Drag Event as Political Fundraiser Causes Controversy in Fort Wayne

Candidate for Indiana’s 3rd district Courtney Tritch. Photo: Twitter

FORT WAYNE, IN-On Saturday September 2, 2018 After Dark Nightclub hosted a fundraiser billed on Facebook as “The Queens’s Court: Campaigning is a DRAG,” for Courtney Tritch who is running for US Representative of Indiana’s 3rd District. Ms. Tritch joined drag queen Della Licious on stage and gave a brief speech. During her time in the spotlight Ms. Tritch accepted cash donations from audience members and danced with Ms. Licious as she performed. Now “The Journal Gazette” is reporting that Ms. Tritch’s Republican opponent Rep. Jim Banks is now threating to report his Democratic rival for violating FEC (Federal Election Commission) rules.

After Dark’s Della Licious Photo: Facebook

A video of the event posted on YouTube clearly shows Ms. Tritch accepting tips as campaign donations. (You can see when Ms. Tritch takes the stage at the 21:30 mark). Incumbent Jim Banks’ campaign is now demanding Ms. Tritch, who is a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights in Indiana, issue an apology to families of Indiana’s 3rd district and is insisting that Ms. Tritch violated FEC rules by not reporting the ‘tips’ that she accepted as campaign donations. According to a statement issued by Mr. Bank’s campaign manager, “Not only is this video deeply disturbing and offensive but it clearly shows Democrat Courtney Tritch illegally accepting undocumented cash campaign donations while she dances on stage with a drag queen. We are exploring FEC violations and looking at filing a complaint. In the meantime, Ms. Tritch may want to consider apologizing for this charade to the northeastern Indiana families she’s campaigning to represent.” But according to FEC rules only campaign donations from individuals of $50 or more are required to be reported and the Tritch campaign insists no rules were broken and has issued a statement through her campaign manager David Myles, “What is disturbing though is the clear homophobia demonstrated by Rep. Banks. In asking for an apology to the families of the 3rd district, he is stating that the LGBTQ community is excluded from his idea as a family.”

Rep. Jim Banks Photo: Facebook

Rep. Jim Banks has a history of anti-LGBTQ views which are public record. Rep. Banks campaign website notes that he was awarded the “True Blue” award by the the Family Research Council. The Family Research Council has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Rep. Banks also opposed changing the language in the Indiana Republicans Party’s platform that would have made the Indiana’s Republican Party more inclusive to the LGBTQ community and continues to support one man one woman marriage as well as businesses that discriminate against the LGBTQ community by refusing service.

After the LGBTQ news magazine “The Advocate” ran a story of the incident, Ms. Tritch addressed the controversy in a Facebook post, “Thank you to ‘The Advocate’ magazine for bringing international attention to Rep. Banks’ clear homophobia, as well as his unwillingness to actually discuss the issues that matter to all voters in Indiana’s 3rd District.” After several requests and initially stating that he would, Rep. Banks still refuses to publicly debate Ms. Tritch.

Get Over It

So it was mentioned to me on Friday that a local radio station was having a discussion with their listeners on why we need a PRIDE Festival or more specifically why we shouldn’t have one. Just this morning before it was deleted on a local Michigan City community Facebook page someone said they didn’t understand why ‘you people’ needed a PRIDE Fest.                         

Jeanne Manford founder of the support group that would eventually become PFLAG marching in an early gay pride parade.

Here’s the deal, Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community. This community pays taxes here, spends money here, and CHOOSES to live here. NOT Chicago or Indianapolis or other big city with a ‘gay neighborhood’ but here. In fact I got news for you haters the WHOLE city is a gay neighborhood. I can’t swing a stick and not hit a LGBT person in my community. The LGBT community in Michigan City is no longer sitting on sidelines. Also we are no longer going to someone else’s city to celebrate PRIDE and why should we have to?

A more unified LGBT community is what I envisioned three years ago when I started OUT in Michigan City. Our Facebook page and eventually our website was started after my husband and I attended a RFRA protest march in Indianapolis and we witnessed first hand what a united LGBT community could accomplish. I wanted the same thing  here and now it seems we are heading in that direction. As of this writing OUT in Michigan City had 1095 ‘likes’ and followers so we must be reaching a few people in Michigan City and the surrounding communities.  

Honestly when I started our page and website I thought I was alone, but thankfully I’m not. Other like minded people have started their own projects like the La Porte county LGBTQ Alliance or the LGBT support group at the high school. The local PFLAG chapter here offers support to parents of gay, trans, bi, and questioning people and to any queer person in need of support. Real support for real people in need.

One of the things that attracted me and my husband to this city was it’s diverseness and inclusiveness, Michigan City for at least in the time I’ve been here, has been a haven for people from all different walks of life and for that I am thankful. I’m also thankful for the unwavering support that the PRIDE Fest  Committee has received from The City of Michigan City.

Since we started the process of planning the PRIDE Fest I’ve been expecting a little blow back, but at less then a month before the event all I have to say is what took so long? For those of you though who ultimately just don’t get it. For those of you who have never had the word ‘fag’ screamed at you from a coward in a moving car as you are trying to carry groceries into your apartment. To those straight guys out there who have never been fired from a job simply because you are gay or had to suffer from any sort of disrespect or discrimination, yet you have the  audacity to ask “Why can’t we have a straight Pride parade?” To those of you who just don’t like us, I’ll put it in a way you will understand in a terms used since the first gay PRIDE parades dating back to the 1970’s….

WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER! GET OVER IT!

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th 2018 at 121 W. Michigan Blvd (Next to City Hall) in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District

The Teacher in Me

Transgender Rights activist, teacher and founder of T.R.E.E.S. Meghan Buell

I grew up, quite a many years ago, in an educator’s household. My dad was in public education for 40 years. When I was young I was pretty much indifferent to my dad being an educator. I did try my best to take advantage of visiting “his” school when he was the Principal because it usually meant a visit to the office supply room. That was my super store of pencils, folders and notebooks. Just to clarify, my dad would pay for the items. So, my dad being an educator was kind of cool. I never envisioned that one day I, too, would be an educator.

I teach all the time. My “classroom” differs often. Much of the time it isn’t even in a school building. In reality, I consider the world as my classroom. This is so because every day I step out of my house I have an opportunity to teach someone something about me. Most times, it is transgender related because I live as an out and proud transgender woman. I am, for the most part, okay with this. I mean, I run a nonprofit organization that specializes in transgender education, so I am kind of destined to teach when I am engaging folks. My educator’s DNA comes in handy. But this is far from the only teaching I do.

In my spare time I work as a Substitute Teacher in a public school system. Yes, school systems do hire trans teachers, well, at least my hometown’s school system does. Being a Sub is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of patience, empathy, quick thinking, and perseverance. As a trans person in education I have found that I fare well for having thick skin, selective hearing and a sense of humor. You might ask why these would be necessary. Here are some examples of my experiences where this has been required.

Thick Skin: Kindergarten.
Boy: Are you a girl?
Me: Yes
Boy: I don’t see it.
Me: Well, I am.
Boy: What about your voice?
Me: I have a deep voice.
Boy: I’m not buying it.
Me: Back to work

Selective Hearing: An Indiana “liberty” organization
Them: This “man” (me) should be spending more time teaching math, English and science instead of spreading their sexual identity to second graders.
My employer: We’re good. Thanks
Me from afar: Did someone say something? Lol

Sense of Humor: 2nd Grade
Student: Miss Meghan, can I ask you a question
Me: Sure
Student: Are you a boy or a girl?
Me: A girl
Student: Oh, but why do you have a boy voice?
Me: I don’t have a boy voice. I have a deep voice.
Student: Have you tried a cough drop?
Me: I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks.

Life as an educator. Thanks, dad.

Growing Older, Will and Gracefully

The cast of “Will & Grace,” from left to right, Megan Mullally, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, and Sean Hayes

Last Thursday four old friends dropped by our place. We haven’t seen each other in over a decade, and as with true friends who grow out of touch for a long period of time we managed to pick up right where we left off. They stayed for about 20 minutes more or less not counting commercial interruptions.

In the late 1990’s I had discovered a little TV show called Will & Grace very much by accident. I was channel surfing and stopped on the show because I thought Sean Hayes, who plays the character Jack McFarland was cute. Within five minutes I realized I was watching a sitcom that featured gay leading characters. This apparently was on purpose, color me impressed. At that time in my life I was in my 20’s. I knew I was gay but I didn’t know how to come out and live openly. As Jack said to Will when he was struggling to “come out” on the show, “You bought the short shorts but you’re afraid to wear them.” I not only bought the short shorts I bought the glittery disco ball shirt and matching jock strap, the hard part was putting them on. Eventually I put them on, then I changed into something more sensible.

To encourage people to vote in the 2016 general election the creators of Will & Grace Max Mutchnick and David Kohan brought the original cast back together for a YouTube election special simply titled “Vote Honey.”  That 10 minute video with over seven million views proved so successful that NBC ordered a ninth season of the show after it had been off the air for 11 years. On September 14, 2017, Brooks Barnes wrote for the The New York Times   “ Will & Grace Is Back. Will It’s Portrait of Gay Life Hold Up?” Barnes addresses the pros and cons of bringing back this often, at times, politically incorrect sit-com in what he calls “the age of hate.” Eric Marcus, a historian who helms the podcast “Making Gay History,” said of the revival that the “world had moved on” and goes on to say, “I’m left wondering what story lines these characters can possibly explore as middle-aged people that will seem as fresh as the original series.”

Let me answer that question by saying that there are lot’s of story lines that these characters can explore that are fresh and exciting. As a gay man in my 40’s my life is different then it was in my 20’s & 30’s but my life is still exciting and fun and as gay men who are aging with grace (one hopes) we have a whole new set of problems to explore. From the fears that some of us have about growing older to breaking up and finding oneself single and in mid-life. Then there’s the subject of dating much younger guys, that in itself is comedy gold. Or two gay men living in a actual marriage, something that’s either very comforting or very terrifying depending on the couple.

We find with being older and being married that it’s not so easy to break up with someone for shallow reasons or when they annoy us. Just because someone did something annoying like leaving their clipped toe nails in the bathroom sink or if you want to get it on with that twink you met while cruising him in the produce department of Meijer. You remember the one, you thought if you pretended to be vegan you might somehow magically end up back at his place and without your husband finding out. There is actual divorce now and real consequences for being an idiot in a relationship (believe me I know) like the splitting of assets. It’s terrifying to think who would get custody of the iTunes account. Would one of the ex-husbands have to re-purchase everything in it?  These are just some of the ridiculous scenarios that we face as older gay men and are perfect fodder for a sitcom.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Will & Grace showed those of us living in the mid-west that it was okay to be who and what we were, and they did it in prime-time on the night of the week when America was watching TV the most. I mean lets face it, Thursday’s were called “Must see TV” for a reason. They showed us we can be fun, flamboyant, laid back, and outrageous. Now 11 years later Will, Grace, Jack and Karen are still showing us that we can be all of those things no matter how old we are.

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, October 5th, 2017.

New episodes of ‘Will & Grace’ can be seen Thursday nights starting at 9 Eastern/8 Central Time on NBC. 

 

WHAT THE F*CK, DIFFUSER?

Depeche Mode “101”

So, yesterday, I’m minding my own fucking business when my friend Tony sends me a link. Seems innocent enough, so I open it up. It is from the website diffuser.fm and is entitled, “Depeche Mode Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness.”
Okay. Already, my hackles have risen because I know somehow I’m going to be pissed off. I mean, I was enjoying a perfectly good cup of coffee and ignoring work altogether by focusing on my Facebook threads or whatever it is that I do between eight and nine am. But now… well, fuck. Now, I had to focus on THIS.
So, the list starts off backward, first of all, with number 15. I can’t… I just… I don’t understand a countdown that starts off in the wrong direction. I understand what they are doing, you know? Trying to do the classic “build-up” to the grand finale or whatever the fuck, but now you’ve just made me angry. Of course, now I’m frantically flipping through the goddamned thumbnails to see what they’ve listed as the number one album “ranked in order of awesomeness.”

And thank God, they’ve at least got that right. They pick Violator.
Aaaand… that’s where it stops.
You see, Violator is the best record that Depeche Mode has ever made. Of course, this is also just my opinion. You are welcome to say fuck off and go back to whatever Sudoku puzzle it is that you were struggling with, but it’s a solid album and I’m sticking by my choice. As a matter of fact, “Halo” is my favorite DM track and therefore wins based on that fact alone. Funny thing is, some of Depeche Mode’s biggest hits came from that record and coincidentally are some of my least favorite songs, but… I’ll still stand behind that record as being the strongest… and we move on.
This is where it gets sticky.
And where the title of my latest blogpost comes into play.
What the fuck, Diffuser?

Playing the Angel? Okay… deep breaths. But, alright… um, we are choosing Playing the Angel as your number two choice? Breathing, breathing. “A Pain That I’m Used To” is a decent track. Uh… “John the Revelator” is good. “Suffer Well” is even pretty great, but… listen, okay? These are all good. But number fucking two? Come on, man. You are REACHING with your little ‘has a wobbly uncertainty that keeps the listener wondering…’ wah wah wah, go fuck yourself.
Whoa. Okay. I need a sip of some soda. And maybe the good stuff… with like real sugar and shit.
Moving on.

Depeche Mode in 1990, Alan Wilder, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher, and Dave Gahan.

Their third choice is Songs of Faith and Devotion. Uh… alright. Well, it may not have been my number three, but maybe a solid number four? So, alright. I’m not completely upset. This record at least has some fuckable moments. What I mean by that is that it’s on the fuckworthy chart of fuckable albums. Take Music for the Masses, for instance. Well, there are like at least twenty lose-your-virginity moments. Therefore, you put that record in the top five of DM records. There is a reason that Dave Gahan was chosen as their lead singer; it was not for his ability to grow a goatee. It was because he makes songs that kind of make you want to take your pants off… like FAST. Songs of Faith and Devotion has a few tracks that made me rethink PVC pants in the early 90s—that’s all.

Number four? Okay, here we go. Music for the Masses. Now, I would have bumped this one up to number three, but… it’s not MY list. Number four is manageable. I’ve forgiven you with a quick handy, Diffuser.

And then, well… here’s where I think. Maybe they really think this is a top five record, and Lord KNOWS I’ve listened to it a lot, so I really can’t be upset, so… here goes. Some Great Reward. That’s their number five. I’ve listened to it (and namely “Somebody”) more times than I care to admit, but I don’t know. I’m not mad, per se, but I still feel a little bitten by their number two. Am I just holding on to bitterness from their earlier choice? Maybe so. You know what, I’ll let this one go because “Blasphemous Rumors” is a great fucking song and even if this is kind of a singles record, I’ll let it go. Painfully.

Their number six is solid, although here’s the fucking deal. My number two would have been Black Celebration aaaaaand we have yet to see it on this goddamned list. Now, their number six is Ultra, which might have been my number six too, but we would have had to kick out some of these other cocksucking motherfu… okay, and I’m breathing again. Regardless, deep breath, number six… Ultra.

Okay. Their number seven. Black Celebration. Clearly, this list was made by a fucking amateur. Number two, rookie!

Exciter. I think I’ve listened to this like four times. Depeche Mode fans don’t even remember this album. Okay, maybe I’m wrong, but it’s the one that all of us bought, but it just takes up space in the catalog just to fill it out and make sure that it’s complete. I mean, you can’t just STOP buying the records because one of them sucks a sticky ball sac, can you?

Aaaand then the new one. Spirit. I’ve got to say. I kind of hate this one. And I’m a diehard fan. Been a fan for as long as I can remember. Wore a DM shirt in my seventh grade school photo along with the Martin Gore hair flip to match. But, had they made this record in 1984 instead of 2017, I would have worn a U2 shirt instead. Fuck this record and the weirdest song they’ve ever made. Don’t trust me? Go listen to it. It’s called “Fail.” I wonder if at some point, Martin will tell Dave, “I have this great idea for a song… AND I want to do the vocals,” and Dave says back, “No, Martin, I think it’s time I tell you that it’s over. Your run is done.” So far, Dave hasn’t had the balls. And we are ALL suffering for it.

After this, it’s just a bunch of the old ones. Basically, Speak/Spell, Broken Frame, Construction Time, yada yada, with a few crappy new ones thrown in for good measure… you know… the new ones that no one can suffer through (Delta Machine/ Sounds Universe).

If it were my list (and it’s not), it would have gone a little something like this:

Violator, Celebration, Masses, Faith/Devotion, and… alright, looking back, I’ll go with their number five, SGR.

All in all, Diffuser, you did alright at the end, but I feel like I kind of wanted to unfriend you for a while there with that whole PTA thing. I will give you one thing. “Precious” is kind of bad ass. Maybe we can be friends on the weekends, as long as we keep it on the down low.

XOXO.

Charlie

Charlie Winters is a best selling author of gay fiction from Indianapolis and you can find his latest book “Aki & Jamie” at Amazon.com and the Kindle store. 

Changing meds

Daniel Ashley Williams

On average a person living with HIV will visit their doctor and have Labs drawn every three months. This is done to determine not only the effectiveness of the antiretroviral drug combination on the HIV virus itself but also how they’re affecting your body. This is an important process in the treatment for people who are living HIV.

Some of the labs performed from the blood and urine collected:  A CD4 count measures how many CD4 cells are in your blood. The higher your CD4 cell count, the healthier your immune system.  CD4 Percentage: This measures how many of your white blood cells are actually CD4 cells. This measurement is more stable than CD4 counts over a long period of time Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Screening: These screening tests check for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Not only are Labs important but taking your daily regiment religiously is most important to ones health.

Four months or so now I have been taking Tivicay plus Descovy. Before that I was taking Tivicay plus Truvada. Which I had switch to from Complera and before that many many years on Atripla. Atripla was the first antiretroviral drug I was put on and I never liked it had  many unpleasant side effects that made me feel sick to my stomach, have bad dreams, and feel hung over every morning. Back when I was diagnosed HIV positive, I didn’t start meds right away. At the time guidelines recommended treatment using thresholds based on a person’s CD4 count. Now, current guidelines recommended by The World Health Organization recommends treatment be given to people with HIV as soon as possible following diagnosis.

I switched to Descovy because it’s supposed to be less harmful on my kidneys. It seems to be working fine. After seeing the doctor after being on the new medicine she agreed it was working and felt like it was a good move to change meds. I still have a undetectable viral load.

While talking to a friend, who is also HIV positive, we discussed the fact that Descovy had replaced Truvada. Then he asked why I was mutating? I had to explain to him that it was the newer version of Truvada and switching meds address’ long-term health needs such as lower bone and kidney toxicity risks. I feel like more information on the medicine that we take needs to be available to people living with HIV, especially as more of us live longer fuller lives.

At my last appointment I was made aware that Matthew 25 has a patient portal . This allows me to login and see; upcoming appointments, Recent lab orders, Medications, diagnoses and more
“Matthew 25 Patient Portal is a HealthCare Support Portal facilitates better communication with your physician’s office by providing convenient 24 x 7 access.” This also eliminates the paper version I used to get at the end of every visit. They even have a handy app.

 

THE PERFECT MIXTAPE

Twenty songs. That’s all this is. But damn if twenty songs isn’t the hardest thing to narrow down when coming up with what I like to call “the perfect mixtape.”
A few years ago, I crafted a Spotify playlist with this exact name. I keep twenty songs on it. Now, they change frequently. I keep certain songs in rotation and tracks come and go, but there are a few which always hold steady and never leave the list.
And now, I share this list with you.

*cracks knuckles*

You ready for it? 

1. Elbow – “Powder Blue.” I blame this song on Bob. If you’re reading this, you know who you are. Bob first put an old copy of this cd (when cds were, you know, still a thing) in my hand and said, “You must. You simply must.” I did and I never looked back. I feel like there has to be an anecdote that I should share with you, but there just fucking isn’t. It’s just a great song with weird lyrics and haunting melodies, so… whatever. *shrugs shoulders*
2. Bjork – “Bachelorette.” If I am in the car and this comes on… well, fuck. You may as well put me in a goddamned swan dress and call it a day. It’s over and everyone within a five-mile radius knows.
3. The Czars – “Paint the Moon.” I feel like if you don’t know who John Grant is and you call yourself a member of the LGBT community, you should probably go ahead and give yourself a good old-fashioned punch to the throat. He is a poet—plain and simple.
4. Tears For Fears – “Head Over Heels.” This song reminds me of growing up. Like making out and fucking around. I never get tired of it… like EVER.
5. She Wants Revenge – “Tear You Apart.” When I first heard this song, I nearly shat myself. Shat? Shit? Regardless, they are a throwback to every band I loved in high school reincarnated into some gothy fucking amazing synth angsty sex-slicked hands-down-the-pants outfit that I definitely wanted to know more about.
6. Thompson Twins – “If You Were Here.” Okay, so maybe I’m going to date myself here, but there’s this scene where Samantha comes out of the church in Sixteen Candles and Jake is there—fucking Jake, am I right?—and he’s got this sweater vest and these jeans and the boots that are like dipped in minwax or whatever… and he gives her this wave, right? Jake fucking Ryan. And this song is playing in the background. And he’s saying, ‘hey, like, um, do you want to get in the car?’ or whatever and she’s looking around like a fucking twat… ‘who, me?’ and he finally wrangles her in there and then basically he makes her the birthday cake and she loses her virginity (or whatever—she does in my mind)… all with this track playing in the back.
7. Britney Spears – “Piece of Me.” Because, you know, reasons.
8. Beck – “Ramona.” So, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Scott writes a love ballad. The words are simple. “Ramona. Raaaaa-mooooo-nnnnnaaaaa. Ramooooonnnnna.” But, clearly, when the ACTUAL soundtrack came out, Beck cleaned it up a bit and may have added a few more words. I loved the original (with one simple word), but Beck’s version makes me suck in a few breaths and close my eyes.
9. Depeche Mode – “Halo.” There are fifteen-hundred Depeche Mode songs. Okay, maybe not fifteen-hundred, but you get the idea. Why this one? This one makes my pants tight. I don’t know how to describe it any other way. #sorrynotsorry
10. La Roux – “As If By Magic.” I don’t know, man. I just like it. It’s been on the list for a long time and hasn’t come off. And I never skip it when it comes on. NEVER
11. Arcade Fire – “Crown of Love.” This is the most romantic song ever written. Stalkery, yes. Borderline nuts? Um… yeah, sure, but I write. Everything I write is borderline nuts. And yeah, if you weren’t passionate about stuff/people, no one would want to read what you had to say. “Crown of Love” is a love letter. A scary one, yeah, but fuck it. You only live once.
12. Arctic Monkeys – “No 1 Party Anthem.” Alex Turner is the sexiest motherfucker on the planet. I don’t care if you disagree with me. If you do, you’d be wrong. This song sounds retro as fuck and awesome, almost as if he wrote it for some bird in nineteen-fifty-five. The way he sings is straight from the balls—hot and wet and unapologetic.
13. Arctic Monkeys – “The Bakery.” Um… see above.
14. Portugal. The Man – “Mr. Lonely.” This is one of those new tracks that has made its way onto the scene. It reminds me of an old genre mashed with a new one. Like ‘90s trip-hop meets new indie. It’s like a mix of Beastie Boys meets Portishead meets ruby meets Tricky. A new wet audio dream.
15. Lana Del Rey – “High by the Beach.” Yeah, it’s a floppy-hat girl-gets-high song, but it’s a really good one. Like a really good one. Close your eyes and just let all of your predisposed notions about her dumb ass go right out the window.
16. Chairlift – “Ch-Ching.” The chorus to this track is just fun. It just is. Actually, this whole song is fun as fuck.
17. Talk Talk – “Life’s What You Make It.” This song is older than balls. Well, hell, I don’t know how old it is, but I was young when it was out. But it was fucking great. And it’s still great. It’s the kind of song that you listen to with the windows down. Now get off my lawn, you whippersnappers.
18. Lupe Fiasco – “Kick, Push.” This track has been off and on and few times, but it’s back on this month. If you listen, you’ll understand why. It is literally about skateboarding. I mean, it’s an entire song about… skateboarding, but there’s also something else that I can never put my finger on. A struggle? Happiness? Youth? Whatever it’s about, I love it.
19. Lady Gaga – “Telephone.” Don’t… just don’t judge me. I’m not one of those monsters or whatever. I just like this one in, like, an uncomfortable way.
20. Purity Ring – “Begin Again.” Saving the best for last. I could listen to this song every fucking minute of every day. Okay, maybe not every minute, but I’ll put it to you this way. If I made a movie, I would use it in the opening credits. How’s that?

Time to put together your mixtape. Or what the fuck… just cheat and use mine.
XOXO.

Charlie.

Charlie Winters is the best selling author of several gay romance novels. Winters is the winner of the Silver RCA (Readers Choice) at the Sinfully MM Book Review Awards in 2015 and has been featured in the Washington Blade 10 ten “Summer books to read. ” Winters’ latest novel “Aki&Jamie” can be found be found in both hard copy and digital formats on Amazon and Kindle.

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 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.

 

 

 

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.