Touko Laaksonen, the boy who would become Tom of Finland (1920-1991), began drawing cartoons at age five. His favorite subjects were the rough manly men of his native Finland, as Touko knew from an early age that men interested him more than women. His talents were further honed by art study in Helsinki. He found success in the Finnish advertising industry but secretly continued creating his increasingly erotic drawings of hyper-masculine men. In 1957 he submitted some drawings to the American magazine Physique Pictorial and the “Tom of Finland” legend was born. By the late 60s Tom’s “dirty drawings” became the standard for gay art, and Tom’s Men a template for a new gay masculinity. Tom’s art continues to play an important role in promoting self-confidence, positive self-image and openness in the gay community.
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