The Art of Becoming: Andrea's Evolving Understanding of Sexuality and Identity

von Guillermo Seis

In the streets of Vienna, where centuries-old art collides with modernity, lives Andreas, a 24-year-old art history student. Born and raised in South Tyrol, Italy, Andreas moved to Vienna a couple of years ago. This transition was not just a change of scenery; it was a transformative chapter that allowed him to explore and understand himself in ways he hadn't before. The city challenged him to delve deeper into his identity, helping him reconcile his past with his present, blending his rich cultural heritage with his flourishing sense of self.
In this interview, he uncovers the layers of his evolving understanding of sexuality, the intersectionality of his identity, and the challenges and triumphs he has faced along the way. Each question we explore with him reveals more about his journey—one marked by resilience, continuous learning, and a steadfast commitment to authenticity.


Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm Andreas, 24 years old, and a student of art history in Vienna, where I've been living for almost four years now. I grew up in South Tyrol, Italy, which, as I've been continuously discovering, has significantly impacted my journey of self-discovery. The region is a minority German-speaking rural area in Italy, meaning that from the very beginning, I found myself in an environment where neither I nor the people around me knew exactly where we belonged (Italian culture, Austrian culture, etc.). Moving away from "home" made me realize for the first time the extent of this impact. Overall, I'm glad I don't have a fixed idea about my geographic and socio-cultural roots because it has helped me to be and express myself more freely in the world. I enjoy considering myself a global citizen, adapting to various situations and places to show respect for both myself and others.
I've been taking pictures with my camera since I was around 8 years old. I've always enjoyed observing other people. I believe I've learned a lot about myself and humanity in general through the lens of my camera. Behind the camera, I feel protected and have an excuse to observe people without being too weird. Since I began studying art history, I've shifted from creating art to contemplating and writing about it.


What does sexuality mean to you, and how has your understanding of it evolved over time? 
Sexuality, to me, means expressing my true self. For a long time, I didn't do that, and it has taken, and still takes, time, resources, willpower, reflection, and therapy to peel away layer by layer the mask I built up. I've always adapted, and I conformed to the heteronormative image of a man. In my youth, I invested so much effort into not being exposed as a "fraud." Even today, I am confronted with many adaptations and coping mechanisms from that time. Letting go of many things that never belonged to me but that I carried with me for too long has been a significant learning process. It was an active decision to admit to myself that I wasn't happy with the image of myself I had constructed. Today, I'm proud of taking this path because I feel the freedom I always longed for in my youth.


How do you express your sexual desires and preferences, and what factors influence them?
Being able to express my sexuality is part of the freedom I intensely seek. It's like breaking out of preconceived societal norms in which I, as a gay man, have felt trapped for too long. I owe this to the people who have opened and shown me new worlds. I'm still learning a lot by observing, and I always strive to discover something new. I notice that I can't definitively say what I sexually like because it's so fluid, and there are many things I simply don't know yet or haven't tried. Expressing my sexuality is a form of rebellion against my old self but also against the preconceptions of heteronormativity.




How do you navigate the intersectionality of your sexual identity with other aspects of your identity, such as race, class, ability, or religion?
This is something I only realized after finding my place in the world as a confident gay man. I am gay, but I am also white, come from a middle-class family that can finance my studies, I have an Italian passport, and currently identify as a cis man. 
For a year now, I've been in a long-distance relationship with my partner from Indonesia, which has further clarified my standpoint. I often wonder how to handle this package of privileges. I don't have all the answers, but I believe the first step is being aware of one's position in the world and the second step is advocating for those who face multiple intersectional discriminations and getting politically involved in fighting these structural injustices.


What challenges have you faced in expressing your sexual desires and needs, and how have you overcome them?
My self-confidence and social anxieties. On the one hand, I've worked a lot on that in therapy, but on the other hand, it's also a part of my character, and I've learned to accept these boundaries.
How do you ensure that your sexual relationships are healthy, consensual, and respectful, and what are your boundaries and communication strategies?
It varies from partner to partner. What I've learned is to communicate boundaries,while also allowing some flexibility to ensure it still feels natural. It's a fine line and requires good sensitivity and a feeling for the situation and the partner.



How do you envision a more inclusive and fulfilling sexual culture that embraces diverse sexual identities and expressions, and how can we work towards it?
Creating more acceptance and visibility for intersectional discrimination also within your own community. Justice doesn't end with you; it applies to everyone. Therefore, the fight for justice is universal, global, intersectional, anti-patriarchal, decolonial, anti-fascist, feminist, etc.

Pascal Schrattenecker