and you knew nothing about them other than that they were single and mentally competent, you WOULD assume that adult individual had the ability to enter into a legal contract.

        The only people buying the "pets & pedos" argument is other bigots like yourself. Fortunately, you're in the minority – and decreasing in numbers every single day. Bigotry and ignorance ARE a choice – it's a shame you continue to choose both.

        March 1, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
      • rick

        gee, robert, you equate two adults being married with beastiality and pedophilia? now, there's logic you can't argue with

        March 2, 2012 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
      • Ozymandias71

        So why is it always – and I mean *always* the fundie conservative crowd pushing for bestiality? We certainly aren't.

        March 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
      • sutt

        You're against gay people being treated with respect while being obsessed with bestiality and pedophilia. Surprise, surprise.

        March 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  23. msr23jka

    wow! this country is falling apart! I am sorry but this is just not right!

    February 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      then leave

      March 2, 2012 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
      • Teacherlady

        Rick. I think I love you.

        March 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  24. exfelony

    I like what he is doing but don't give me that gay men need their own anything. I am sick of the labels as it...but thats just me.

    February 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Dave

    H Says What?

    February 29, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Blondie

    Yeah, can't wait.

    February 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  27. M in Oz

    Bring on the bible thumpers dramatising that their children will be MADE to look at this book. They always are such FUN 😀

    February 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • joey shabadoo

      public school teachers will strap the children to their seats and force them to look at every picture. because thats what they do.

      February 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |