The 20 Queer Qs series seeks to capture LGBTQ+ individuals (and allies) in a moment of authenticity. We get to know the subjects, what makes them who they are, and what they value.
These intimate conversations aim to leave you, the reader, feeling like you just gained a new friend or a new perspective.
This month, get to know Jeffrey Gerson, who is a San Francisco based photographer and storyteller who also does amazing things as the Product Marketing Manager for Instagram. Learn about his thoughts on LGBTQ+ media representation, values he looks for in an ideal partner, what pride means to him, his advice for LGBTQ+ youth, and more.
Name: Jeffrey Gerson
Preferred Pronouns: He/Him
Sexually Identifies As: Gay Male
- What do you love about the LGBTQ+ community? I love that it is a community. I think the most wonderful part is that you have these wonderful groups of people who were brought together in a way that gives you something in common. It gives you some form of common ground and solidarity.
- What are your thoughts on PrEP? I think anything that creates more conversation around HIV awareness is a very valuable thing to have. Watching the conversations that have happened around PrEP have been extremely inspiring because I think a lot of people are talking a lot more openly about HIV again. Not that it’s something that our community forgot about, but I think it’s good. I’m also concerned with things that have happened with the patent around PrEP and access to it.
- What are your thoughts on dating in the LGBTQ+ community? It is a bit different. I feel like we don't necessarily have the luxury of being able to date anywhere. Not every man you bump into is going to be gay and available so we have fewer bars, fewer places. I think that in the straight world, you have places, and then places you go to date. For us, the world that belongs to us is more condensed. A lot of times things can get mixed up and that makes it more difficult. I think the queer population are digital natives when it comes to dating. We do so much more with dating apps and in tech and sort of rely on it too which makes it interesting and difficult in its own ways.
- Do you think it’s hard to make queer friends? I’ve been lucky enough that it’s been easy to find a queer network wherever I’ve been for the most part. I think from there, it’s a matter of who are the people who you click with. I think there’s a point where you come to realize, “Oh I don’t have to be best friends with you just because we are both queer.” Although, when you start out it can feel that way, and then from that, moving to, “Yes these are my friends in my queer community.” Friends aren’t fundamentally something you stumble upon or that happen to you. Friends are something you invest in. So I think it’s finding the people you click with, who you want to have in your life, and investing in those friendships and relationships, and you hope those people invest equally back into you, you invest that time together and that’s what friendship is. Are you showing up? Are you giving them your time? Are you genuinely concerned about their feelings, who they are, what their dreams are, what they’re pursuing? I don’t know if it’s a hard or rare thing. It’s just a willingness to put the work in and invest in the people around you.
- What does Pride mean to you? Pride is about community and opportunity. Pride is not about a giant parade and a rainbow flag. I think it’s about community because Pride as a cultural moment comes once a year and I think you have this one fundamental month where you do start thinking much more about your identity, who is in your life, who is queer, and how you get those relationships together. I think it also opens up a lot of conversations about your identity and about your relationships with those people. So today even on my trip to New York, a friend of mine hosted a small family dinner. It was a cross of different experiences and seeing where things overlap and where they don’t. That, for me, where you’re able to share your experiences authentically and have them reflected back to you in open dialogue, is the best thing that can come from Pride. I think honestly the opportunity part of Pride is that if you are a business or corporation and you do see an opportunity, it is one to lose. One of the things I hope businesses I hope are waking up to is that fundamentally, it’s not about, “Oh we put a rainbow on something, look how visible we are!” It’s cool, but how could you have used that funding to invest in the queer community? What did you do? How did you give back? How did you actually invest resources in our community that makes it more successful and sustainable?
- Do you think LGBTQ+ have it easier? It gets better, does it get easier? It’s apples and oranges. I think there’s a fundamental disconnect in the way it’s often compared. Because as older generations, we tend to reductively assume yes, there is much more representation and acceptance for white gay men in America, but I think we’re in this interesting spot now when those were partially our issues and issues for the generation before us. But the generation that is currently leading and coming to the floor is leading the charge for queer people of color, trans issues, intersex issues, and I think it would be ridiculous to belittle their experience like it’s easier for them when they're tackling issues that don’t have that representation always. Once you get into the world, and as these people attempt to advocate for or create space for these identities, they are often reporting into generations of people who are stuck into their own issues and don’t pave the way for them to do so. They’re very inspiring.
- What’s advice you have for LGBTQ+ youth? Just always remember there’s strength in community and you should never be afraid to reach out to someone who you think is doing something really cool, who really inspires you, who you consider a role model. And when you reach out, if you like what they’re doing, ask how you can help because people are always looking for help, especially in our community and the more we can help each other, the better.
- Do you believe in love? Yes! Absolutely, I believe in love in all its forms. It’s friends, family, romance, desire, there’s so many different types of love that we tend to discount the power of love by trying to paint it into a single definition, and it often becomes the hardest to find when we’re surrounded by the rest of it.
- What are values that you look for in an ideal partner? The most important ones, the balance that I always look for is a combination of passion and curiosity. Someone who’s passionate about something, anything, but is also curious enough about the rest of the world and what else is happening around them. You very easily can find on or the other.
- Fill in the Blank: Drag Queens are _______. Inspiring.
- Describe what being queer is like in a couple of words. The best thing that ever happened to me.
- Use 3-5 words to describe your coming out experience? Somehow surprisingly lucky.
- How do you feel about LGBTQ+representation in media? Representation is increasing and that’s a good thing. However, it’s not increasing equally. I wish that for every Call Me By Your Name, we had a Moonlight, but that’s not the case. There are things that I am inspired by and that are doing well and others maybe were a bit more complex. Mass media representation has a huge effect because that’s going into the living room of a scared teenager who’s never seen anyone in the LGBTQ+ community like that. But one of the things I find a bit more concerning, is that you have increasing representation, but it’s not people who are always queer. I thought Call Me By Your Name was a stunning film, but there was no reason not to have cast any queer actors in that film and the same thing goes for Love, Simon. Fortunately, Blue who was played by Keiynan Lonsdale is doing great things with his queerness and taking charge of that in a wonderful way. It should not be on the actor, it should be on the industry to do a better job. This is something we can learn from that’s happening in African American cinema like Black Panther. Where you are hiring people from your population to portray and tell their own stories. Which is why I’m floored that we have something like POSE for the first time. The genius of POSE is that takes the mainstream popularity of RuPaul's Drag Race which has become so popular to the point where people forget where these terms come from, along with this crazy 80s zeitgeist where the 80s are coming back in a great way, and it brings them together to bring you right back to Paris is Burning. It reminds you where all of it came from and in doing so, has invested all of its money in hiring a massive cast of trans people of color for the first time, it’s unprecedented. I am so deeply inspired by it but still so angry that we are lauding them for doing the right thing when that should be the standard.
- Is there a LGBTQ+ TV show or movie that has had a great impact on you? Probably Paris is Burning. Which feels like a strange thing to say because I’m not part of that community on so many levels, but I’ve always been inspired by the ways Jennie Livingston, as a documentary filmmaker, basically went in and used her position as a filmmaker in New York to open up space for these people to tell their stories, share their world, and look at what it’s led to. I think about Paris is Burning a lot.
- Fill in the Blank: When you think of comfort you think of _________. Cool breeze on a warm day and the sound of wind chimes.
- What do you feel most insecure about? That I’m not doing enough, which is interesting because most of my friends would say that I am the person they know who is doing the most. I feel like if you’re able to identify the set of skills you have, you have a responsibility to put them to good use.
- What is the title of the current chapter of your life? In Which New Opportunities Unfold.
- What song makes you feel the most confident, makes you feel better about yourself? "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons. I especially love the version they do with K.Flay.
- Who is someone in your life who gets you? I’m lucky enough to have three wonderful best friends. I think they’re my people.
- What quality have you gained in your experience a gay man? Perspective. I think it gives you so much perspective and I think you understand the world in a very different and valuable way. You understand the reason things like representation and visibility matter. You understand things like privilege and if you tap into it, and are aware of it enough, you understand the value of community. It gives you a great amount of empathy and I think it also to me, gives you a sense of responsibility as well.