‘My dad’s father was a prisoner in one of the Japanese internment camps in Indonesia during World War II. He never told my dad and uncles about the horrors he experienced and which haunted him, but anxiety always overshadowed our family life. I was quite shy as a kid and had trouble expressing myself, which left me feeling misunderstood. When I was twelve years old, my dad sunk into a deep depression that remained with him until he died. He became more and more afraid of life. He eventually lost his job. While my classmates got presents for Christmas and went on holidays in the summer, we just stayed home.

As a teenager, my brother and I found out where my dad hid his dirty magazines and videotapes. I had girlfriends at school, but I secretly loved fantasising about the few guys in my dad’s porn. When I eventually came out to my parents, my dad told me he was proud of who I was and that he would always fight for me. He didn’t get the chance. After a sickbed of eighteen months he died of lung cancer.

Image: Elvin Boer

One day, I met a man who couldn’t be more different to my dad or the other men in my family. He was ambitious, ready to conquer the world. He took me on exotic holidays, bought me designer clothes, and urged me to work harder. He also told me to lose weight. He would secretly take photos of my body and attach them to an e-mail to me that read: “Why do I have to look at this?”

 ‘When someone tells you you are ugly on a daily basis, you cannot connect with your body’

To get his validation I worked for more than ten hours a day, ate as little as possible, and learned to be ashamed of my looks. In his eyes, my round face and big body were signs of weakness and a lack of discipline. We didn’t have sex; when someone tells you that he thinks you are ugly every day, you cannot connect with your body.

Therapy rescued me. After four years of hell, I left him. I’m not blaming the victim, but the narratives of fear I was born into did make me an easy target for his bullying. Realising that I suffered from the same existential fear as my dad made me change my life. Our time here on earth is limited – my dad died before he was fifty years old – so you better start loving yourself and surround yourself with people who are worthy of your love.

Image: Elvin Boer

In some Asian cultures being big has connotations of masculinity and strength. Because of my chubby body and my beard, people call me a daddy. I like that. I’m with this gorgeous man at the moment who tells me I’m beautiful every single day.

At the last Folsom Street Fair, here in Berlin, I walked around bare chested in my leather harness. It felt liberating to show myself to the world, to express myself and to not be ashamed of who I am. I went to a bear party and danced and kissed the night away. For the first time in my life, I felt connected to other men. I think I have found my tribe.

‘I am with this gorgeous man at the moment who tells me I am beautiful every single day’

I owe it to my dad to unapologetically get the most out of life. To do the stuff he wasn’t able to do. He is part of me, he is always there. I travel and I try to connect with all sorts of men in emotional, intellectual, and sexual ways. If my dad – surrounded by all the wisdom present in heaven – could look down, he would probably say I am on the right track.’