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December 2008 Archives

A comment about LGBT civil rights in response to a previous post inspired me to respond with a separate entry. (Nice when that happens!)

Here is an excerpt from the comment:

As an hiv- straight guy who is married with children, it is nice to read the differing opinions of different people. I understand that you are homosexual, why is it that (it seems to me), looking from the outside in, that all the gay community talks about is gay rights? Are the issues of the serious recession we're in not in vogue to talk of, is it that you all still feel oppressed? Honestly not trying to be rude here, but give me a break, you guys seem to be crying an awful lot about proposition 8 when if the economy gets much worse all the hiv/aids orgs. will see budget cuts, typically first on the slashing table. If I know anything from my experience with gay people it is that you all are usually a very bright, intelligent, outside of the box thinking type people. The country could use your help on more pressing issues than gay rights, don't you think? Don't get me wrong, I understand the importance of basic human rights, gay marriage included, but Obama's pressing issues are highly unlikely to have anything to do with gay rights and hiv/aids.

There's no doubt that the issue of LGBT civil rights has been in the media quite a bit lately. I don't know if that's what you're referring to when you say that "all the gay community talks about is gay rights" but I hope so. If not, then I suppose you must be expressing frustration that we just won't go away.

hrc-logo.jpgMy response to "is it that you all still feel oppressed?" Yes. The recession is currently issue number one for all Americans. However, if civil rights were being denied to straight people, I have a feeling that you would be a strong civil rights supporter for straight people, despite a weak economy.

Even though I agree that LGBTs "are usually a very bright, intelligent, outside of the box thinking type people" I have to take a moment to consider whether that's a compliment or a condescension. And that goes for your entire comment.

The rights of African-American people and women were held up for generations because there were always other priorities, which really just means that society at large didn't want to deal with it.

There will always be excuses for why civil rights are delayed. If LGBT people have learned anything from past civil rights struggles, it's this—if we do not continue to beat the drum of equality on our own behalf, no one else will.

As for President-elect Obama, I believe that his list of "pressing issues" will indeed include LGBT civil rights and HIV/AIDS. Everything won't happen all at once, but one by one I believe they will be addressed.

Click here for a comprehensive review from the Human Rights Campaign of all LGBT-related federal legislation.

Click here to visit Change.gov to find out what President-elect Obama has promised HIV-positive and LGBT Americans.

Serodiscordant Questions

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It's understandable for people to be curious about the HIV status of my partners/boyfriends, especially since I've been in relationships with HIV-negative men and HIV-positive men.

However, here are a few questions that make my head hurt:

Does he (my partner/boyfriend) know that you're HIV positive?

Yes. Do you really think I wouldn't tell him? You're supposedly my friend, what do you think of me that you would think that I wouldn't tell him? (OK, I suppose it's your duty to keep me honest.) Are you asking me this to be on the record, so to speak, with my answer just in case it should come up in a court of law someday? Or are you asking me this because you couldn't think of another way to get to juicier questions? Such as...

gay2.jpg
Are you being safe?
Yes, I'm being safe.

Are you sure?
Yes, I'm sure.

Are you really sure?

Yes, really.

OK then, so what exactly are you doing to stay safe (you know, like specific details on condoms and lube, what kinds of sexual acts, which one of you is in which position during said sexual acts, etc.)?
Stop right there. I discuss such things with my partners/boyfriends. Perhaps I might share such things with you, but the fact that you're presuming that I would is a bit uncomfortable for me, to say the least. If and when I'm ever ready to share such things with you, I'll let you know.

Isn't it great that he (my partner/boyfriend) is willing to date you?
Yes, it is. I mean, I'm such a hideous freak, after all. The fact that anyone would ever date me is a miracle. Being HIV positive only adds to my hideousness. Is this the line of thinking that you meant for me to suppose this question was coming from? If not, please strike the question and rephrase.

I could go on, but it seems that I've developed a headache.

Click here to read "Mixed Doubles" by former POZ copy editor Ben Munisteri from the June 2008 issue of POZ, in which he reveals being the HIV-negative partner in his relationships with HIV-positive men.

Rachel Maddow last night interviewed Rep. Diana Degette (D-Colorado), chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus in Congress, about new regulations from the Bush administration that allow health workers to refuse services that violate their personal beliefs.

The so-called "right of conscience" rule threatens to cut off federal funding to any entity that does not comply. The rule has major implications for reproductive rights. However, another consequence of this rule has been underreported—it may allow services to be denied to LGBTs.

Rachel Maddow:

If, for example, there was a doctor who was providing HIV care and decided that because of religious beliefs he or she would not provide HIV treatment to anybody who was gay who was HIV positive, would that be covered here?

Rep. Degette:

Absolutely, I mean there’s no standards whatsoever. Or again, the cashier at the pharmacy. If they decided that HIV was God’s punishment or something and they didn’t want to give them the drugs, then that person could make that decision. It’s just so broad, it’s really disturbing. I think you hit the nail on the head, it would actually allow employees of health care facilities to discriminate against patients on a case-by-case basis.

This is super scary stuff. Thankfully, the Obama transition team has already indicated that they will be looking at this and all the other last-minute rules imposed by the lame-duck Bush.

Many thanks to Rachel Maddow for making the HIV connection to this story. I look forward to her continuing vigilance on our behalf whenever possible.

Watch the interview from "The Rachel Maddow Show" (7:34 is the length of the segment, but if you're short on time just fast forward to 5:25 to hear the specific mention of HIV):

Meeting My New Doctor

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stethoscope.jpgYesterday I met my new doctor for the first time. Not unlike with other first meetings, I was nervous and hopeful. Would he like me? Would I like him? What would he say when I told him my entire medical history, warts and all?

Being an older straight married guy, I was unsure how he would deal with me as a gay man. Being an infectious diseases doctor with a specialization in HIV, I was silly to think that he would be anything other than experienced in dealing with gay men. He was unfazed by my stories and I was completely comfortable in sharing them.

After stripping to my underwear and socks for a physical exam (auscultation, palpation, etc.), I was pleased to hear his pronouncement that I was in good shape (the voices inside my head saying I should drop 10 pounds be damned!). My bloodwork will either confirm or deny his assertion, but for now I'll gladly accept it.

New relationships are always exciting. I look forward to seeing how this one develops.

A Sort of Ghost

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My best friend at John Adams High School in Queens, N.Y., was the first person I came out to about being gay and the first person I told that I was HIV positive. He was the little brother of a girl in my circle of friends. He was only one year younger, but he seemed so much less sophisticated than we did.

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I had always wanted a little brother of my own. Our friendship quickly took on a "big brother, little brother" dynamic, which remains true to this day. I'm proud of his growth as a human being, especially now that he's a married man with a beautiful wife and an adorable baby daughter.

Ever since reading "Coming Out Again" (my article in the October 2008 issue of POZ about coming out to my family as gay and HIV positive), he has been sifting through his memories of that time in our lives.

I was surprised to learn some poignant details, excerpted from an email:

"As soon as you were positive, you became, then, a sort of ghost. I grieved your loss, I imagined you leaving me in so many horrible ways I couldn't bear it. So I thought of you in the past tense. It was easier. I imagined the worse, and every minute with you was a gift, but a painful one—worse than cancer because I couldn't tell anyone, a mix of shame and pain and respect for your privacy."

And here's another surprising tidbit from that email:

"I also, then, was afraid of getting sick. More early '90s as to the late '90s. I don't think about it any more, but I was afraid. Not paranoid, more like when someone has the flu. You don't worry so much, but you still always worry a bit. It really didn't start until that time you cut your hand and you made such a big deal about it that you kindled a sort of panic inside me as well."

The difference between the early '90s and the late '90s is a crucial distinction. After my HIV diagnosis in 1992, I had limited treatment options. By the end of the decade, HIV meds had changed the outlook for many HIV-positive people from despair to hope, myself included.

I experienced that transformation both in my body and in my mind. My best friend from high school may not have been paranoid, but I was in those early years after my seroconversion. I was terrified about unintentionally infecting someone, no matter how remote the possibility.

When we, the HIV-positive, disclose our status to our loved ones, we need to help them cope as best we can. I regret that I wasn't able to do a better job of that back then for my best friend from high school.

Dear Robert:

twilightguy.jpgI loved your performance in Twilight as the vampire Edward Cullen. I'm not a teenage girl, but I do admit to swooning whenever you were on screen.

I can only imagine how hard it must be for you as the heartthrob of the moment. Nonetheless, I do wish you had consulted with me before uttering the word "AIDS" in the way you did recently.

Don't remember? Well, here's a reminder of what you said:

"People ambush me in public and ask me to bite them and want to touch my hair. I just don't want someone to have a needle and give me AIDS and I don't want to get shot or stabbed. This is my life."

Maybe this was taken out of context, as they say, but you must admit upon reflection that the whole AIDS paranoia thing does seem strange, no?

I support fully your right not to be ambushed (although I'd suggest you take the biting thing on a case by case basis). I also sympathize with your desire not to be injected, shot or stabbed without your consent—it is your life!

Your understanding of how someone develops AIDS, however, seems to be a bit lacking.

Sincerely,
Oriol

P.S. I'm looking forward to your next starring role as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes, scheduled for release in 2009!

Eyewitnesses in Brooklyn say that at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, three black men got out of their car shouting anti-gay and anti-Latino epithets at two brothers from Ecuador walking home from a local bar. Neither brother is gay.

The brothers—Jose Sucuzhanay, 31, the owner of a real estate agency in New York City, and Romel Sucuzhanay, 38, visiting from Ecuador—were not dressed warm enough for the cold, so they left the bar walking arm in arm with a jacket over their shoulders.

Jose was severely beaten with a broken beer bottle and a baseball bat, which resulted in extensive brain damage and skull fractures. Romel was able to escape to call for help. Jose was in a coma and put on life support, then died two days later.

This sad story is yet another reminder that gender identity and expression need to be included in all LGBT civil rights legislation at all levels of government. Jose was not gay, but his gender expression that night prompted this hate crime.

Click here to download this map of LGBT hate crime laws from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

hatecrimemap.jpg

UPDATE: An arrest has been made in this case, The Daily News reports.

I Was Sick This Weekend

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It started Friday afternoon at work and continued through the weekend. I thought at first it was the flu, but I recently received a flu shot. Then, I realized—aha!—it was food poisoning from that darn sandwich I had for lunch on Friday (and it wasn't even that good).dangersign.jpg

I'll spare everyone the gory details, but suffice it to say that it was hideous. I didn't sleep, I couldn't eat, etc. My body hadn't been that miserable in years (my mind, well, that's another matter).

It's true that simply being HIV positive is a constant reminder to my psyche of my mortality. However, it's also true that I've been fortunate in not having too many physical discomforts as a result of my HIV diagnosis in 1992.

I've always thanked the universe for my general good health (despite my HIV and a few genetic predispositions to diseases lurking in my DNA, which I expect to live long enough to have to contend with eventually).

Nonetheless, being sick this weekend was a powerful reminder for me to remain grateful to the universe for being spared so far from the worst of HIV disease.

After World AIDS Day, I was in search of a good laugh—and I found it. This YouTube video by musical comedian Oded Gross cleverly points out the absurdity of same-sex marriage somehow being a threat to opposite-sex relationships.

Watch the video:

FYI: A tip of the hat to the LGBT blog Queerty for finding this video!

World AIDS Day

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WAD2008_logo.gifMore than 1 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in the United States and over 33 million people worldwide. Medications have helped HIV-positive people around the globe, but AIDS continues with no cure in sight.

Despite the harsh reality of the facts, I feel hopeful on this World AIDS Day. Fewer people are dying. Researchers continue finding new ways to attack the virus. President-elect Obama has pledged a National AIDS Strategy for the United States.

A prayer by the Rev. Jim Mitulski of the Metropolitan Community Church in the February/March 2001 issue of POZ wasn't written specifically for World AIDS Day, but I believe it embodies the spirit of hope each of us should consider.

Here's an excerpt:

May my awareness of mortality inspire me to live abundantly, here and now. May I live in expectation of a cure for HIV in my lifetime.

Let my life be a prayer, my dreams a reality.

- Rev. Jim Mitulski

On this 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, I pray for a cure today.

I will save my cynicism for tomorrow.

Click here for special coverage from POZ on this World AIDS Day, including events and videos.



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This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2008 is the previous archive.

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