Friday, October 22, 2010

Literary Vandalism, or when hate comes knocking on the door

The first time I visited Austin, I remember walking down South Congress holding my then boyfriend’s (my compañero) hand and hearing the words “fags” come shooting out of a passing car. That was the first and only time I have been maliciously attacked verbally with the word “fag.”

Today I woke up to sad news. A dear friend had ordered my book through Amazon and, upon receiving it and opening the package in his home, he discovered someone had written “FAG” on one of the pages. The book was new. 

As queer youth have continued to find no other option but to cease to live, such acts of vandalism are a cruel reminder of how far we are from it getting better. I am saddened by the constant reminder of a world where hatred is so deeply embedded and structurally sustained by a fear of people who love and are loved. I am devastated to know a dear friend had to endure this experience in his home. My heart is broken.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

the preventable, the unsalvageable, and the innocent.

I recently read a post on entitled Oprah Gets Schools on HIV and Has Her Own Aha! Moment. The article does a great job of surfacing how ignorance prevails when it comes to HIV/AIDS, particularly among people of color. However, the clip itself disturbed me in that there is no context surrounding it to help the viewer get the whole picture regarding what it means to be living with HIV.

While the clip and the accompanying write-up are good for developing a race analysis, it also runs the danger of perpetuating apocalyptic ideas about what it means to live with HIV. My concerns stem from the fact that Bridget, the person calling Oprah on her ignorance, is describing the devastating realities of people living with HIV, without recognizing Oprah's assertions that some people do live healthy and fulfilling lives. And while what Bridget describes is definitely a real experience, without proper context and truly informed messaging, the sensationalism of the clip only adds to the already difficult experience of being diagnosed with HIV. 

I do not mean to sugarcoat the experience of living with HIV, nor do I believe anything Bridget says is untrue. However, the absence of nuance is troubling. Even more alarming is the ongoing desire to continue or revive a sense of urgency on the backs of those living with HIV.

Prevention programs, public health officials and the media strive to put an end to HIV infection, but at what cost? It seems those living with HIV are disposable or unsalvageable, and as such, their experiences must be described in horrific ways -only- so as to terrify the negative (also thought of as the innocent) to the point of either wrapping themselves in saran wrap to shake someone's hand or to avoid having sex altogether.

Yes, living with HIV is a serious experience. It is a chronic condition and one that comes with serious challenges. It is also true that not all people have access to health care or medications, that the medications have their side-effects, and that people still die due to complications to HIV/AIDS. Still, there must be more effective and humane ways to work toward preventing further infections while also honoring and supporting those living with HIV to live fulfilling and healthy lives. 

It seems the socially accepted difference between those living with HIV and those living with other non-sexually transmitted diseases is that faggots simply deserve what they get. After all, wasn't this the point of the Reagan-era "Gay Cancer" myth?

Sadly, it seems this mentality has seeped into queer thinking about sex and sexuality, and ultimately contributed to the moralizing and normalizing of what was once a door toward sexual liberation. What if HIV prevention messaging were centered on supporting people to make informed decisions? What if we lived in a world where all queer men recognized their own agency and manifested their desire toward each other within mutually consensual, informed and freeing relationships that are completely autonomous and uninfected by social mores?

One can only dream... 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Recent interview on identity, poetry and the role queer chicano legacies of survival

Recent interview with Sean Parris for a podcast series that Sharon Bridgforth, DePaul University Theatre School's Visiting Multicultural Faculty Member, is curating. For more go to: Theatrical Jazz Podcast Series