I've always been healthy and active. Grew up playing sports, never got sick, started yoga and dancing at a young age, and eventually became very sexually active after coming out. In the past year, I tore my ACL and meniscus during a pick-up game of basketball. It's been a devastating blow to my well-being and possibly the biggest challenge of my life. It's a physical as well as a mental/emotional mountain to climb. I've always held an attachment to movement and activity, but tearing a ligament is something very difficult to come back from fully. It's hard enough making the time for all your fitness goals, so it makes it that much more difficult when so much time has to be spent rehabilitating. This injury causes a lot of stiffness and sensitivity in the joint and breaks down a lot of the muscle. The surgery and healing process definitely can slow you down and make you feel like you've aged quicker. It was a wake-up call that I'm not invincible and I should never take my health for granted again. While I'm still fighting to regain full mobility and strength in my right leg, this can be more motivation to eat right, sleep well and cut back on drinking and smoking.
I restlessly fight and search for the truest expression of myself. I was raised in comfort & religion coming from North Alabama. I had to go to church 3 times a week and attended a small private school on top of that. Life was easy growing up, too easy. It was challenging to adjust to who I really am and the life I truly want. There's been endless frustration and confusion since leaving home after high school. I've felt awkward and dumb a lot of the time like I'm having to catch up with the rest of the world, but reverting back to what was familiar has never been an option. Even if I'm a mess through the process, I'm constantly thinking critically of my choices and my surroundings to narrow down exactly what it is I want out of life and what I'm meant to do.
I do feel comfortable with nudity, whether it's me or someone else. I think growing up closeted and having to hide and suppress for so long can make you embrace exposure. I always sleep naked and am often unclothed when I'm home alone. Skinny dipping is also pure bliss. Particularly while doing this photo shoot, I felt in touch with my body and in touch with nature. I have things I'd like to change/improve about myself just like anyone else, but to be completely bare in the woods in front of the camera, I embraced myself and my body with all its beauty & quirks, and then played with my surroundings. It was an empowering, spiritual and liberating experience.
How has media influenced the way you look at yourself?
Media can be a pretty contest with all the selfies, and hot gay dudes and couples really feeling themselves publicly, but hell, I'm still thumbing through all of the pictures, trying to look like them. I never cared for showing off on the internet with the shirtless pics or gym selfies, and yet, here I am with a nude photo shoot, right? I don't want to have the "look at me" disease that you see so often on social media and dating apps, but seeing all that's out there can motivate me. I see so many successful gay men traveling the world and expressing themselves so openly, many of them with at least seemingly happy relationships. You can find all kinds of things wrong with the media and it can fuck with your sense of self, but I think gay men have done an excellent job of using the media to our advantage and spreading our message. It's revealing to how much times are changing and will continue to change, and that we can lead happy, healthy, active lives along with heterosexuals.
In A Risk Restricted Exclusive, Conner Grant stars in 'Pollination' photographed by Taylor Campbell.
Photography by Taylor Campbell
Model Conner Grant