A sexy new fotonovella is in circulation, combining fictionalized accounts of Latino men’s experiences in gay Toronto with safer sex info.
“It’s about passion, it’s about friendship, it’s about challenges and boundaries but it’s also about hope,” says Gerardo Betancourt, who wrote and directed the fotonovella for the Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples’ (CSSP) HIV Prevention Program.
The glossy magazine, funded by the AIDS Community Action Program and the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), follows the fictional adventures in sex, love and life of three Latino men in Toronto. But the story is a cliffhanger — you have to check out the accompanying website, Guyslikeyou.ca, to find out what happens to the heroes.
“We wanted people to be curious about the ending and by engaging them in the website they have the opportunity to explore more information,” says Betancourt, who is working on a master’s degree in adult education and community development at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at U of T.
With its mix of sexy situations and over-the-top dialogue Guys Like You stays true to the fotonovella genre.
“It’s very dramatic, we know that, and maybe people are not going to cry, they’re going to laugh, but they’re going to turn to their partners, their coworkers and say, ‘Take a look at this,'” says Betancourt. “Our final objective is to get people engaged, so we know it’s over the top.”
Although the characters are fictional Betancourt says they’re distillations of stories he’s heard in his three years as CSSP’s men’s outreach worker.
“I’ve had hundreds of conversations with immigrants who come to the centre for help,” says Betancourt. “It’s very well-founded where it came from. For many people it’s real. It may be cheesy in the way that it’s portrayed but I can tell you there are hundreds of guys who say, ‘That’s me’ or ‘That’s someone I know.'”
With 13,000 copies printed Guys Like You will be distributed through community organizations in businesses in Toronto; 6,000 copies have been sent to CATIE for national distribution.
Betancourt’s next project, a group called Mano en Mano, launches in September. “It is like a school for Latino newcomers,” he says. “We talk about what it’s like to live in Toronto and be gay.”