“..all the homosexual men I knew felt shame and guilt. They felt they were a lower class of humans, because they had no right to enjoy their sexuality.
“I thought it was not fair, and even though I had to hide my desires, or maybe because of that – I started to draw my fantasies about happy and free homosexual men. Soon I started to exaggerate their masculinity. I wanted to show that homosexuals are not just ‘damned faggots’ but that they can be as handsome, strong and masculine as any other men.”
Tom of Finland, Los Angeles, 1988
In 2020 a hundred years passed since Touko Laaksonen aka Tom of Finland was born. Tom of Finland was born a homosexual man into a world that saw him as sick and flawed. Still he could imagine and draw a world where homosexual men were proud, masculine, sexual and free.
In 2021 fifty years have passed since homosexuality was decriminalized in Finland. During his life Tom of Finland saw the world he drew become reality. Tom of Finland inspired the freedom fighters with his art and his influence in achieving equality for homosexuals cannot be underestimated.
The fight for freedom is not over. As long as there is discrimination and inequality, work and influence is needed. With our artwork Finding Tom we continue in his footsteps and aspire to inspire new freedom fighters and to act for those who need it right now. This story is about homosexual men in Helsinki, but the journey from oppression and persecution to equality and acceptance is universal.
The story of homosexual men in Helsinki
Finding Tom presents a piece of minority history. We have found stories of homosexual men in Helsinki from the time of Tom of Finland through research and interviews and use them as a part of the ar work.
On the spectrum of gender and sexuality
As creators we know that gender and sexuality are not black and white, but have all shades of grey and even more. This story however is about Finnish, homosexual men in Helsinki from the 40’s to the 70’s. This art work depicts the story of a very specific group of people.
During the time of the worst persecution homosexuality was not an identity, but a serious illness and disability that made a man weak and less valuable. Homosexual acts were criminal and led to imprisonment and penalties. To understand this experience we need a more narrow viewpoint than our current understanding of sexuality and gender. We have to approach oppression through those who had no other option. This is why all the character in the story are homosexual men.
Even though we define the experience of Finding Tom rigidly, we do not restrict our participants. Every adult is welcome to take part in this story regardless of their gender or sexual identity. Anyone can find Tom.