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.
For the first time, women are joining the U.S. military's elite commando units. They're still not allowed to serve in front-line combat units, but they can go into secured compounds in Afghanistan and help villagers after raids. Their role is critical: They're providing help for Afghan women, and searching them for weapons - something male soldiers struggle to do. The training is rigorous, and the troops are determined. "It's being sort of acknowledged that women can operate at this level," Army Staff Sgt. Danielle Bayer said.