MR GAY World 2012 wants to use his new international position to tell young people struggling with their sexuality not to be alone and scared for as long as he was.
Andreas Derleth, who likes to be known as Andy, was in Gisborne yesterday for his day job as operations project manager for Warehouse Stationery.
He took time to speak about his new role as ambassador for human rights and the gay community after winning the world title three weeks ago.
Mr Derleth wants people to know it is not bad to be gay. In fact, life could not be better for him.
He won the Mr Gay World title representing New Zealand against 21 men from around the world in the fourth annual event in Johannesburg, South Africa last month.
The prize package featured a $US25,000 travel allowance to take his positive message around the globe, a one-week trip back to South Africa, an opportunity to study at a South African college, a year’s supply of men’s underwear, plus other prizes.
The 33-year-old said he knew he was gay from 13 but did not come out until he was 22.
“I took a very long time to accept that I was gay and it was a very long, hard time for me.
He grew up in a small catholic town in Germany where being gay was “unthinkable”.
“I was petrified when I realised I was. It took me way too long to open up to someone because I thought everybody would abandon me. Eventually I did and it turned my life around.
“My advice would be don’t do the same and take as long as me, and be scared and alone for too long. Get in touch with a youth support group, maybe with O UT Line. If you need somebody to talk to there are people around.”
Mr Derleth immigrated to New Zealand in 2008.
He fell in love with the country and its people — one in particular, his partner Tom Linn, who he met soon after arriving.
The couple entered into a civil union on the easy-to-remember date of 11/11/11.
He hopes his world title will help people remember that “gay” is not a bad word and to help create a positive and accepting atmosphere in society.
“The main things I want to focus on are public education and information. It’s not bad to be gay.
“There are stereotypes out there that are just not true — it doesn’t mean that you get HIV positive, do drugs and only party.
“I think society is getting more accepting. Unfortunately there are still people out there who comment with hate but I think they’re the minority.”
His experience working for Warehouse Stationery is a good example of the support he has received.
“I was always out from the very beginning at work and it has never been a problem. On the contrary, it has been great. I have so much support and friends here and they even gave me an All Blacks shirt I was wearing as national costume in South Africa for the competition.”
Mr Derleth has worked at an Auckland branch of Warehouse Stationery for four years and the Gisborne store is its buddy shop, so he will be back every six months.
Source : http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/article/?id=27578
Picture by : Dave Thomas