Tag Archives: HIV

Quotes of the Week: For He Is Risen

“This tiny Korean man came up to me and said, ‘You got big balls. I like them.’
NYC’s ‘sex spa’ is grossing people out – NY Post

I could take up the torch and fight for bi visibility and break down walls of gender expression and stereotyping, but I have my hands full just being Black in NYC and trying not to get arrested. Y’all can fight that fight. There’s enough social justice to go around for everyone.
So I went home with a lesbian last night.

Instead, my sadness is due to the health-related death of another black man not even close to the age when health-related deaths are supposed to happen. And I’m just as scared as I am sad.
Dear Black Men, Please Go to the Damn Doctor (The Root)

If PrEP reduced near 100% cases of heart failure, cancer, diabetes rather than HIV would there be a debate at all?
Jamie Murphy via Twitter

TMZ is doing real journalism.
The news is doing entertainment.
And presidential candidates are doing dick jokes.
The end is near.
Trevor Noah via Twitter

He said something similar in an on-camera interview with VladTV, suggesting that he wouldn’t want to hold hands with a man on the street out of respect for his children. In the background of the video an off-camera voice says, “So you’re not free.” A representative of VladTV confirmed with Broadly that the voice belongs to Anthony Cherry, Yusaf’s manager. “It shouldn’t matter who you love,” Cherry says.
‘I Love Trannies’: Boxer Yusaf Mack Fights for His Attraction to Trans Women (Broadly)

You don’t have to be a hit to be a success.
Why smaller iOS developers would be smart to head back to the Mac (Macworld)

Find someone as utterly obsessed with you as Doug Stamper is with Frank Underwood.
#HouseofCards

If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know.
Proverbs 19:27

Revolution Deferred: On Loving Other Black Men

Tongues untied

“As long as we reject ourselves, as long as we continue to harm our own body and mind, there is no point in talking about loving and accepting others.”
Thich Nhat Hanh – Teachings on Love

I wasn’t expecting to see anyone who looked like me at the orientation of my master’s program. But there he was: another Black man around my age. During the mingling period, I tried to walk over to talk to him, but I could tell he was actively avoiding me. It would be months later before I confronted him.

“I didn’t want people to think that just because we were both Black men we would click.”

I was confused. Who cared what they thought? And if it worked out that we were close, would that be such a bad thing?

At the first adult video company I worked for, my boss gathered all the models and staff for a holiday dinner. Our flagship bottom was there and we never met. He wouldn’t say anything to me the entire night. It would be several more times at work before he even felt comfortable talking to me.

I was at a birthday party in September with about a dozen Black gay men. It started off rather cordial, but after everyone had a few drinks, the shade was flowing as well. Another guest and I discussed after the affair how uncomfortable we felt. How could you be so disrespectful to someone you just met?

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you know I have plenty more stories like these. It has taken me the last few years to accept most of the interactions I’ve had with other black gay men haven’t been positive. But this post really isn’t about me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my work in HIV. Thinking about what’s kept me negative, what I wish were different, what it would take to actually end the epidemic.

I was in one of my high level meetings; the power players that make decisions. One official from [that other city I love where my 2nd future husband currently lives, redacted] got up to present and was like:

“We have a problem with older Black men infecting young Black men.”

I sat with it for a minute. My first thought was, that makes sense: if I were 50 years old, beat down (literally and figuratively) by racism, poverty, etc. I could see myself splashing off in a nineteen year old every so often just to cope. Using condoms or getting an undetectable viral load would be the last thing on my mind.

My second thought was, that’s not really a problem public health can fix.

And it would help if the White people in charge cared, but they don’t. Most of them are very smart people, some are actually very lovely. But to most, this is just a job. They collect their paycheck and go home to their privilege where none of these problems exist.

Then what is the solution? Take matters into our own hands of course!

But we can’t even be nice to one another.

To be clear, these problems I speak of are not exclusive to Black gay men. And I’m sure there’s a myriad of reasons why all of this is so, even legitimate ones like trauma. That came up in that GMAD meeting. I’ve been trying to be more mindful of my privilege growing up and how lack of trauma was just as important to access to resources.

The problem is we don’t have the numbers; the loss of one exponentially affects us in ways it doesn’t other demographics. Whether it’s one organization folding, one leader quitting or one more infected.

And I don’t want to be too jaded. There are many doing great work and fighting the good fight. If they even help one, I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Speaking of, it didn’t occur to me leading community prevention work in the largest city in the country would be a big deal.

…until I realized there hasn’t been a Black gay man in this role in over a decade.

…until I realized I was the youngest Black man in the huge meeting in Atlanta at [that federal agency, redacted]. Which is a problem considering I’m going to be 33 very soon.

And every other time I’m in one of these spaces/situations. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, I just wish it were enough.

The draft of this piece has been written for years now. I keep saving it, revisiting it and hoping I have a better ending each time.

…but I’m still stuck on we can’t be nice to one another.

So if Black men loving Black men is the revolutionary act, I won’t hold my breath. Cause the revolution won’t be televised. Not anytime soon anyway.

P.S. This isn’t the blame game. I had a role in all the above situations. I’ve hurt other black gay men too. I’m working on me every day.

For Brandon, For Shelton

BrandonShelton

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.

Spotlight: Dear Dad

“I don’t have a relationship with him. In order to have a relationship, I guess you have to relate.”
– Dear Dad

During the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference, I attended a presentation by the ever sexy, always brilliant Dr. David Malebranche. He talked about father-son relationships with black gay/bisexual men in a recent study he conducted in Atlanta. Most of the participants he interviewed had negative/non-existent relationships with their biological fathers which lead to maladaptive behaviors as adults and ultimately HIV risk.

In essence, absence as trauma.

I never thought of it like that. When I hear people talk about never meeting their bio dad or crazy stories of parents actively sabotaging their children, I’m like, “people really do that? That really happens?” (my middle class privilege)

I’m ambivalent about my father. He was physically (and financially) there growing up, but never emotionally. He didn’t seem to like my mother very much. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was gay. A story for another time. But I harbor no active hatred towards him.

As Trent Jackson often says, the first relationship you observe (read: learn to model) is your parents. If dad was never there, how does that affect your interpersonal relationships as an adult? How can you trust other men when you can’t even trust your own father?

Dear Dad, a new film by Chase Adair (also in Atlanta) seeks to explore those questions and more.

It’s a timely piece, especially considering we still have to deal with parents pulling stunts and shows with their LGBT youth, leaving them to fend for themselves at a young age. No one should have to go thru that.

Check out the trailer above and please donate to the Kickstarter if you can. This film needs to be released to the masses.

Moving From HIV Prevention to HIV Awareness

Pharaohc1ousHIV

Pharaohc1ous on Twitter the other day

The strangest thing happened last year:

One of the leading adult video stars in urban gay porn today took to his Xtube account to make a public service announcement about HIV testing. In the three minute video he encourages those watching to know their status (if they don’t already). The word condom is never used nor is there advice on what to do if you end up testing positive.

And it left me feeling some kind of way.

Full disclosure: Trap Boyy is one of my favorite cumdumpsters. I was a fan long before Black Rayne decided to build a separate imprint around him. He’s cute, seems like a nice guy and takes cum deep in every orifice like he needs it to stay alive. I wouldn’t mind throwing down with him.

Having said that, I’m not sure if his point translated or if it was a good message at that. All his stats seemed to be right and testing is paramount in ending the HIV epidemic, especially among black gay/bisexual men. But was the messenger overshadowing the message?

If a porn person best known for barebacking pleads with you to go get tested for HIV, does it make a sound?

The comments were even more interesting. They fell into two major categories: (a) those who championed the video saying it was great to see someone in the industry speak on the issue and (b) those who called Trap Boyy a hypocrite for essentially invoking “do as I say, not as I do.”

And then it occurred to me: this wasn’t the first time this happened. Early in 2011 I was browsing Youtube looking for men of color speaking on HIV/AIDS as I prepared a post on National HIV testing day. I stumbled upon this cutie talking about World AIDS day. Similar mechanics: he tells everyone to get tested but doesn’t mention safer sex (read: condoms).

It wasn’t until weeks later I realized Juven was a fairly well known, up and coming AmPro porn actor who also didn’t use condoms in most of his videos.

I’ve been wresting with this for over a year now looking for answers. As someone who went thru puberty in the nineties, condoms were shoved down my throat (and it worked). I use them pretty consistently and have managed to stay HIV negative for ten years.

But the kids nowadays, the ones sexually coming up in the 2000’s, don’t seem all that concerned about HIV. Serosorting seems to be more of a priority these days than condoms. Both Trap Boyy and Juven’s messages are consistent in asking people to know their status and that of their partners. The burden stops there.

At some point (while I wasn’t looking) we moved from HIV prevention to HIV awareness.

Public health as an industry has realized this too as treatment as prevention has become the new thing. We can’t stop people from becoming infected, but we can suppress their viral load to make it harder to pass HIV to someone else.

I hate to be Debby Downer, but color me unimpressed.

It got me thinking, if the next generation doesn’t care about HIV, why should I?

(to be continued)

Have Negative Men Been Left Out of the HIV Conversation?

hivneg.jpg

I recently attended a “group discussion” (it was really a focus group) organized by Gay Men of African Decent (GMAD). Honey it was a hot mess. The topic? What would social services for HIV negative men look like?

At least that was what we were supposed to be talk about. Instead it turned into two hours of shade throwing, venting and general frustration. Let me set the stage:

It was one of the first gorgeous spring days in NYC and late in the afternoon I got an invitation to attend by a friend who works at GMAD. It was on the way home so I decided to drop by.

At the beginning of the conversation there were about twenty of us, a few more trickled in as the event continued. There were about six GMAD employees and two (random) women. The rest gay/bisexual Black men. What I was really fascinated by was the age demographic.

The majority of the room was ~45 or older (and that’s being generous, no shade). During introductions we had to explain why we came and many of the men talked about “survivor’s guilt.” Essentially when they were in their teens/twenties (before HIV/AIDS) they fucked like crazy, usually without a condom and somehow they managed to stay negative and some of their loved ones weren’t so lucky. One man lost three partners and countless friends. I can’t even imagine.

There were materials on everyone’s seat and the moderator wanted to methodically go through the questions (here and here) and that’s when things got interesting. Three of the older gentlemen got upset and wanted to have a more organic conversation. They spoke of being around during the early years (GMAD celebrates their 25th anniversary this year) and as the epidemic progressed they felt left out as more of the programming started to specifically target HIV positive men. Essentially patted on the back like, “Good job Sonny, you’re negative, just keep doing what you’re doing…” and sent on their way.

I never really thought about it like that.

Being a sex master, I take for granted I’m attached to a lot of organizations professionally I don’t really access in my personal life. My passion is talking about sex/sexuality; public health (specifically HIV/AIDS research) is just how I pay the bills. Many non-profit organizations centered around LGBT issues you wouldn’t need to access unless something was “wrong” (e.g. recovery, homelessness, legal, HIV care issues, etc.). And now that I count, most of my colleagues in HIV advocacy (who fit my demographics) are HIV positive…interesting.

More importantly as a sexuality scholar I was a little disturbed by the question in general. Why would services for HIV negative men look any different than services tailored to positive men?

We ALL need courses on healthy relationships.
We ALL need to know risk reduction strategies including how to properly use a condom and protecting yourself from STIs.
We ALL need to get tested on a regular basis.
We ALL need to communicate with our partners better and learn how to negotiate stigma, disclosure and healthcare.

And most importantly to me as a mental health specialist/advocate, I feel when the mind is right, everything else falls into place, including sexual health. How did I stay negative for thirty years? Before I started having sex I felt the need to be responsible for my own body so I educated myself on the issues and continue to consistently use condoms. It wasn’t rocket science, it was diligence and always putting myself first.

Ultimately I left that night feeling some kind of way. I had never seen so many older Black gay men in one room together (in a non-party setting). I wanted to ask them about their hopes, their dreams…I wanted to know how to stay upbeat God forbid I’m still single at fifty (which was the case for many in the room).

Ironically, as I left The Schomburg Center and walked home through Harlem, I saw many young men who needed to be part of the conversation and weren’t.

I’m leaving out a lot of nuances, but I’m curious about the original question. If you’re HIV negative, do you feel connected to your local GMAD (or GMHC, etc.)?

Have HIV negative men been silenced in this epidemic?

Quotes of the Week – Ending 8.8.10

Being a top is no excuse for being a bore.
Random Phantom via Twitter

After watching all these episodes of Spongebob, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Krabs is Jewish.
Urban Prince via Twitter

I definitely thought this woman singing on this Rick Ross song was Nina Simone. It was Cee-Lo.
Urban Prince as well (I couldn’t choose!)

You will NOT get along with everybody!
Rev Run via Twitter

Chris Brown needs to change it up a bit. To what? I don’t know, but something else. Ciara just needs to fill out a FAFSA.
B.Tiz via Twitter

Maybe I should whore around like everyone else…
Devon Corneil via Twitter

Subtlety is lost on those unable to appreciate it.
commenter EH – Clever Ads for Tivo (37signals)

To bankrupt a fool give him information.
Nassim Taleb via Twitter

Dear Arizona, your state used to be part of Mexico. If you are non-Mexican and non-indigenous, then you are the immigrant.
Prerna Lal via Twitter

Way to go, California Supreme Court! Gay couples should have the right to a 50 percent chance of getting divorced, too.
Chad via Twitter

Arnold [Schwarzenegger] being a political weather vane, he obviously thinks supporting gay marriage is good politics now, after vetoing it twice.
David Dayen via Twitter

It’s so sickening to think it’s 2010 and people still care that two guys can love each other.
Karlos Lopez via Twitter

History will remember the gay marriage thing the same way it does segregation.
Darian Aaron via Twitter

…you wouldn’t believe how many white girls I knew in school who honestly just did not think [HIV/AIDS] affected them at all. I know a woman in particular who is so sure she has AIDS at this point that she will NOT get tested, and she sleeps around like crazy.
commenter regazza_di_lupo – Cyndi Lauper & Lady Gaga Go Off Script, Discuss Safe Sex On GMA (Jezebel)

I like to be multi-contextual, which is much more important than being multicultural.
Cornel West via Twitter

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
Albert Einstein

Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.
Betty Yelp via Twitter

I’ve come to the conclusion that no one has your best interest in mind…
Michael Miles via Twitter

My existence isn’t based on your validation.
Necole Bitchie via Twitter

The universe does my dirty work. Karma is a bitch.
Mr. Jones via Twitter

To want others to do the best they can for themselves, when they have done the best they can for you — this is intelligence.
Maya Angelou via Twitter

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.
Charles Swindoll via Tim Ferriss

In this race, you have to pace yourself.
WhatsTheT via Twitter

There’s good and bad in everything… you get what you’re looking for.
Kanye West via Twitter

You can’t bring everyone to the new places you’re going.
Trent Jackson via Twitter

Video Killed the Black (Gay) Blogging Star

Admittedly, I’m a personal blog whore. It all started with the Asians, you know cause they’re always early adopters of new technology. Back then they were called journals (before blogger, wordpress, tumblr, etc.).

Most notable were DJ Paris and Rickey.org (which has since turned into an American Idol fansite). Over time I found some black and brown boys, some gay, others not so much…all with a story to tell. But what the hell happened to everyone? Continue reading Video Killed the Black (Gay) Blogging Star

When Comedians Become Medical Experts

(An open letter to Barbara Walters)

Dear Ms. Walters,

Hi, my name is Tony. I have a background in journalism, but have been doing social science based HIV/AIDS research for the last seven years (mainly concerning gay/bisexual men of color). Making sure accurate and current information about sexuality reaches the general public is so important to me I am pursuing a masters degree to supplement my media training. Continue reading When Comedians Become Medical Experts