Tom & Veli

Tom met a young man on a street corner and they had casual sex. Tom opened up and told the man that he was looking for something more. They met again and spent the night together. Then the next, and the next. His name was Veli which means “brother” in Finnish. Veli “Nipa” Mäkinen. Gradually they built a relationship and eventually Veli moved in with Tom and his sister Kaija. The men worked on all the things it takes for a couple to stay together. They had a chosen an open relationship – but they remained the most important in each other’s lives. They made decisions together – big and small – and never kept anything from each other.

Veli and Tom, two years after first meeting.

In 1980, after the two had been together for 27 years, Tom took Veli to America where he got to meet Durk Dehner. Durk recalls, “Veli was at first reserved, but he relaxed and gave his blessing to the relationship I was developing with Tom. He knew Tom had been burned before, but he felt I could be trusted and he was leaving his lover in good hands.”

Back in Finland, Veli told Tom that he had incurable cancer. Their last days were not peaceful. Veli left Tom and went to Paris into the arms of another. His cancer progressed and he came back to Helsinki – and Tom – to die.

Though they fought and parted more than once, theirs was a union that went much deeper than the merely physical, beyond even the emotional. There were many such occasions when Tom’s and Veli’s minds seemed to be attuned far more deeply than their years of cohabitation would appear to explain. The bond between them extended beyond life. A couple of days after Veli’s death, as Tom sat at his drawing table, a large seabird flew against the window in front of him, battered itself with repeated attempts to enter until blood speckled its beak; the bird struggled so violently Tom thought the glass would break. When at last it flew away, Tom was sure he had just received a final visit from his lover’s spirit.

But, in the ten years since Veli died, he has never really left me. Every now and then, I hear him go galumphing through the house the way he used to, or I will feel someone standing close behind me and know it is him. Usually, i find his presence very comforting, but once in a while, when I am trying to draw, he will suddenly whistle or blow in my ear, infuriating me the same damned way he loved to do when he was alive.

From  Tom of Finland – Life and Work of a Gay Hero

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Lecture “Touko Laaksonen & Tom of Finland – The man behind the images” | 30th March | Joensuu, Finland

Lecturer Susanna Luoto, Tom of Finland Foundation

Touko Laaksosen eli Tom of Finlandin elämäntarina on pala 100-vuotiaan itsenäisen Suomen kertomusta. Hän syntyi Tarton rauhan solmimisvuonna 1920. Hän oli 12-vuotias Mäntsälän kapinan aikoihin, kirjoitti ylioppilaaksi talvisodan varjossa ja aloitti keväällä 1940 asepalveluksensa, josta hänet kotiutettiin 4. luokan Vapaudenristillä palkittuna luutnanttina.

Tom tuli tunnetuksi kansainvälisesti jo varhain ja tavoitti maailmanlaajuisen yleisön sieltä, jossa seksuaalivähemmistöillä alkoi olla jo oikeuksia – tai ainakin marginaaliryhminä painostusvaltaa, eritoten Yhdysvalloissa. Touko Laaksosen elämäntarina ei ole pelkästään Tom of Finlandin tarina, vaan siihen kuuluu monilahjakkaan miehen vaiheita niin kuoronjohtajana, Sibelius-Akatemian opiskelijana, pianistina, menestyvänä mainospiirtäjänä ja erinomaisena kirjoittajana.

Laaksosen ansiot Suomen kansainvälisesti huomioidumpana taiteilijana ja homoeroottisen taiteen pioneerina ovat tunnetut ja tunnustetut. Marraskuussa 2016 tuli kuluneeksi 25 vuotta taiteilijan kuolemasta ja yhä vieläkin – tai vasta nyt – hän hämmentää katsojia suoralla taiteellaan, jota tänä päivänä voi vihdoin esitellä myös museaalisissa puitteissa. Teosten syntyaikoina sen sijaan niin itse taiteilija kuin hänen taiteensakin olivat lainsuojattomia.

Susanna Luoto on koulutukseltaan toimittaja ja elokuvakäsikirjoittaja. Hän jatkoi elokuvaopintojaan Los Angelesissa, avusti 90-luvun alussa dokumenttia Tomista kuvaavaa Ilppo Pohjolaa (”Daddy and The Muscle Academy”) ja tutustui näin Los Angelesissa toimivaan Tom of Finland Foundationiin. Luoto on järjestänyt useita Tom of Finland valokuvanäyttelyitä sekä Suomessa että ulkomailla.

Luennossaan Luoto esittelee Touko Laaksosen ja kertoo, kuinka Laaksonen ponnisti maailmalle Kaarinasta aikana, jolloin homoseksuaalisuus oli niin rikos kuin sairauskin ja verkostoituminen ei ollut muutaman napin painalluksen takana.

Thursday, 4-5p
Joensuu campus, Agora building, Auditorium AG100, Yliopistokatu 4

Further information: Susanna Luoto susanna.luoto@kolumbus.fi

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