The importance of gay friends

Alex, one of the fabulous people I met in Israel.

Alex, one of the fabulous people I met in Israel.

In the beginning of June I did a week long press trip to Israel. I was there together with a big group of gay journalists from all over the world. We were at the Pride parade, visited a youth LGBTQIA center, went to a water park and many other things. For the first time in a long time, I felt belonging, something I'd been missing for so long. 

As a minority, we need community. It doesn't matter which minority you belong to, it's always going to be true. It’s the same principle as with representation. I'm constantly looking for gay characters in the popular culture I consume (but let’s save that subject for another blog post). And I'm missing community where I live now. So I think back on my week in Israel, together with 15-or-so gay guys. I can’t say I’ve ever been in such a large group of gays before. A completely new setting for me. And what I felt was a sense of community with shared experiences and emotions.  

In our last dinner together, we talked a lot about gay rights, such as adoption, marriage and other things. Suddenly I got the question ”What is the gay scene like in Sweden?” and I was at a loss for words. I stumbled and didn’t say much, because there frankly isn’t much to say. Thank heavens the subject changed and we moved on to something else. But this tiny exchange stuck with me. And it relates to so many things I’ve thought about for years now. The sum of it is that being gay in Sweden is boring! I have almost no gay friends here. How do you even meet them when there are no venues for gays to hang out? Sure, there might be a night club in Malmö, a couple of bars in Stockholm and so on. But those are for meeting random people and ultimately having sex. They're not about meeting new friends. Same thing goes for Grindr. It's a huge struggle finding friends on an app where everyone else is looking for sex. Although I've actually found most of my gay friends on Grindr, it's not the ideal place to go. 

Finding new friends in general is no easy task. It might come down to the fact that most Swedes are quite happy and content with what they’ve got. Most people don’t seem to want or need any new friends. A recent study actually confirmed it gets increasingly difficult to make and maintain new friendships after the age of 25. I'm not surprised. To you who feel content and happy with what you've got, I congratulate you. You’ve won in the game we call life. I’ve never felt like a winner in that sense. Sure, I have my gay friends in Stockholm that I meet up with when I have the chance, and I love them very much. But out of the people I hang out with on a regular basis nowadays, how many are gay? Far too few.

Why is it important that I have more gay friends? you might ask. Well, connection is very important. We connect differently with different people, based on our needs and experiences. And for you to connect to someone, you should feel understood. We all want to belong and relate to each other, that's normal. But there is one thing that I'm pretty sure straight people will never be able to understand – the act of coming out. And that's one of the reasons why I continue to look for more gay friends. 

I came out when I was a teenager, around 15-16 years old. It was a tough and life changing experience that I’ll never forget. I won’t go into details right now, but everything went fine. I’m privileged to live in Sweden, where gays are widely accepted. Our rights are pretty great too. But it does take a lot of courage to come out. And even though I’ve been out for 15 years (half of my life), I still have to come out every time I meet a new person. When I talk about my husband to a new person, I have to come out. Every time someone asks me about my love life. And every time I do it, my heart skips a beat. Every single time. Straight people have never felt that, nor will they ever have to. They will never understand that intense feeling of utter dread, even if it might only last for the duration of a heartbeat. And I'm happy for them, because no one should ever have to feel that. But this fact creates a kind of division, and the connection between us is partly lost. 

I don’t mean to say I don’t like my straight friends. I love them and I consider many of them family. But the gay component is missing sometimes. And it’s something that can not be replaced. 

Many of the gays I meet also crave more gay friendships. Most of them mainly have straight friends, and the gay people they have met have either been one night stands or relationships. And then they don’t meet them again. So what do we do to meet friends within the gay community? Especially when we're in a city or country that doesn't have millions and millions of people. I am asking these questions because I don't have the answer. 

And bear with me please. I'm not finished. This blog post has taken me months to write, and I'm still thinking about it every day. I'll be writing follow-ups to this with more thoughts, so hold tight and join me on the quest for community. 

Recommended viewing: Nanette, a stand-up special from Hannah Gadsby, available on Netflix.

I am not an influencer

I’m pretty sure most of you have noticed I’m not posting as frequently on my personal Instagram account @olle_e anymore. For the past two years, I’ve become a so called “micro influencer” and all of what that entails. Feed curation. Fresh fashion. Free products. Holiday pictures forever. Perfect meals and flatlays. Legs for days. But it’s definitely not as glamorous and luxurious as many seem to think. And most important of all, it doesn’t feel like me.

It all started when I moved to Brazil. There, Instagram was a place for me to find friends that shared my interest in photography. I met so many people who shot interesting and creative stuff for their accounts. I was mesmerized and I felt like I had found my place. Many of my new friends had only a couple of hundred followers, and I think I had around 1k back then. As we hung out, created hashtags and photo projects, and shot new fun photos every week, those numbers quickly began to rise for all of us. By the end of my year in São Paulo, I reached 10k. 

Companies started getting in touch, wanting me to shoot and post photos of their products. Obviously, I was quite happy getting that attention, and getting products for posts. Many of the products were things I wanted or needed anyway. But soon, making my feed attractive for companies and followers became a full time job. I worried about things such as:

  • If my next post can get more likes than the last one
  • If the company will approve of my aesthetic vision of their product
  • If I could post a picture with the same t-shirt for a second or third time, or if that would be too basic...

I had a lot of products and companies wanting my attention. My worries and the creative stress of having to constantly come up with new ideas for companies could quickly be seen in my feed. The quality of my content decreased and, as a result, the engagement and likes also dropped at a pretty fast pace. My inbox was full of emails from upset ‘Social Media Coordinators,’ asking when I’d post a picture with their watch, or if I’d received that perfume they’d sent me 6 weeks earlier.

Who was I doing all of this for? Sure, about 1 out of 5 companies paid a small amount to hire me, and that’s part of what I lived off for a while. But I also paid a high price. I compromised my integrity, my creativity, my time and the interest my followers had in me. 

Nothing on my account was giving me inspiration, joy or fulfilment. And although I was still using Instagram a lot, I simply stopped posting for weeks at a time. And this went on for months, until I realized I have to stop working with products that sell an idea of an unobtainable and unrealistic lifestyle.

I am not writing this to challenge people who are influencers or who aspire to be. I’m sharing a personal crisis that has led me to question myself and the use of my voice on the platform. All of these thoughts have been going around and around in my head for months. I haven’t been able to put anything into words until now.  

So I’ll try to revamp my Instagram account. My goal is to get back to basics and reconnect with what’s important to me. Apart from sharing photos of things I truly enjoy, I would also like to post about subjects that I’ve become more interested in for the past year or two, like the LGBTQ+ community and body ideals. I’m hoping I can post more life and truth, and if any brands appear, they’ll be brands with values that I identify myself with. I need to embark on this journey of self therapy or whatever you want to call it, and hopefully people will be able to relate.

It’s time to get real. 

Older, but none the wiser


Today is my 30th birthday. I thought my life would be different somehow. That old cliché of having it all. That old story of figuring things out. Having a steady income. Owning your own apartment/house. Kids. A dog. You name it, I thought I’d have it. 

Yes, I’m happily married and I couldn’t live without my amazing husband by my side. But do I have any of those other things? Not really. I don’t want to complain, I’m quite happy where I am at the moment. I just expected to have more, to be more and to feel more. 

And one thing I really thought I would be able to do when I turn 30 is have a big party. Maybe I never really dreamed of doing that, but it’s something I thought I would do, just because it’s the big three-O. But after 9 months in Malmö, I don’t have a big enough group of friends to have a party at all. Don’t get me wrong, the few people I know in Malmö are amazing, but naturally I also miss my older friends from Stockholm. Those people are part of my family, they are the people I knew as I became an adult. They were with me through hardships and happy moments. And so I expected to celebrate my 30th together with them. Stockholm was my home for so many years after all. And it still feels like home, even if it might take a while before I return to live there again, if ever. 

So, since there won’t be a party, Vini and I are going to Malta today. And we’ll be there over the weekend to explore and celebrate my birthday, just us. We’ve never been, and I’ve been dying to go! I’ve decided I won’t open Facebook from now until Monday, when we get back. So thanks in advance to everyone who wishes me a happy birthday this Friday, I won’t be replying but know I’ll see your messages at some point. I might however, open Instagram and post a photo or two. It’ll be hard not to! ;)