Category Archives: Friends

Why not me?

I’m 42, soon to be 43, and I’m HIV-. I’m a gay male in the United State who grew up with the warning that if I had gay sex I would get AIDS and die. It hasn’t happened to me.

But why not? Luck. That’s all it can be.

I’m not particularly promiscuous, nor am I a prude, and nothing near a virgin. Sex can be amazing, and why not enjoy it?

I look at my friends, so many of whom are dealing with the disease in their lives. In their bodies. Living with it. Owning it. Not letting it control or destroy them.

Undetectable.

Alive.

Living, loving, and wildly still out there creating and changing the world. Fighting for a better place. Standing tall and proud and not backing down, not for the disease and not for the world, either.

Inspiring. That’s what they are.

I find that, on this day when we yell from the roof tops that AIDS is still here, still very real, and still very bad, that these amazing people stand on the front lines and fight to remove a stigma and that inspires me. I stand with them, beside them, hold their hands and shedding tears at losses just like them.

And because of dumb luck, I’m not on the front lines. I don’t have HIV, that I know, and I need to get tested today as it’s that day, and I’m pretty sure I know how it will come back, but it’s something we do.

I remember my first HIV test. It had to be a blood draw. In a doctors office. And sent away, like a macabre cereal box-top prize that would arrive in a few weeks. And it did. In a plain white envelop, with my name typed on the outside, with a single sheet inside it, and I had to steel myself to open it. I sat in the huge windows of my apartment in Bozeman that overlooked Main street and I cried as I opened the letter, sure that my world was about to crash to nothing.

But it didn’t. I was spared.

I move to Portland not long after, and met amazing, wonderful, talented people. And after a short few months, I got to go to my first funeral for one of those amazing, talented, wonderful people I’d just met. That was weird. It also started a pattern that I’ve kept for nearly 23 years of getting tested every 6 months. Not everyone died, but too many did. I still miss them, even though I can’t recall their real names, only faces or drag names or nick names or something they once said that was so funny I laughed until I cried, and it still brings a touch of joy with a soupçon of melancholy when I do remember it.

I moved to Phoenix, and met more amazing people. I was there when some found out they’d seroconverted. Most are still alive, but not all. Medical science has changed the world, but not eradicated this plague. It’s amazing what we can do, and it’s more amazing what people faced with this choose to do. Inspiring doesn’t really cover it.

I moved to Caribou, and met amazing people, who couldn’t wait to get out of The County and move to a city. I spoke about condoms and caring for yourself, and saw them leave and it was good. And things happen, and it’s not always good things.  But they stand and they fight and life continues for most of them.

I moved to Houston and got a taste of a truly metropolitan city, and worked at a nightclub of outstanding proportions. And I met many who were positive, and knew many who seroconverted and I know they face the challenges head-on and don’t shirk away from the fight. And they are awesome. And still, life continues for many, but not all.

I moved home to Montana. I met a group of gays, and found a life I love, and a community that accepts me for the bombastic asshole I am, knowing that my passion and my inability to shut up can work to make a difference in our lives. I thought maybe I could hold the virus at bay, stop it from creeping into my life here, but I was the first person called when a friend seroconverted, and we got together and I made sure he was ok and wouldn’t do anything to harm himself, and I was pissed at the virus that it was back and I couldn’t stop it. But I wasn’t going to sit down and stop fighting.

So I stand. I fight. For equality. Against the stigma. And when people ask me if I’m HIV+ I have to tell them, no, I’m not. But it’s simple luck, and I still get tested. In fact, I’m getting tested tonight, at 5:30, and while I don’t know the results, and I’m supremely lucky, I get tested with a pall of dread covering my mind because it can happen to anyone. It can happen at any time. It’s still here. It’s still deadly. And it’s not cured.

On this World AIDS Day, I stand with my friends who have been directly afflicted or affected by this scourge and miss so many of you. I want one more time to hold you, to tell you I love you, to give you warmth and a moment of safety, fleeting and imaginary that it may be. I don’t know why it got you. I don’t know why I’m so fucking insanely lucky.

I just know I want it to go away, and never bother anyone again. And I wish those it took were never taken, and that tears at my heart with sharpened claws and bloodied talons. I never want to lose another, but it seems I will because we have no cure.

Except knowledge.

Get tested. Know your status. Get on PrEP. Change the world. Love your friends.

AIDS-Ribbon

Honda does the Right Thing

It’s been a stressful week. It’s the 2nd anniversary of Richard’s death, and it’s the first time that I’ve been able to spend it with Janna basically attached to her hip. During the first year of grieving she couldn’t handle being around me too much as she would attempt to convince herself it was 2005 and my being there was normal because we had lived together in 2005 while Richard was in Iraq. When he returned at the end of 2005, a new chapter of their lives started, and I helped to smooth that transition for them both since the Army hasn’t figured out how.

And then, bam! Gone.

Now, Janna, The Cheerleader, has had to deal with this loss for two years. Day in and day out she’s worked to get her life back, get her sensibilities back, and to get as well as she can. Not easy, not fast, and certainly not painless. But still, moving forward in big ways. And hanging out with her 24/7 is a lot of fun even when she’s screaming. Sometimes, because she is.

That being said, the little extra stressors in her life are not much fun. They suck. Like, transmission needs to be replaced at a cost of several grand and lots of without car time. Not making her happy.

Consider as well that the car got it’s original transmission changed at approx. 78k miles in October 2005, the second swapped out after only 25k miles and 18 months, and now the third is being swapped out for the fourth after a mere 20k miles and 12 months. Not pretty.

Worse, the car is now out of the extended warranty, so the transmission isn’t covered in any way. And as we all know, they aren’t cheap either.

But we called Honda USA and went over the events, and asked. What could hurt if we asked for help, the worst thing they could do is say no, and then we were no worse off for asking. They said they would review the case and get back to us in few days. Usually, this is corporate speak for “Let me get a social normative graph because it’s something to refer to and will take time, tricking one to think we’re making the effort, when we’re just stalling” but not this time.

After considering all that Janna has had to deal with this, it’s been sucky. Just fucking sucky. Having the car issues to deal with all throughout the Anniversary day did some good in distracting from the insanity inherent in a 32 year old widow’s life. It seemed like a good thing to me, but Janna felt that she didn’t get anything accomplished on thursday, even tho she spent the day reconnecting with various parts of her family, both the family she was born into and the family that she was married into. None of it was easy.

Honda has decided to pay all but 10% of the bill to replace the transmission. It will therefore have a 3 year/36,000 mile warranty for the transmission itself. So the little people can play their game again. And we whole-heartedly thank them.

YAY!

Southern Comfort

I’ve been offline since late last week, which was when I had a last-minute deal appear in my lap and proceed to shred my thursday and friday like a demon-possessed wood chipper. Oh so much fun.

And let’s not forget the random weather in Montana that included a blizzard that appeared at 2 am Saturday and brought along the wind from a hurricane and a couple of lightening bolts left over from last spring. It seems that the weather was being run by the same windows machine that did the fireworks for Seattle. Heavy, wet, sticky snow that was piling up sideways as I needed to depart to drive to Bozeman for a flight. Rapture.

Anyway, it ended up being a non-issue, as the new PT drives excellently (more on that lovely bit later) and the storm and I parted ways after 32 miles. I made my flight, although when I landed in Denver to switch planes, I got a voice mail from United that if I missed my flight, I could get right on the next one out of Bozeman. Nice service, really, as it had to arrive right about when I checked in, since I turned my phone off after calling home to say the snow hadn’t killed me.

Now I’m in Houston for the Second Anniversary of Hell. Mostly, it’s been pretty good. I’m not looking forward to some of the events we have to do for this, but I am glad to be here. I want to know what the word would be that means ‘an obligation that honors me to undertake, that creates happiness out of misery, and that helps all involved in different ways, but that still sucks bilgewater’. I’m sure there is a German word for it, along the lines of schadenfraude, but it’s not been made into a song yet.

Anyway, back in Houston with the Cheerleader. Back dealing with emotional wounds that blacken the sun and destroy souls, an ongoing battle that seems to finally be going our way. I wouldn’t walk away for anything, but I wish no one would ever go through this.

Army National Guard Training

Yeah. Read that title again and then think of all that you know about me. So yeah, there’s a bit of a twist. I was training them. In how to wear pink. No really.

Actually I was training them on how to use Final Cut Pro. I’m pretty damn good at using that software, which is kinda surprising to me considering I use it for such specific projects and never have used some features of the software whatsoever. Literally. And yet, I was asked to train them.

Now, I’ve taken classes from Apple Certified Trainers and learned a ton. I mostly learned that what I do and what a film crew does are two totally different things. I’m not part of a crew of several or hundreds or thousands, I’m the entire crew. I film, I edit, I produce, I foley, I author, I script, I do it all. I even deal with set building and lighting. That stands in direct conflict with the roles that most editors fill for Film and TV production. And that’s ok.

This gig required that I put together a syllabus. Which I did. And then the class started and it was nearly 4 hours into the class before I realized I hadn’t opened the stupid thing and had no idea if I was following it or not.

The class, however, was going great and learning tons. Why? Because I didn’t need to know what Apple thinks the students should be learning to teach them. In fact, if I’d done the syllabus’ route, the class would have ended up learning about a third of what they learned. After three days, each student had learned the interface, navigation, common pitfalls, how to adjust settings, controls, timing, in and out points, how to deal with still images, build pieces in Photoshop, the whys and wherefores of pixel sizing, the basic insanity of television resolutions and display methods, and had actually produced a very slick, fully personalized and completely useable video to show their Commanding Officers.

Do the students know how to work in a Film Production? Well, probably not. Can they create great videos for the National Guard? Yes. And since that’s their job, my training and the fact that I catered the learning to both their current level of knowledge and a specific goal means that I was hugely successful. Would Apple approve? Don’t know, but I suspect they would.

For the last part of Day 3 we had a quick session on how to export to DVD Studio Pro, re-use of documents in the production for the DVD and then presented each DVD to the C.O. on the big screen and had a discussion with said C.O. on how things worked, looked and the next steps. All of which is to say that it was a resounding success!

To the point that they wanted to recruit me. Which is, perhaps, the best compliment this big ol’ homo could ever get from people in the military. Because when it all boils down to it, substance matters. And I’ve proved that I have at least enough of the right stuff.

Plus, my students rocked! I really did enjoy my time out there, and if we get to do some more training I’m stoked about it.

More Thinking on Accessibility

Jeff’s follow-on to his previous post is another must-read. And doubly-thanks for the shout out, Jeff, that’s always appreciated.

I have something else to add to this, and it’s part of the discussion that I don’t see defined well, and, the back of my head being the meandering/simmering kind, this took a skosh more time to finish, but it was another epiphanal moments for me:

When working to make something accessible, you have the core audience, the first marginal audience, second marginal, third marginal, etc., ad nauseum. However, those units most likely follow a half-life scale, getting below 10% by the 4th marginal, but never actually reaching zero. Very ‘radial gradient’ if you can visualize it.

Alas the world doesn’t work this way, and what works this member of the core isn’t what she’s used to because her child is deaf. Or his wife is blind. And so core people deliberately choose different ways in, to both share in the emotional side of life, granted, but to also try something new. Don’t think it’s happened? You’ve probably done it yourself by activating the built-in reader for a web-page to hear your structure, I have. (It wasn’t bad, just felt like I was on hold a lot.)

I can think of no site-design situation where I’ve sat down and heard anyone say “let’s define this in terms of the 5 senses.” (Insert your own lame ‘stink’ or ‘del.icio.us’ joke here.)

I could be wrong on this, but I just can’t imagine a group saying “our primary goal is to grant access to Group-Y” if only because, for example, having a site for the blind that is inaccessible to the deaf would raise too many hackles, and cut away the core of humanity. I would be very surprised if even the American Society for the Blind, or for the Deaf, think about how their sites are going to be used for the disability, but instead think about how it’s going to be used by ability.

Subtle? Yes. Too subtle? Just wait, there’s more!

You can’t plan for everyone who will reach your site, the potential audience is billions of people. You can plan for groups, but you’ll never know Person X. (unless your name is Dave, apparently, and then Ye Shall Be Known And Smote!. And that’s a good thing, too.

Why on earth would I think it’s a good thing to not know who is at your site? Because accessibility isn’t just about the ways we’ve delivered equal-access to members those of our society who need it. After all, that’s past-tense, in most ways. But we need to keep being creative, keep analyzing the problem, keep pushing the envelope and thinking up new ways. We need to keep learning to help others in our every day lives, keep building new tools and developing new ideas, because each one of those ideas is a building block for another, and another, and, again, ad nauseum. No one should get upset at altruism, but that’s not why it’s important. Society’s growth and continued semblance of well-being are at stake.

While the overall goal of accessibility is to grant everyone access, each person only needs one way. Once it’s found, it’s nirvana, but who finds it the first try? No one. And who stays with that tool for more than a few years? I don’t, and I don’t know anyone who does, either.

Usually because we found a better way, or designed one ourselves.

The devolution of this much-needed discussion to a flame-war is so sad. I don’t want to have to care for someone else’s disability, I want to create for their ability. I don’t want to think in terms of “these can and those can’t” when, by being creative and having a moment to think instead of hearing all the whining over and over about all the sad things in everyone else’s life and I should be grateful and… and … and I am. And if you’ll give me a moment, I may be able to find a common situation so ‘these’ and ‘those’ can all use ‘this’.

Personally I’m falling behind on my surfing as I’m eye-ball deep in django syntax (MODELS, and URLS, and VIEWS! OH MY!) that I’ve not been out on the rest of the web all day. Perhaps I’ll use another access tool and just dump the text into the vocalizer and let the sultry digital tones of the descendants of Maxx Headroom tell you about the day. Or just crank out some BT.

Ah to be young and gay on the stage at Carnegie Hall

Let’s not forget, especially since this is Pride Month here in the lusty U.S. of A., that so many of the things that we adore about the gays are tied inextricably to Judy Garland. She gave us fashion, she gave us music, she gave us hope. And her final act on this earth, her funeral, occurred in the summer of 1969. It was hot, it was a horribly sad day as many had lost their idol and were watching the last performance she’d ever give (C.S.I. wasn’t around then. I know it seems like they were, but no.) When the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, the drag queens and street boys were gathered inside to watch the funeral, to weep with Liza, and to click their heels three times and wish that she’d come back from Over the Rainbow. Instead of not-resisting, they stood up, stood tall, and fought back. Stonewall is the beginning of the modern GLBT movement, and one great lady was the catalyst. So it seems only right that a big queen from 2006, Miss Rufus Wainwright, would pay tribute in the only appropriate way for any gay man – by singing the entire concert to everyone he can get to listen!

Wainwright’s reverence for Garland aside, the concert was as much as about Wainwright and his own aspirations. Of course, there was the symbolic importance of a gay performer saluting a pivotal gay icon. Yet this wasn’t an evening of reinvention, but rather heartfelt homage, right down to Wainwright forgetting some of the words (as Garland did) on “You Go to My Head” and resurrecting some of her original stage banter.

Wainwright performs a soaring tribute to Garland – The Boston Globe

I shall one day be that gay, too.

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