Hoxton man talks about the moment his mum discovered he is gay

Tonny A is featured in a photographic exhibition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender month in Hackney Museum.

A Hoxton man pictured in the exhibition talks about the moment his mother confronted him about his homosexuality - after she discovered a naked photo of him wearing angel wings while cleaning his flat.

Performance artist Tonny A, who grew up in France but moved to Hoxton six years ago, had always avoided discussing his homosexuality with his Venezuelan dad and French Caribbean mum.

“I grew up with a family of habits and traditions, where you kiss someone on the cheek because they are one of the family, but they wouldn’t tolerate that if it’s two guys doing the same thing,” said Tonny, 35.

“All these comments pile up, and it makes you feel quite uncomfortable when they assume you are going to be straight, and have kids, and get married and they put you in a box.

“You know it’s not going to be pretty when they find out.”

Tonny now feels relief that his mum knows and once she understood the postcard wasn’t pornographic, she just wanted to make sure Tonny was taking “precautions.”

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“I think she was being cautious about AIDS. I was so shocked she found out, and I wasn’t expecting her to want to talk about it and be very open and it felt quite overwhelming,” he said.

“But I’m more at peace with it now.”

Tonny has also had to overcome the way the gay community perceives him because of his disability.

He was born with short arms because his mother took the anti-sickness drug Thalidomide during her pregnancy, which is now known to cause birth abnormalities.

“I realised there is a lot of stigmatisation within the gay community because of your ethnic background, because you are foreign, because of the way you look because of your disability,” he said.

“In the gay community you have this idea of the beautiful body and it’s all about the image you project and I don’t fit into this category.

“I suppose that goes beyond being gay, but as soon as someone sees you as disabled you have this stereotype that goes with it, that you aren’t able to have sex, that you can’t have a normal life having relationships,” he said.

“If being gay is about being sexuality emancipated and being free, how someone who is disabled can experience that?”

Tonny was aware from the age of seven that there was something “odd” about himself and he often had crushes on guys.

“I felt really close to guys but not in a sort of “we are mates way,” there was something physical and emotional, whereas with girls it was clear they were just friends,” he explained.

“There were always ambiguities, but I couldn’t put a finger on it until I was 14 or 15 and I could say it’s because I’m gay.

“When I had to face it, I thought, “It’s not ideal, it’s actually not easy.””

Tonny’s picture appears in photographic exhibition Ethnic Minorities, Coming Out on display in Hackney Museum in Reading Lane, Hackney Central, until March 6.