Monday, October 18, 2010


In response to the recent teen suicides in our country hundreds of Americans, including celebrities, posted videos they’ve created for the gay and the questioning teenagers.  They talk about their high school experiences and stress not to give up on life and that things will “get better.”  I would like you as a reader to indulge me for this blog entry by allowing a break from the topic of HIV this week so I may progress this noteworthy and effective movement -in my own words.

For the teenager out there who’s reading this:
  • I speak to you as an adult who was once a scared teenager like you
  • I speak to the adult that you are becoming
  • Whether you’re male, female, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, Black, White, Asian, short, tall, skinny, fat, popular, friendless
  • Who is considering to end your life
  • Who have been bullied
  • Who is a bully
For the teenager out there who’s reading this- this story is dedicated to you.

When we were born we had no knowledge.  When we were children we asked many questions and accepted the answers given to us.  When we became teenagers we asked less and less questions and repressed the answers given to us.  When we became adults we no longer asked questions because we knew all the answers.  At such time a child asks the questions of which we provide the answers to.  And so the child sets off with this newfound knowledge we granted him/her.  What was the message we gave them?

I’ll tell you the message that adults, especially parents, guardians, and teachers should always give to children: Life will never be easy because every day we learn something new, even as adults when we are expected to have all the answers.  We learn that each day will never be the same as the other, filled with happiness and celebration, or heartache and sadness.  But most importantly, no two human beings will ever be the same as one another, but all human beings are equal.  As you get older and you as a person change both physically and emotionally you will begin to understand this.  In the meantime, you must never hurt others for what you do not understand or are afraid of.  Everyone, including you, has the right to be themselves.

Generations after generation of teens have been taught to believe that you need to have all the answers by the time you finish high school and know what you want to do with your life.  I had no idea who I was in high school.  I had no idea who I was in college.  Now, I am twenty seven years old and I am still discovering who I am and realizing the things I have always been- special, loved, wanted, and welcomed.  If we all knew then in high school what we know now as adults perhaps things would have been different.  I wouldn’t have isolated myself as much as I did out of fear.  I would’ve ignored the teasing and remarks aimed to hurt me.  I would have known that high school was only the first chapter of my life.  Unfortunately, life does not allow that luxury and maybe for good reason.  Where are all those people that verbally hurt me back in high school, today?  Who knows, who cares. 

I can sit here and give you specifics about my high school experience.  However, so many individuals have already done so on Youtube through Dan Savages, “It Gets Better Project” and I cannot thank them enough for their bravery and speaking their thoughts.  I only wished these resources were available to me when I was younger. Perhaps I would have made smarter choices in high school and reached out to peers and educators and loved ones.  Perhaps I would have realized that I am not alone and that there are others out there just like me rather than choosing to isolate myself.  That hurt I created I believe was the ultimate reason to the predicament I have created - living a life with HIV.  But that was me and this is you.

Let me offer my hand to the gay and questioning teens that are currently victims of bullies.  Don’t give up and don’t let them win.  There is nothing wrong with you.  The bullies are the ones with the problem only because they don’t understand you and are yet unable to value all that you will accomplish when you are free to dictate your own life in the years to come.  Bullies can also be adults as well as peers.  Find someone to reach out to if you are being harassed in any way.  Remember that everyone, including you, has the right to be themselves.

If you are someone who is a bully- leave them alone.  You will only be doing greater damage to yourself in addition to the person you are physically hurting. 

My final thought on this entry is this- not only will I promise you that it gets better, but it gets incredibly and substantially better.  Hang in there and when high school is over you will be free to live as the person you desperately have been trying to be.  Who knows, by sticking around you may save the life of another teen who will one day seek your help. 

We in the LGBT community will always be here to welcome you with warming arms.

On October 20, 2010 remember to wear purple, in honor of the lost teens who felt they had no one and nowhere to turn to in their time of crisis.  They will forever be in our hearts.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


“Going to Jump off the Bridge.  Sorry.”   -Tyler Clementi (1992-2010)

Those were the last communicative words the world read on the Facebook status message of eighteen year old violinist and Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, before choosing to take his life on September 22.  His car (containing his laptop, wallet, and phone) was found abandoned on the George Washington Bridge here in New York City.

If you had not recently read in the papers of this boy’s demise then I will give you a brief synopsis.  Clementi asked his college roommate for some privacy until midnight one night.  His roommate, by name of Dharun Ravi, obliged and sneakily set up his computer’s webcam.  The end result of this prank was Ravi recording Clementi having sexual relations with another man in their room without Clementi‘s awareness.  It wasn’t until later on did Clementi find out about this video and that it had been posted all over the internet for everyone to see.  Humiliation does not justify what his feelings must have been when he found out. 

It is not proven that this particular incident drove Clementi to his death, but if I was to speculate (and I will) the fingers do point in that direction.  This poor child is dead and the worst punishment Ravi will receive is up to five years in prison.  That’s how the justice system handles a bully picking on a weaker individual because he was gay?  How many more gay men and women have to die before society will take this seriously?  

It is obvious being a gay individual why I would be disgusted with this case.  I can talk about the politics of hate crimes in this country and the hardships minorities face, but I will leave that to others.  I will refrain as best as I can and I will talk about how this story relates to me and HIV, which my blogging is ultimately about.

ACCEPTANCE.  A simple concept, yet the world won’t allow themselves to practice such.  It is a concept that any gay individual, including myself, strives to find the meaning of.  Society and religion are two variables that tell people what is right and wrong in life and what we should and shouldn’t accept.  Unfortunately, being gay for the majority is wrong in the eyes of most.  This causes those who are different to feel isolated and unloved.  I was lucky growing up.  The worst torment I ever experienced was verbal abuse- “Hey faggot,” “Fairy, what’s up?” “Kiss any boys lately?” “You hate pussy, don’t you fag,” to name a few.  It was all sticks and stones, but rarely would people physically try to attack me.  It’s easy to pick on the kids who are weaker and introverted.  I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up and before my junior year I was never the most popular person in school, spending many weekends at home by myself. 

As I became an adult and understood that I was attracted to men was when the real danger happened.  I began doing things that was only going to hurt my health down the road.  But, I did them because I was tired of rejection and feeling alone- like most of us in the gay community.  I found a home where I can share stories and relate with other guys who were picked on and beaten in childhood just because they were born with a genetic makeup that causes attraction to the same sex.  But like I said, I was lucky.  I am still alive and here to talk to others while I can’t say the same for the innocent Clementi.  I’m lucky to have supportive friends and family who love me unconditionally. 

I knew that unprotected sex can get me in trouble, but before my diagnosis and my enlightenment I didn’t love myself enough to care. The piled up years of others not loving me or accepting me took a toll on my attitude about things.  Inevitably I got HIV. 

Society enforces that being gay is wrong because of reasons like HIV and Meth users, etc.  God forbid they see us as individuals.  It’s okay to be sympathetic to straight people with alcohol problems, but if you’re a gay man then you are a time bomb for falling into drugs or getting HIV, and no one can help you, right?  Well, society seems to think so.    Hence, hate crimes continue without consequences and HIV spreads.  As time passes I am learning to think that HIV has saved me.   Of course, HIV is a serious illness and nothing to joke about, but as said in entries past I plan to look at HIV in a different light than what I was brought up to believe.  Being diagnosed was the thing that changed my attitude about myself.  

“Oh no world,” I say, “I may have low self-esteem and you may tell me it’s wrong to be gay, but no way will I let your cruelty and non-acceptance prevail and win!  I have more self worth than that!” I refuse to let HIV take over and kill me.  My body and the medication I take illustrate that.  In the end, I win.  It is a shame that Clementi, being a gay man wasn’t as strong.  I did not know him personally, but as a gay man I wish I could give this boy a hug and say, “You’re not alone, don’t let them win.” 

It is not enough for me to educate the world about HIV and prevention.  We need show the world that consequences for hate crimes should be dealt with harshly.  Parents need to take a stand with their kids and tell them that other kids on the playground will be different- from skin color to handicaps to love interests.  Said kids need to understand that the occupants of the world will never all be the same and you must accept that.  Little Johnny or Sue are no better, nor worse, than they are.  The world we have created for younger generations is filled with cruelty and nonsense.  It needs to be stopped.  We need to reshape people’s attitudes of the ever-changing planet we live in if we are ever going to live in harmony.  If we don’t then negative variables like HIV and suicide will continue to increase in numbers and win.
<-Tyler Clementi