Transgender Soldiers File Lawsuit Against Trump

Washington D. C. – The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLAD has

Then Candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Denver

named President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a law suit arguing against banning transgender military personal from serving in the armed forces after.

On July 26, 2017 Mr. Trump Tweeted, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our Military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Despite what was said on the Presidents social media account there is currently no transgender ban in the military and according to the Pentagon “no modifications” in the policy towards transgender soldiers will be made until further guidance from the White House.

The lawsuit known as Doe vs. Trump was filed by Five active duty transgender service members in U.S. District Court claims that the ban “upset the reasonable expectations of plaintiffs and thousands of other transgender service members and the men and women with whom they serve and fight” the law suit goes on to state that “Execution of the president’s directive will result in an end to service by openly transgender service members and has already resulted in immediate, concrete injury to plaintiffs by unsettling and destabilizing plaintiffs’ reasonable expectation of continued service.” One of the plaintiff’s listed as “Jane Doe” on the complaint said in a statement, “I am married and have three children, and the military has been my life. But now, I’m worried about my family’s future.” Currently more lawsuits are being planned by advocates for transgender soldiers such as the one pending filing from OutServe-SLDN and Lamda Legal.

The identities of the five plaintiffs in the lawsuit are being kept anonymous for fear retribution.

The lawsuit against the Trump administration can be seen here. Doe vs. Trump

 

 

 

I’ve Never Been a Rainbow Guy…Seriously.

Limited edition PRIDE Dr. Marten’s.

To be clear I’ve never been a “rainbow guy.” You know the guy I’m talking about the “rainbow guy,” we’ve all seen him. The older middle aged guy, he was in his 20’s or 30’s in the 1970’s or ’80s. They have the rainbow bumper sticker on their Honda Accord or the “ball chain” necklace with the five rings in the PRIDE colors hanging from it. Or maybe the polo shirt with the PRIDE flag embroidered on it in the place where an alligator should go. Some of us including yours truly have given those guys a sideways glance or an eye roll. I can hear one of my more judgmental friends saying, “Look at that old poof with the rainbow bumpersticker, like she needs to advertise.” So you can imagine the good natured ribbing I’ve been taking from my friends because I purchased a pair of limited addition Dr. Marten rainbow colored eight eye boots released for PRIDE 2017. My husband was appalled. “Rainbow Dr. Marten’s, those are hideous.” he said with disgust. Dr. Marten’s are to me what Manolo Blahniks were to “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw always in style and always fabulous. Yet when I got the e-mail urging me to buy them even my first thought was these might be too much, even for me.

The Rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker who passed away eariler this year was meant to be a symbol of not only the diversity of the LGBT community but of our strength and our beauty and it still is. You go into any “gayborhood” around the country and there’s the PRIDE flag in its various forms. From the rainbow pylons that line North Halsted in Boystown to simple PRIDE flags that adorn proud LGBT owned businesses in Indianapolis. There are even some PRIDE flags hanging from homes right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana. So when did it become a joke to show your PRIDE or even wear the rainbow? I mean I bought a pair of rainbow colored Dr. Marten’s because I’m proud of who I am, my marriage and my community. It’s not like I wore a t-shirt with a silhouette of a baseball player that says “catcher” to a child’s birthday party. Don’t laugh I’ve seen it happen. Then there’s the haters. Years ago when I was a bartender one of the wait staff who worked with me told me that she used to love the rainbow, until the gays “stole it.” For the record we stole the rainbow about as much as Neil Armstrong stole the moon after he planted the American flag on it. The moon as well as the rainbow still belongs to everyone, we were just the ones that got to it first.

As much as President Donald Trump is attempting to dismantle Presidents Obama’s legacy piece by piece he is also trying to limit our visibility and silence us. A man with five children (that we know of) from three different marriages who said that he prefers “traditional” marriage is trying to put us back in the closet and he’s doing it by cutting funding to HIV/AIDS treatment programs. He’s doing it when he tweeted that the military will no longer allow transgender soldiers to serve in any capacity in the military and he’s doing it when he caters to the Evangelical base. Evangelical’s who would rip our marriages and families away from us without a thought for our happiness, our rights or the rights of our children. The same Evangelicals who would expose LGBT youth to harmful conversion therapy and claim pro-life but turn a blind eye to the high amount of gay and transgender teenagers and young adults who commit suicide or deny services homeless LGBT youth in their “Christian” shelters. These are Donald Trump’s supporters and these are the same people that would like to see us go away yet they don’t seem to mind when the chief executive grabs the occasional pussy.

I refuse to let the Trump administration erase our legacy and I refuse be invisible so I bought the damn boots. Wearing them is just one of the little things I can do to fight back against the hypocrisy of this administration. Maybe in the end I became the middle age “rainbow guy” who I used to roll my eyes at. In retrospect maybe the “rainbow guy” had a point, maybe that rainbow bumpersticker or the ball chain necklace was just his way of not being invisible. Come to think of it we would not have the legacy that we have now if it was not for “the rainbow guy.”

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, August 7, 2017.

A portion of the proceeds from the rainbow Dr. Marten’s go to The Trevor Project to stop bullying. You can get your own pair at drmartens.com

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Bans Transgender Military Personnal

Then Candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Denver

(Washington D.C.) President Trump continues to roll back Obama era policies, today as he announced that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military in “any capacity.”

President Trump made his announcement in a series of Tweets Wednesday morning. Transgender activists like Meghan Buell from South Bend, IN. view this as a major blow to the progress transgender individuals have made in the last few years under the Obama administration and deem it as discriminatory.

In an exclusive statement to “The Beacon” Ms. Buell had this to say about The Presidents decision “To blatantly advocate for discrimination against a single demographic is the most un-American thing any person in power can do. As an out and proud transgender American, I stand against the President’s statement and call for all Trans Allies to speak up against this action.”

President Trump claims in his series of Tweets that he consulted generals and “military experts” in making his decision.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you” According to CNN there are over 6000 transgender soldiers serving in the military.

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said in a statement on his website that regarding The Presidents decision.

“The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.

“The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.

“The Department of Defense is currently conducting a study on the medical obligations it would incur, the impact on military readiness, and related questions associated with the accession of transgender individuals who are not currently serving in uniform and wish to join the military. I do not believe that any new policy decision is appropriate until that study is complete and thoroughly reviewed by the Secretary of Defense, our military leadership, and the Congress.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to follow closely and conduct oversight on the issue of transgender individuals serving in the military.”

In his 2016 campaign then candidate Donald Trump claimed to be a “real friend” to the LGBT community as he was the only republican to speak out agains the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando Florida. Mr. Trump said in his 2016 campaign that “Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay  community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremist into our country and who suppress woman, gays and anyone else who doesn’t share their views or values.” Mr. Trump’s speech that was highly criticized at that time by Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Will President Trump stop with this policy shift towards transgender soldiers or is the reinstating the the Clinton era Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy just around the corner, a question that may be on the mind of LGBT rights activist and gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual soldiers currently serving in the military.

realDonaldTrump
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……
Jul 26, 2017, 7:55 AM
realDonaldTrump
….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..
Jul 26, 2017, 8:04 AM
realDonaldTrump
….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you
Jul 26, 2017, 8:08 AM

This is a developing story.  

HIV Testing & Reflections on LGBT Pride Month

As I say good-bye to June 2017 I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what the month has meant to me. For many reasons June is my favorite month of the year and as just about everyone knows June is LGBT Pride Month with celebrations across the US in every major city. I also celebrate my birth on June 25th, that’s another reason the month is extra special to me. The Supreme Court ruled that gay Americans had the right to marry in every state June 26th which issued a great shift in our society and in LGBT culture. There are also two HIV Awareness Days: HIV Long-Term Survivors Day and National HIV Testing Day.

Daniel Ashley Williams, Photo: Facebook

June 5th is HIV Long-Term Survivors Day. An awareness day to celebrate and honor the Long-Term Survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to raise awareness about the needs, issues and journeys of HIV Long-Term Survivors (HLTS).

Why June 5th?

A year after scientists identified AIDS they discovered the cause: HIV. On June 5, 1981, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first warning about a rare form of pneumonia among a small group of young gay men in Los Angeles, which was later determined to be AIDS-related.

Why June 27th?

HIV testing is important for both treatment and prevention efforts. Yet, 13% of those infected with HIV are unaware they are infected. June 27th is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) and it was first observed on June 27, 1995 and that day is meant to encourage everyone to learn their HIV status. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 15 to 65 have a screening test for HIV. People with risky behaviors should be tested regularly. A question I was asked by several college students at the Vincennes Aids Walk in April was “what is an HIV test, do they have to take blood?” There are different type of HIV testing.

There are three main types of HIV tests:
ANTIBODY TESTS

Most HIV tests are antibody tests. Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or fluids from your mouth. This is usually done by swabbing the inside of a persons cheek. HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HIV infection. It can take 3 to 12 weeks for your body to make enough antibodies for an antibody test to detect HIV infection and the results are ready in 30 minutes or less.

COMBINATION TESTS (ANTIBODY/ANTIGEN TESTS)
Combination tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens, a part of the virus, in your blood. A combination test can detect HIV infection earlier than a HIV antibody test can. It can take 2 to 6 weeks for your body to make enough antigens and antibodies for a combination test to detect HIV infection. This HIV testing is done a lab.

NUCLEIC ACID TESTS (NATS)
Nucleic Acid Tests (NATs) look for HIV in the blood and can detect HIV infection about 7 to 28 days after you have been infected with HIV. This test is very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening.

The window period is the time between when a person gets HIV and when a test can accurately detect the HIV infection. This is based on the level of virus in your body and antibodies to the virus that become detectable over time. In most people, HIV can be detected as early as 2-3 weeks after transmission. In others it can take up to 3 months after somebody acquired HIV for tests to show a positive result. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not.

Please don’t wait until next Just to get tested, if you are sexually active you should get tested every 90 days, you owe it to yourself and to your sexual partners.

 

The Thirteenth Doctor Will See You Now

Today the BBC made broadcasting history by announcing that the first female lead has been cast in the long running sci-fi series “Doctor Who.” 

Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor

Former “Broadchurch” star, Jodie Whittaker will be taking the keys of the T.A.R.D.I.S. (The Doctor’s Time Machine/space ship) from current Doctor Peter Capaldi in this years Christmas special.

“Doctor Who” first aired on the BBC in 1963 and has since found a world wide following. “Doctor Who” is a show about a time traveling alien from the planet Gallifrey. The character was originally played by actor William Hartnell from 1963 until 1966. When an actor ‘retires’ from the series the doctor ‘regenerates’ into a new incarnation of the character played by a different actor. All the actors that have played The Doctor have been male up until todays announcement from the BBC. Casting the new Doctor has been so top secret that Jodie Whittaker could not even talk about it with her family. When Ms. Whittaker discussed the fact that she was up for a new role she had to use the code word “Clooney” so no one could connect her part to “Doctor Who.”

Doctor Who” has been pushing social boundaries since the shows revival in 2005 with the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness a bi-sexual immortal played by out gay actor John Barrowman. Barrowman went on to play the role in the spin off series “Torchwood.” In the latest season of the long running show The Doctor was joined by his new companion Bill Potts played by Pearl Mackie. Bill was the the first companion to ever came out as a lesbian.

Reaction on social media has been mixed. Some Twitter users are accusing the BBC of being too politically correct by casting a female lead and swearing off the show while others who have never watched “Doctor Who” indicate that they will be tuning in for the first time. Casting a female lead in “Doctor Who” has always been on the table since Tom Baker, the fourth and longest serving doctor, hinted in a BBC interview in 1981 that a woman may have been cast as his replacement.

The Doctor Who Christmas special will air on BBC America on Christmas Day and can also be watched on iTunes. Past seasons of the long running program can been watched on Amazon Prime. Watch the Doctor Who Teaser Trailer with Jodie Whittaker here.

 

Got Your Back

Ever wonder if at that certain moment someone might actually be there to help? I always tell people when I put on my activist hat that I get bail money pre-arranged, three-fold. I just want to be prepared, just in case. I don’t want to wonder if, when I make the call, someone will answer.

The transgender community faces a lot of challenges just to exist. Each of us move along our own journeys without knowing what is up ahead of us on the road. For many of us, being able to live an authentic life is the goal. Certainly, for me, that is the goal. This doesn’t always present itself in a nicely wrapped package. We sometimes have to learn some hard lessons. Well, I guess, that is just life. Unfortunately, sometimes when a transperson puts themselves in harm’s way, they ended up injured, or worse, dead. As of mid-July, there have been 15 confirmed transgender murders in the United States this year. This puts us on pace to exceed last year’s total. This doesn’t begin to represent the number of transgender people who “just” get hurt. Well, when they do get hurt, sometimes this leads them down a path to possibly becoming another disheartening statistic connected to the transgender community.

Suicide for the transgender community is a big concern. They happen all too often. I dealt with this myself during my self-discovery time. I never really felt then that I had anyone to call. I struggled along the way just trying to avoid getting to that point of hopelessness. I will confide that it may have only taken one event to put me there. I was reminded of this recently as I, along with a friend, sat anxiously on our phones, they with a young trans person and me with their mother, as we tried to get them to drop the knife they held against their own body with the intent of doing self-harm. I sat wrenching inside with flashbacks but not being in a position to allow my emotions to flow freely. I wanted to cry, scream, lash out in pain, anger and frustration. I held it together until we were successful in saving this young life. By that time I was numb. I couldn’t cry, scream or lash out. Well, not until about 3 hours latter when it all came gushing out. I felt better and had thought I had let it all out. But, I hadn’t. I am still feeling the affects of this event. Although the results were favorable, I can’t help but wonder if a life event like this person experienced is right around the corner for me. Am I strong enough to meet it head on? Who do I call? Will I even make the call? These are the questions I am carrying around with me. Well, I guess this is just life. Right?

ps. I am crying as I end this blog post.

Suicide is never the answer, if you are thinking about or going to attempt suicide please call With Help Comes Hope 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. You are not alone.

The Art of the Talking Body, The Art of Martin Navejas

Martin Navejas, Photo: John M. Livelsberger

(Hammond, IN) With an infectious smile Martin Navejas greeted us at the entrance of the White Ripple Gallery in Hammond. This would be Martin’s second solo exhibition and if he was nervous you could not tell. We moved slowly up a flight of stairs passing the art work of what I assumed were other artists to be featured at the gallery. We arrived to a huge room at the top of the stairs and along the walls the work of the 27 year old artist hung.

I walked around the room taking in his work, most were nudes with both men and woman. What struck me about Martin’s work was not just the level of nakedness the models have but where the pictures were actually taken. To Martin the locations where he takes the pictures are just as important as the models and in some of his work it’s almost as if the model is secondary and the location and is the main subject, like the abandoned church confessional that was used in one of his pieces.

The White Ripple Gallery & Co. Photo: Facebook

Born and raised in Hammond Martin Navejas has been taking pictures since he was a teenager, saving his allowance to buy disposable cameras and pay for film developing. Inspired by other photographers pictures of abandoned buildings, Martin started ditching school and ‘breaking into’ empty and abandoned buildings in his hometown and in other locations to get his own pictures. After awhile accompanied by his friend Tia he would put her into his early work, then a natural progression to other models as his work evolved. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories, but I’m not a good writer or speaker, so I thought I could do it through my photography.” When asked what inspired him I was surprised when he said music and poetry. “You would never think that inspiration comes from a song that I hear but in my head it works.” Indeed it does as Martin puts a visual to what he hears. Martin describes striping the model down to their bare essentials just like the abandoned locations that he uses as a backdrop. Referring to his body of work, “There’s a story you can make up in your head.”

When I asked Martin what he says to a person that cannot differentiate or compares his works of art to pornography he had this to say. “I feel like maybe this is just me, but I feel if you take away the clothes, the mask, if you will, essentially I think working with the naked body, they (the model) are more vulnerable. It’s more genuine, it’s more raw.” Using physical structures that have been abandoned by man and taken over by nature seems to make the body of his work genuine for both location and model, naked bones bare. His work can come of as sad and lonely but almost romantic and beautiful at the same time.

Artwork by Martin Navejas: Photo by John M. Livelsberger

Martin Navejas is an upcoming young gay artist that is putting his mark on art and culture in Northwest Indiana with his thought provoking and provocative work.

You can experience the work of Martin Navejas starting June 10th at the White Ripple Gallery & Co. located at 6725 Kennedy Ave. Hammond, IN 46323.

 

 

 

2:02 a.m.

On June 12, 2016 at 2:02 a.m. we lost our safe space. 49 beautiful people were gunned down at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As we all know Pulse was a gay club and the gunman a radical Islamic terrorist who as some reports  will confirm was not as ease with his sexuality. So in the name in Islam and shame 49 innocent people had to die in the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 by a single gunman.

On this day a year ago I was sitting at this same desk 1000 miles away. We had nothing but the news on and throughout the day the body count kept rising. Watching this unfold in real time was chilling. Wasn’t it June? Wasn’t it Pride month. Who would do this?

The shooter, who I refuse to name, in this op-ed claimed allegiance to ISIS, yet there are reports that he was a closeted gay man who was angry that he may have been unwittingly exposed to HIV. The reports came from someone who dated him and others who had witnessed him out at Pulse. It was also reported that he was known for being on Grindr and other ‘hook up’ apps. His first wife claimed that he was gay and struggled with his sexuality. He witnessed a gay couple kiss in public and was enraged because his young son witnessed an act of affection by two men. The F.B.I. could find no evidence that he used gay dating apps or was a closeted gay man.

I think of Pulse frequently. I think that could have been me or any one of my friends. It could have happened at any bar at any Pride event over the years that we attended in Boystown. The people who where at Pulse a year ago were there to dance, meet that person they had been talking to on line or go on a date. Maybe some of them had a bad week and just wanted blow off a little steam. The victims had plans afterward. Maybe go out to breakfast before going home or sleeping until one o’clock in the afternoon cradled in the arms of their boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe they had to work that afternoon or had plans to hit the beach. Those plans stopped mattering at 2:02 a.m. when a terrorist born in this country started killing for reasons that in the end are only known to him and all that’s left are the last moments of the victims frozen in time forever.

I pray that this doesn’t ever happen again to any community marginalized or otherwise. The man who did this was a coward and a sick coward at that. From the reports I’ve read and from witnesses who knew him the shooter was angry. He didn’t not like black people, gays, or Jews and his anger and hatred twisted his soul. So today we remember the victims of PULSE, we pray and think of their families. We also think of the survivors especially those who are wrestling with survivor’s guilt. Brandon Wolf went to Pulse that night with his two best friends. They were killed by the gunman and Brandon who survived the assault without a scratch is left plagued with nightmares and survivors guilt. Proving that pain isn’t only skin deep. ‘What Survival Means’-Brandon Wolf.

To the victims and survivors we remember you, people like me who you do not know are today celebrating your lives and in the month of June we will celebrate PRIDE in your name.

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

 

 

Being Proud

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

As we enter another Pride Month in June, I stop to reflect on what pride, or more correctly, being proud means to me.

In younger days, I was always proud of stuff. I would proudly show off my Lego building skills to my mom. I felt the pride of winning a 1st Place ribbon at a track meet in grade school event though I was not a fast runner (I benefit of being on a relay team with other fast kids). I was proud to tell people I was from The Region even though they called us “Region Rats”. I always stood proudly and supported my sports teams, my schools and my friends. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I had never felt very proud of me.

As I was limping my way through life, feeling very confused, frustrated and lost, I was very much assured that my life was going to end in a moment of complete surrender to these feelings. I wasn’t living because I was proud to be alive. I was living because I was still breathing. This changed when I encountered a word that seemed at the time to be a gateway to self discovery. Late in 1998, I ran smack dab into the word transgender. A word I had been seeking to enter my life for so long. I do recall standing up and raising my arm and saying “I am transgender”.

Looking back I could in no way have predicted where I would be today. I have been described as “one of the most out and proud trans people” someone knew. I do live a very authentic and proud life now. I did have to overcome a big obstacle to get to this place. From the time that I stood up and raised my arm and for the 7 years that followed I studied and researched everything about being transgender. I became very astute on most things related to the trans community. I thought this was going to be enough to carry me into the future. I began to prepare for an eventual transition. Everything seemed to be falling into place, yet, I felt there was a void. There was something I was forgetting. It was bothering me. What could it be?

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

I used to “dress up” and go out when it was convenient for me to get out. This was a very comfortable part-time existence. I was not under any pressure or constraint to be anything other than what I wanted to be at any point of time. I thought this was just my situation given still being mostly in the closet. I kept using job, family or money as the reason I didn’t take my journey any further. Yet, I was getting frustrated that things were not moving along the planned timeline. And then it hit me. My excuses for not advancing forward were not at all related to job, family or money but because I hadn’t really come out to MYSELF and, thus, was not really proud of being ME. All my life I had been proud of my accomplishments but never of me. Once I called my own bluff and finally stood up and said “I AM TRANSGENDER. HEAR ME ROAR” I was able to stop spinning my wheels, gain traction and move forward toward the goal. It took me being proud of being me to open up the pathway to self-acceptance. I stand here today, celebrating Pride Month, truly proud.

POZiversary, Yeah It’s a Thing

Daniel Ashley Williams, Photo: Facebook

POZiversary is the act of celebrating the anniversary of one’s HIV diagnosis. Despite all the progress that has been made in the treatment of HIV and despite the fact that HIV is completely manageable for most people, receiving a positive diagnosis remains a challenge. HIV is not the death sentence it once was in the 80’s and 90’s but the sigma is still there and those newly diagnosed can get scared and that’s okay. Still, why would anyone want to celebrate or even acknowledge the day that they received a positive diagnoses?

It’s been 9 years since I found out that I was HIV Positive. When I found out I was positive there were so many fears. There was the fear of telling my boyfriend, there was the fear of the stigma of HIV/AIDS and there was the fear of the unknown. Later on after telling my then boyfriend about my diagnosis he was tested. We found out that his CD4 counts were lower and that he had HIV longer than me and in fact infected me. I was lulled into a false sense of security because we were in a monogamous relationship.

When I was infected in college all I knew about HIV/AIDS or thought I knew was that it can be transmitted sexually and that gay men were at a higher risk for infection. It’s a common misconception that gay men in relationships are at less risk of HIV and they tend to get tested less frequently then single gay men. There is also a high frequency of gay men in relationships or with their main sexual partner(s) that do not use condoms.

HIV can be transmitted between sexual partners and if condoms are not used there maybe a false sense of security. It’s assumed that everyone in the relationship or the sexual encounter knows his own HIV status and everyone should know their HIV status whether they are in a relationship or not. I recommend getting tested every three months.

After a positive diagnosis the health department will show up at your door and it can be a very scary thing to have a person from the government come knocking on your door asking a great many personal questions that you may not feel like anwsering. I mean who really wants to talk with complete strangers about their sex life? “How many sex partners have you had?” “How many times have you been tested for HIV and when was it?” “Do you have a phone number for any of the people you have had sex with?” It’s the Health Departments job to contact the people that have had sexual contact with a person that is HIV positive and it’s their job to get those people tested, but the health department will not disclose how they received that contact information. This is so you keep your privacy and there is no telling how someone may react so it keeps you safe as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated Lifetime Risk of HIV Diagnosis in Indiana is 1 in 183. Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in his or her life. But that lifetime risk is greater for people living in the South than in other regions of the country. Linking people to care within 3 months after an HIV diagnosis improves their health and reduces the risk of transmission. In 2014, the majority of states with the lowest levels of linkage to care were in the South. According to the CDC in 2015, 39,513 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States. More than 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and about 1 in 8 don’t know it. Make the informed decisions about your health and get tested.

I’m not proud to be HIV positive but I’m proud that I can be open about my status and stand up to the faces of adversity. There are many reasons why a person cannot be open about their status, yet I am one of those people who can and that is why I celebrate my “POZiversary.” It’s like celebrating LGBT PRIDE every year. You are not only celebrating who you are you are celebrating your life and the lives of the people in your community, you are also educating and living by example. You are showing someone else the way out of darkness and ignorance you are shining the light on misconception and sigma. You are showing people who might be afraid, whether they are afraid of their sexuality or their HIV status that there is still light and life at the end of the tunnel, least that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to educate and maybe if I do it right I can give that young kid in college who was just like me, who just got told that he was HIV positive hope, maybe I can let them know that it will be okay. Life will be different but it will be okay. So that’s why I celebrate my POZiversary.

Matthew 25 AIDS Services, INC. is a non-profit healthcare clinic that specializes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. They are only one of two comprehensive HIV/AIDS Service clinics in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky.