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September 2011 Archives

The Huffington Post has launched Gay Voices, another "vertical" (their term for a specific section of the site) in their seemingly ever-growing list (Black VoicesLatino Voices, etc.) serving content by user demographics.

In his inaugural post welcoming readers, Gay Voices editor Noah Michelson addresses the rationale for the site and its name:

While the Huffington Post has done an incredible job of covering queer stories in the past, Gay Voices will provide a place for all of those stories to "live" together, thereby making it much easier for readers to find, share and discuss queer topics ... The Huffington Post will be able to delve deeper into the issues that matter to queer people and that can't be addressed by other verticals due to time or the specificity of the issue ...

When it came time to name the vertical, we considered a bunch of possibilities, including HuffPost Pride, HuffPost LGBT Voices and HuffPost Queer Voices ... I personally prefer the word "queer" ... However, it's still a controversial term and many people (including those with marginalized sexual identities) find it problematic and/or offensive, and so we didn't think it was appropriate for use as the vertical's primary identifying term ...

Which brings us to the term "gay" and why we chose the name Gay Voices ... While it most often describes a "male homosexual," "gay" has been and can be used by (and to refer to) those with other marginalized sexual identities.

I fully concede the term may not be one everyone feels comfortable claiming or wants to be associated with (especially when it comes to issues of gender rather than sexuality), but after realizing that there was never going to be the perfect term for us to use, we felt that "gay" packs the most instantaneous punch and immediately identifies the content on this vertical as dealing with these types of issues and events.

The argument that "gay" is still the closest we have to a universally acceptable word to describe LGBT people is not new. The question I have from the above rationale is: Has the word "gay" really come full circle? Well, Gay Voices seems to think so.

Considering that the site just launched, the mix of the content so far seems to be covering all the bases. Not sure if that will continue, but the main article today on the Gay Voices homepage about HIV gave me some hope.

I understand that not every LGBT story is an HIV/AIDS story and vice versa. However, there is often a lot of overlap. I would even argue that most HIV/AIDS stories are LGBT stories, but not vice versa.

Although many LGBT outlets do a good job covering HIV/AIDS, I believe I'm safe in saying that LGBT media--and certainly mainstream media--could do more HIV/AIDS coverage. Let's hope Gay Voices keeps HIV/AIDS stories high in the mix.

After DADT

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usmc_logo.jpgSeptember 20, 2011, can now take its rightful place alongside the other major milestones in the long and winding road to equality for LGBT people.

The death of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy will not be mourned.

Predictions that the sky would fall or that HIV would increase in the military if DADT were repealed be damned.

Now that the celebrations have settled down a bit, it's worth being reminded that this victory -- no matter how significant it is -- cannot make us complacent.

The most obvious issue that remains is that transgender people are still not allowed to serve openly.

But even for the newly liberated lesbian, gay and bisexual military members, a great article in Mother Jones reminds us of the inequalities that remain for them and their loved ones:

While the official end of DADT at midnight on Monday is a historic turning point, unresolved issues with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and military regulations mean that service members and their partners in same-sex relationships will continue to suffer second-class treatment ...

But many of the hardships that he and other same-sex partners of service members have faced will remain, because of legal restrictions that prevent same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits that married, heterosexual service members get. That includes health care benefits, help finding work, and financial assistance that eases the difficulty of moving and paying for a new home. Same-sex couples won't be eligible for the additional pay given to partners when a service member is given an assignment that prevents his or her family from coming along. They won't have access to family-support services provided by the military that often serve as crucial conduits of information regarding what forms of assistance are available and how to take advantage of them.

And, when a service member makes the ultimate sacrifice, his or her partner will be denied the same financial support that heterosexual families receive. Unless the two had children together, the partner may not even be the first to know about the death.

Even with these obstacles, I remain hopeful. An interesting article in The New York Times about Marines recruiting for gays and lesbians in Oklahoma underscores my hope:

The Marines were the service most opposed to ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but they were the only one of five invited branches of the military to turn up with their recruiting table and chin-up bar at the [Tulsa LGBT community center] Tuesday morning. Although Marines pride themselves on being the most testosterone-fueled of the services, they also ferociously promote their view of themselves as the best. With the law now changed, the Marines appear determined to prove that they will be better than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.

Although it was the Marines that told me I was HIV positive, I was always still fearful that I would be outed by them. As a closeted member of the Marine Corps during the time DADT was implemented, never in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined Marine recruiters at an LGBT community center.

Since HIV remains so identified with gay men, overcoming homophobia is always a good thing for people living with the virus. And make no mistake -- the repeal of DADT has gone and will go a very long way to conquering homophobia. 

How can I be anything but hopeful, now that pigs have flown? That said, this is only one flock of flying pigs. I won't be satisfied until the last flying pig takes flight.

Ten Years After 9/11

twin_towers.jpgAnyone alive on September 11, 2001, and old enough to remember the events of that horrible day will never forget it. Everyone has his or her own story to tell about 9/11. My story isn't that different from most people who were south of Central Park in Manhattan on that day, except perhaps for how my HIV played a part.

I was freelancing at the time, so I had a flexible work schedule. I had an appointment that morning with my HIV doctor, but I woke up late. So I called the doctor's office to tell them I would be there late. I was rushing to get the words out, but the person on the other end kept trying to interrupt. He was doing it so much I started to get annoyed.

He finally succeeded in interrupting me. I used to remember what he said next word for word, but my paraphrasing will have to do: "The doctor's not coming in. No doctor's are coming in. Two planes hit the World Trade Center and one hit the Pentagon."

After he caught his breath then he said in the fiercest way possible (picture a wavy finger wag): "You need to turn on the television." Then he hung up. Click.

I couldn't believe what I had just heard, but I did as I was told. The disbelief quickly turned into dread. The two towers were on fire and I was only three miles away. Then my roommate came home and it was my job to tell him. We both sat in silence in front of the television as the towers burned and then fell. And then we rose to our feet.

We were compelled to walk toward the mushroom cloud. Again, disbelief turned into dread. It was no cruel TV trick. It was all too real. Absolute strangers huddled together around radios and people walking away from the towers covered in blood and dust.

A frightened tourist with minimal English skills came up to us and asked: "We at war?" The thought hadn't occurred to me until then, but I said to him, "I guess we are."

The plane crash in Pennsylvania only fueled rampant rumors about a host of other horrors yet to happen. The bridges, the tunnels, the subways. A mass exodus of people from Manhattan kept flowing in fear of not being able to get off the island later. I eventually opted to leave with my boyfriend to his apartment in Queens.

If it weren't for my HIV doctor's appointment, I actually might have been downtown that morning and my 9/11 story would have been much different. I am lucky that I didn't die or get physically hurt or lose a loved one that day. I am lucky that I wasn't one of the people caught in the ash cloud as the towers fell.

That said, I can still summon the immense intensity of the feelings I felt on 9/11 ten years later and I'm sure I will be able to until my dying day.
google_freddie_mercury.jpgFreddie Mercury would have turned 65 years old on September 5. To honor the occasion, Google created a special version of its logo (a.k.a. "Google Doodle") on its search engine homepage.

The logo was online on September 5 worldwide, except for the United States in respect for Labor Day. The logo was online in the United States on September 6.

When users click on the logo, it starts a live-action doodle set to "Don't Stop Me Now," a 1978 hit for Queen, the band that he fronted.

Watch the video:

Here's an excerpt from a remembrance bandmate Brian May wrote for the Google blog:

"Freddie would have been 65 this year, and even though physically he is not here, his presence seems more potent than ever. Freddie made the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel that he was connected. He gave people proof that a man could achieve his dreams--made them feel that through him they were overcoming their own shyness, and becoming the powerful figure of their ambitions. And he lived life to the full. He devoured life. He celebrated every minute. And, like a great comet, he left a luminous trail which will sparkle for many a generation to come."
All the hoopla surrounding his 65th birthday has drawn much-needed attention to the work of The Mercury Phoenix Trust, the nonprofit group established in his honor by bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor with manager Jim Beach to fight HIV/AIDS worldwide.

I am a big fan of Queen and especially of Freddie Mercury. His voice was golden and his creativity was très gay. Every time I hear "The Show Must Go On," I get teary eyed. His Live Aid performance was legendary and his tribute concert is still one of my favorites.

Watch the Live Aid performance:

I remember very well in 1991 when Freddie told the world he was HIV positive, only to die a day later from AIDS-related pneumonia. I had received a negative HIV test result only a few months before he died and was ever so grateful. And though I didn't know it at the time, I realize now that soon after receiving my HIV negative test result was when I most likely became HIV positive, which was still before Freddie died.

Despite criticism from some gay and AIDS activists for not disclosing sooner, that final act was a gift. To me, he proved that it is never too late to tell your truth. The burden of keeping his HIV secret I hope was lifted by the relief I hope he felt when he finally disclosed his HIV status. I know that's how I felt.



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