Coming out is powerful. The Travelin Bum is an Instagram account that shares coming out stories with heart, and yes, a bit of bum as well!
The coming out experience is both unique and universal at the same time. It’s unique simply for the fact that we are all unique individuals. There’s no one else like us, who feels, thinks, experiences life the way that we do. The way we feel and experience coming out is not an experience anyone else will have.
At the same time though, there is some degree of universality about the coming out experience. Feelings of fear, dread, anxiety, depression – most gay people feel some, all or more of these feelings.
Either way – coming out is incredibly important.
It used to be that coming out meant telling those people in your life closest to you – family, friends and anyone else who you felt comfortable with and wanted to let know.
Social media has transformed that. These days, we can come out to the world in a tweet, YouTube video or Instagram post.
Enter: The Travelin Bum.
The Travelin Bum has become a viral sensation in 2017, amassing over 56K+ followers in under a year, and being featured in a number of publications including the Huffington Post, Elite Daily and New Now Next.
Created by New Yorker Jeffrey Perla, the account is a global platform for individuals to openly and proudly share their coming out stories in exotic destinations – all while only wearing their birthday suit. Given Instagram’s community guidelines, this means the photos are of people’s bums, hence the name!
The Travelin Bum started out as a fun, therapeutic, and visual outlet between friends. The first post was actually by Jeffrey himself. He decided to remain anonymous in order to effectively get his message across. His goal? To reach as many people as possible and allow them the strength and knowledge to understand who they are as a homosexual.
Within a week (and a lot of hashtags), people from all over the word began praising him for including ALL members of the LGBTQ community and wanting to share their stories.
The ethos behind the account is that by having people share their story, strip off their clothes and pose in a public environment, they learn to love themselves – no matter their shape or size – and feel a part of a community that believes love conquers all.
“I struggled deeply with my sexuality, so deeply that it began to affect every part of my life. I wasn’t being true to myself, I wasn’t being true to the people who loved me, and instead of maturing with age, I was actually hurting myself,” says Jeffrey. “It wasn’t until I was on vacation, in complete relaxation and serenity, that I realised I no longer wanted to live a lie.”
The Travelin Bum is a hugely popular with followers from all over the world. One of the things I really like about it is that it’s one of the few places online/social media, that truly fosters a safe, supportive and positive environment. I guess that’s a big part of its appeal, and it’s a great thing to see.
In addition to exploding follower numbers, The Travelin Bum receives on average 100-150 direct message per week from people all over the world.
The stories that ultimately get shared are ones that really embrace The Travelin Bum’s message: someone who has overcome their demons and is now finally living in their
My 7 favourite Travelin Bum coming out stories
At the time of writing this article, The Travelin Bum is approaching 300 posts. I originally thought I’d include 2 or 3 coming out stories that I really liked, as a way of giving you an idea of what to expect. Then it became my top 5, and now it’s my top 7. It’s really just too hard to choose.
Yes, the images are nice to look at. But it’s once you start reading the accompanying story that you really get drawn into these people’s lives and experiences.
I was reading words that felt like they were describing me and my own experience of coming out. Or I was learning new things and getting an appreciation for the struggles and obstacles other guys have gone through and survived.
It’s hard to narrow it down to just 7, but here are just some of my own personal favourite posts.
When I was 22, I became bedridden for months. I lost my job, my girlfriend, failed my college classes and tried killing myself, which led me to being institutionalized in a home. I was released after a week and was re-institutionalized where I underwent electroshock therapy.
I finished college, got into law school, tried killing myself, finished law school, became bedridden. I was forced to dance on the weekend to make a living since I was too incapacitated to practice law. I lived out of my car for 6 months. Got engaged, lost my engagement. Became addicted to prescription drugs.
Throughout all of this turmoil I had been looking for happiness in all the wrong places; women, money, achievement.
It wasn’t until I quit looking for happiness in other places and instead began confronting and accepting my disease, the real happiness slowly began to settle in.
Love yourself no matter if you’re small, big, gay, straight, or mentally ill. Realise the enemy is your own brain. That the lies it tells you are just that – lies. And that freedom awaits you the moment you stop believing those lies.
If I can get through all of this than their is nothing you can’t overcome, you are stronger than you think you are
I think it can be difficult being a visible minority in the gay community. And even though my general “look” is fairly atypical for an Asian male – heavy, muscular build and I can grow a fairly bushy beard – I haven’t been immune to other people’s stereotypes and casual racism.
It used to bug me much more when guys would use the “no Asians” line because of whatever weird preconceptions they had about me or my sexual preferences but I’ve since learned to keep it in perspective: I’m a sane, sorted guy who lives and works in one of the best cities in the world…and can make a mean-ass jar of homemade spicy kimchi.
To be honest, it’s their loss, actually. For all my gaysian (and visible minority) bromos out there going through the same issue: don’t let other people’s bad energy, ignorance or hang-ups get to you.
Being sexy and interesting is really about being confident in yourself and your skin.
Some people travel for fun, some people travel for their whole lives. Some people travel in search of themselves, new souls, or to see new things.
I met Mike 3 years ago while I was “finding myself” in Key West. I saw him laying on the beach which led us to being high in a hot tub. We stayed in touch and I promised him I would make a trip to visit Zurich.
I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to travel and see old friends and make new ones along the way. My trip to Zurich taught me that traveling isn’t about trying to escape your current life it’s about making sure life doesn’t escape you.
I was born in Brazil but have been living abroad for 15 years. Spain, France and now the US. In a world where we are bombarded with “things you need”, endless advertising and other million products one “must have” …… my advice remains: travel!
Trips are formed of experiences that all together make the puzzle of one’s personality. Meet people and different cultures. Learn. Make sure to take notes and pictures, building a diary means you can go back to it one day and have fun all over again. Dance.
But above all and beyond, swim naked! That feeling of freedom and proximity with nature will energise you for the modern jungle we live in.
As the middle child in between two straight brothers in a suburb in the Midwest, there wasn’t much gay representation in my life growing up. I’ve always known that I wasn’t like my brothers as I would rather do cartwheels on the soccer field instead of passing the ball or scoring a goal but I couldn’t quite pinpoint how I was different.
As I reached high school, I finally started to understand I was gay and was able to confide in some close friends, but was never able to repeat those same words to my parents. A part of me felt I would be a disappointment to them and I didn’t have the heart to do that.
It took me moving out of my comfort zone and to New York City in my mid-20s to fully be able to embrace gay life. I’m happier than I’ve ever been living as freely as I want and can happily report that just last week, I felt confident enough to bring my boyfriend back home to meet my parents. And everything was fine! They loved him just as much as I do.
Sometimes we make obstacles in our head bigger than they truly are in reality. As I’m just now ending my 20s, I’m excited to be carrying this momentum of freedom and confidence into my 30s.
It’s not a secret that I’m gay… Hello! Have you seen my Instagram? Full of shirtless male models and half naked pictures of me.
However, there was I time when I couldn’t be or express the real me, a time of confusion, anxiety, guilt and even depression… Times when I couldn’t understand my feelings towards men and I hated myself because of that. It took me a while to finally accept them and love the person I am today. Despite being out to the majority of my friends and some relatives, coming out to my parents was a lot harder.
Growing up as a catholic guy in a small town in Mexico didn’t make things easier for me either… Although I wasn’t very discreet about my preferences, (I mean, my bedroom walls were covered in Calvin Klein underwear ads), I still didn’t know how my parents were going to react – one thing is to believe you’re son is gay and another one is hearing him saying it.
To be honest, I wasn’t afraid that they would kick me out of the house or something like that; I was more scared to disappoint them and feared they wouldn’t love me anymore. Anyway, back in 2013, right before I moved to NYC, I finally had the courage to come out to my parents. Much to my surprise they completely understood.
My mom was crying, but not because of what you think, she was so heartbroken that I had been going through all of that by myself. My dad, as Mexican and macho as he is was very understanding. After all I knew he was going to be ok because he’s a rational guy.
Not everyone has a good coming out story, especially if you’re Mexican. A lot of my friends still live in the closet, in fear of what their family and friends would think about them. I choose to live my truth and I consider myself very lucky to have a caring family that supports me and loves me no matter what.
Hey guys, my name is Sezgin, I’m 29 and usually from Turkey but living in Germany.
Growing up in an Islam family wasn’t easy for a gay boy. My first coming out was to my auntie when I was 17. She was the only person, who I know, she can understand me. And yes, she did.
A few months later I took all my courage to tell this to my parents, but they don’t understand this and I was kicked out from home…I had over 3 years no contact to my parents…It was the hardest time in my life.
But one day my mum called me to come home and she said “Dear son, I really missed you and I’m sorry for all that bad decisions we make. You are my son. It doesn’t matter if you’re heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual…we love you just the way you are.”
I was so happy they finally accept and tolerate ME, like I AM. Sometimes things take time.. sometimes a long time.. but in the end, everything will be good.
Interview with The Travelin Bum founder Jeff Perla
I recently had the chance to chat with Jeff Perla, the founder of The Travelin Bum. We talked about his plans for The Travelin Bum, body images issues in the gay community and a whole lot more! Check out our chat below!
Little Gay Blog – The Travelin Bum has been a huge hit this year. Did you ever expect it to be so successful, and what’s the reaction been like so far?
Jeff – I started it for fun just because I had so many pictures of myself from college. I never realised where it would go or what would happen from it. I even chose to remain anonymous until I hit 10k and ever since it has been rapidly growing over the past year.
I average 400,000 impressions a week, receive 500 messages a week and try my best to at least respond to everyone. I would say 99% of the responses I receive are positive.
People often thank me for sharing personal stories about my life because I try normalise being gay. A breakup is a breakup no matter if you are straight or gay. Your first time is just as special if you are gay or straight.
I have just as many gay followers as I do straight followers and I think that is in part due to the fact that all the stories that are shared are relatable to people because that is what we all are.
You receive hundreds of submissions each week. What are one or two memorable submissions that stand out for you?
The submissions that stand out to me the most are actually the ones I am not allowed to share.
People often just message me about their personal problems as if I am a psychiatrist, which I am honoured people feel they can confined in me. Sometimes the messages can get really dark and serious where I am not even sure how to approach them.
One kid in particular though who doesn’t even follow the account because he doesn’t want his friends or family to see, messages me weekly updates on his life as he struggles to find himself. He knows he is gay but doesn’t want to tell his family until he is financially stable for the potential to be on his own, which I support him on.
I think one thing I want to get across to people struggling with identity or self esteem issues is how responsive everyone in the community of The Travelin Bum is, and that we can all relate to one another in more ways than you may think.
The Travelin Bum features posts from a lot of fit looking, younger guys. What advice would you give to guys who might think that they’re too old, or don’t have the ‘right’ body to submit their story?
Every Sunday I go through and decide the 3 people I am going to post that week aside from myself. I try to base my decision off a compelling story and less on the bum itself.
So if someone thinks they are “not good enough” to be featured, it actually has nothing to do with that. I care more about what you have to share as a person whether you are gay, straight, old, or young.
Is The Travelin Bum for guys only, or can the ladies submit their photos and stories too?
The Travelin Bum is for everyone. Yes, the majority I feature are generally gay men, but I feature people based on questions or things I may have been asked that week.
For example, if someone later in the week asked me about how to come out to a religious family without being disowned, I try to feature someone who has been there and gone through that already.
As I have said before, I am willing to feature anyone with a compelling story. In my year of creating the account, I have featured 3 women and maybe have only received 10 messages from women.
Are you surprised that in 2017, coming out is still such a big deal for so many gay guys all over the world?
I hate that coming out is still a thing. With my family I chose to never come out. I just let things be known via social media and I am grateful I have never had to formally have a conversation aside from my parents and some friends because I don’t think there is a need too.
Growing up in New York, I think I often forget how fortunate I am to live in such a liberal area. People message me from India, China, and even Middle America and you realize culturally how much more difficult it actually is to come out.
Being popular on social media attracts attention, both good and bad (unfortunately). Have you had any negative reactions/experiences and in general, what’s you approach to dealing with online hate or negativity?
I probably receive one negative comment or message a day. Whatever it is they may be saying, I normally just block them.
I don’t want to feature someone and they go through 100 comments and read something that says something discouraging. So in order to keep it clean and positive I just block anyone that feels the need to share negative attention.
And lastly – where would you like to see The Travelin Bum be in 5 years from now?
5 years from now. I’ll be 30 so this is scary in more ways than one haha…
I have received offers in every way possible from this account. Currently in the works is potentially a TV show which I would love to see happen to create light on being a gay man in America.
I would love to see The Travelin Bum grow to millions of followers and maybe create a channel featuring people in a fun video as well.
There is a lot in the works so 2018 will be a big year seeing where all the cards finally align but I have enjoyed watching this grow and even getting it to the point it has gotten too.