Gay in America: A First-of-a-Kind Coffee Table Book

Gay in America
DADT activist Dan Choi poses on the cover of Gay in America

Article Posted on Seattle Gay News

Gay in America, the first photo book depicting the lives of average gay men across all 50 states and shot and assembled by Scott Pasfield, hits stores on September 27.

The book contains the stories of gay men, fathers, brothers, and friends. Pasfield shot over the course of three years and covers a myriad of issues ranging from family, children, marriage, ageism, racism, immigration, bullying, and most recently, DADT.

“About three years ago I started the project for mixed reasons. I had the time on my hands; the economy had slowed down, and I needed a personal project. I’ve always wanted to combine photography and travel. My dream job wouldn’t be handed to me. I needed to go out and work that out on my own. I had this idea to travel to every state and photograph gay men that were out and living their lives.”

Pasfield added that he, “wanted to try to get them to share their stories with me in hopes to make a photo book that I wish was around when I was a kid. When I had this idea, I realized that the internet would allow me to find these men in a timely fashion and also it would help me find men that were normally not in the spotlight, whereas I think previously finding these men would’ve been more of a challenge.”


A Trip Across America

Pasfield lived in NYC for 15 years. During that time, he has taken photographs for multiple magazines and TV stations.

“It seemed like a great goal to hit up every state and just make it happen, so I started to plan out little trips and try to cover as much ground as possible. Once I started there was no stopping me,” Pasfield said. “I was amazed at how much these men were able and willing to open up about their personal lives and stories to a complete stranger. It was an incredible leap of faith for them to share their stories and tell me why they thought they would be good for this project.

“Once the stories started to come in I tried to vary the different kinds of guys as much as possible regarding race, age, and occupation and try to show more the range of diversity within the gay community. I think that the strength of the project lies in revealing that gays are everywhere in our society living their lives. When people start to realize that we’re everywhere and share our stories and tell them about us. I think others will be more willing to openly accept us.”


Gay in America

A total of 105 photos taken appear in Gay in America.

“I did about 140 I’d say, but there were some photos that couldn’t be in the book when we reached the publishers. Others had the opportunity to back out of the book and did for various reasons. The publishers also took out about 20 shoots because of the flow of the book, which was hard. I wanted to include everybody but for many reasons, we just couldn’t.

“I knew this was my purpose in a way, and I can’t tell you how many people thought I was crazy,” Pasfield laughed. “It feels great to have the idea and go out and do it. It certainly feels great to get recognition and such kind words from others.”

A preview of photos from Gay in America got over 500,000 views on the media/entertainment mega-blog It was their most viewed post in June until it was bumped to #2 by Gawker’s same-sex marriage bill passage celebration slideshow.


Dan Choi and DADT

On the cover of the book is DADT repeal activist Dan Choi. The book is being released and distributed by Random House one week after DADT has been repealed.

“[Choi] was one of the latest guys that I photographed on the book. I had always envisioned having somebody in the military being a part of the project. Two or three guys that are in the armed forces wanted to be in the book, but ultimately changed their minds,” Pasfield said. “I had met Dan Choi at a film festival the year before and I told him about my project. I asked him to be a part of the project because it ended up being important that I had a big advocate in the book.”

Choi was unavailable for comment about his role in DADT and Gay in America.


Common Elements Across State Lines

Including Choi’s story, Pasfield noticed that all the stories seemed to have at least one common theme.

“These men have finally accepted themselves. That happened at a young age and very quickly for some. It took others time to ultimately reconcile those feelings of acceptance and how their community has responded to them. That’s one of the things that I’m trying to get out there: how we fit into society at large and that we are such a huge part of it. This book helps define that and reveal that to people. It’s so important for people to be out and to share their stories. It’s important to help people understand who we are. That’s what effects change more than anything,” Pasfield said.

“It reveals how important storytelling is and how it affects change. The thing that makes people that struggle with accepting homosexuality the most is whether or not they somebody who’s gay. The more that we can share who we are with other people the better. It helps us show that we’re not so different. I’m hoping that this book sheds a little light on that.”


The Tour

Pasfield is about to go on tour. For the next two months, he will be visiting nearly two dozen US cities to promote and present the book.

“It’s perfect for the coffee table. You can read little bits of it at a time. I’m hoping that even some straight people will read it whether they’re buying it for themselves or their gay brothers or fathers or sons or whoever and while they have it, read it a little. These books are for them to pick up as well,” Pasfield said.

“I would love to do more of this. When I was working on this, I thought about doing a Gay in Europe book. It would be fascinating to see all the different cultures and see how they accept homosexuality in their countries. I also, for entirely different reasons, would want to do a Lesbian in America book. That wasn’t possible for this project, but in the process of doing this book I’ve realized that there are sometimes more stereotypes with lesbians out there and that they’d probably want to share their stories with what it’s like to be a lesbian in America.”

For now, Pasfield is focusing on the distribution of his first photo book, Gay in America, and his upcoming tour.

“I hope that Gay in America makes a difference and gets into libraries. It’s a book that I wish I had around when I was a kid. Times are changing. I can’t wait to see where we are further on down the road and see what happens.”

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