For Brandon, For Shelton


I live
because today
I looked in the mirror
and I didn’t see a lie
Brandon Lacy Campos – I Live

I was on a road trip and out of the loop this weekend, so when I awoke on Saturday and heard of the passing of Brandon Lacy Campos, I thought I was dreaming. “Surely that must be a mistake, he just tweeted me yesterday.”

Unfortunately it was true and he is gone. All this week I’ve been staring at my mentions…if I’m understanding the timing correctly he was dead less than 24 hours after he tweeted me. It’s eerie to think I could’ve been one of the last people he had contact with (virtual or otherwise).

Despite having tons of friends in common, I never met Brandon in person. But he’s been a friend in my head forever. I read his blog for years, our paths just never crossed physically (this happens often in NYC). I realized he was on Twitter a few months ago when he left Queers for Economic Justice and started following him more closely than I had recently. I always found him to be a cutie and was happy to see him take pride in his fitness and was excited for the new love in his life. I was supposed to see him read some of his poetry in the Spring, but couldn’t make it last minute.

A few weeks ago he updated me on his gogo boy audition, which he didn’t have to do. He didn’t know me nor owe me anything. But I asked to been kept up to date and that’s who Brandon was; a sincere, giving and loving guy. They don’t make them like him anymore.

Ironically, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Back in 2005, I had my first openly HIV positive friend. I was so excited! Having started my career in HIV prevention I felt it crucial to have someone with lived experience to help me understand the disease. This friend was part of a tour called Hope’s Voice and through him I got to meet some more amazing people. But one always eluded me: Shelton Jackson.

I was fascinated by Shelton’s story; he got infected on purpose essentially to bond with his then positive partner (who ended up dying four years later). I wanted so much to sit down with Shelton and talk. I was also a fan of his blog/writing, but didn’t find all the answers I sought. I wanted to know a love so strong I would make a similar sacrifice. I needed him to teach me how to find it.

But our paths would never cross (physically). Then in early 2009, when I was in San Francisco in the last semester in my Master’s program, our mutual friend called from the East Coast. He was visting Shelton, who was sick in the hospital. Many of the people I met over the years were also there. It sounded like a big party.

“Tell him I hope he feels better and that I love his blog! I need a new poem soon.”

The next day he was dead.

I was just complaining to said friend it was nearly impossible to get one of Shelton’s books today and begged him to give me his copies to reread. Every time this happens, I get really upset not just for obvious reasons, but I feel we lose so much black/brown gay (boy) history like this.

And I don’t want to speculate on the cause of Brandon’s death, I just think it’s bullshit when we say the cause of death is unclear.

I’m not good with death, but given recent events I feel like God is preparing me for something big.

So for Brandon, for Shelton
For Erik Rhodes
Maurice Murrell
Kyle Spidle
And everyone else we’ve lost in the struggle

I light this candle. To remember the lessons I’ve learned doing this work and to honor my teachers far and near. For it is our humanity that connects us. We can all use help along the way and I am forever grateful.

As I continue to live my truth.

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