Joensuu will always be home for 26-year old Janne Tiilikainen, who became the face of Finnish gay men when he was named Mr. Gay Finland 2012. The Helsinki student originally hails from the north Karelian city of Joensuu, where his friends and family still live.
The new Mr. Gay Finland wants people to remember that Joensuu is a pleasant city of over 70,000 inhabitants. According to Janne Tiilikainen, it’s time to forget the passé skinhead era of the 1990s.
“In Joensuu we are positive and tolerant, and it’s the home town that I love. Joensuu residents are incredibly laid back and we can even strike up a conversation with a complete stranger on the bus,” he said.
The recently-minted representative of the gay male community said that Joensuu’s Glow (Hohto) event is an important reminder of the condition of sexual minorities and has called for more events in the city.
Hohto has been organised in Joensuu since 2004 to help raise awareness of the sexual minorities in the region.
Tiilikainen is currently studying for a business degree in Helsinki and one of his tasks as Mr. Gay Finland is to speak out for the rights of sexual minorities and to serve as a goodwill ambassador representing Finland abroad.
The aim of the Mr. Gay Finland competition is to create a sense of openness and community among gay men.
The competition is part of a series of events that culminates with the Helsinki Pride parade on Saturday. The series is organized by a Helsinki-based non-profit LGBT organization (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender).