JD Ford Indiana’s First Openly Gay State Senator Makes History

Newly elected state senator JD Ford and incumbent Mike DelphCarmel, IN- Openly gay Democrat JD Ford beat Mike Delph in a contentious race for state senator for Indiana’s 29th district. In 2014 Delph supported an amendment to the Indiana constitution defining marriage between one man and one woman. This is the second time Ford had ran against Senator Delph narrowly losing to the hard line conservative four years ago. 

Ford made history becoming Indiana’s first openly gay law maker elected to Indiana’s General Assembly. In his victory speech from the downtown Indianapolis Hyatt Ford said, “I just want to pause for a second to appreciate the historical significance that has happened tonight. Tonight, I become Indiana’s first openly gay lawmaker. Ladies and gentlemen, we just made history and no one can take that from us.” Ford ran what some people would call an unapologetic progressive campaign that advocated raising the minimum wage, environmental protections, fighting the opioid crisis, and passing hate crimes legislation that protects gender identity and sexual orientation. Senator Delph has long opposed hate crimes legislation. Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law on the books.  

Ford’s promised to give and amplify the voices of every marginalized group of people in the state of Indiana which includes “people of color, women, Muslims, Jewish Hoosiers, seniors, LBTQ+ Hoosiers just to name a few.”  Local Indianapolis LGBT rights advocate Annette Gross praises Ford for his hard fought victory, “As a resident of State Senate District 29, I am thrilled that we finally have representation for ALL Hoosiers in this district. I watched first-hand as Mike Delph strove to deny same-sex couples the ability to share their lives together legally. In particular, he supports passage of Hate Crime Bill which will offer protections for all marginalized groups. We are finally living under a rainbow in Indiana.” Delph, a hard line social conservative often was perceived as a polarizing figure even among members of his own party. At one point Delph was disciplined by Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long for public criticism of the Indiana General Assembly failing to pass the amendment to the Indiana constitution, known as HJR-3 which would have made marriage equality illegal in the state.

This time around Ford had the endorsement of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and a much bigger ‘war chest’ then he had four years ago beating Delph with 53% of the vote. District 29 includes parts of Carmel, Indianapolis and Zionsville. 

 

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.

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.

Roseanne Barr and the Reality of Being “Roseanne”

The cast of Roseanne top left to right: Laurie Metcalf, John Goodman, Sarah Chalke, Bottom left to right: Sara Gilbert, Roseanne Barr, Michael Fishman, Lacy Goranson

 

On March 27th the groundbreaking sitcom Roseanne comes back t0 television and we get the chance to peer into the lives of the fictional Connor family 30 years after the show premiered on ABC. We have a chance to see how the Connor’s have moved on in life, and it may very well mirror so many of our own lives. What made Roseanne so groundbreaking was the fact that Roseanne Barr and John Goodman’s Roseanne & Dan Connor were larger than life, both in personality and in their physical appearance. Never before had working class American been portrayed by people who looked like what a lot of middle America looks like. The Connor’s three children could be brats. In some cases episodes were not wrapped up neatly after 30 minutes as real life issues were talked about, issues that most sitcoms didn’t even come close to touching. You certainly wouldn’t find Alan Thicke schooling Mike Seaver on the evils of domestic abuse on Growing Pains or little Vanessa Huxtable approaching Phylicia Rashad on The Cosby Show to inform her that she thinks it’s time to start birth control. Roseanne was ground breaking in many ways, especially the way it handled gay characters. In the show, we met Martin Mull as Leon Carp. He was Roseanne’s boss then her business partner and frenemy. She threw for him and his partner one of television’s first gay weddings. There was Nancy, played by Sandra Bernhard who came out as a lesbian in the show then as bisexual. Then there was the lesbian kiss between Roseanne’s character and guest star Mariel Hemingway, a scene that caused a lot of controversy even before the episode aired.

Roseanne Barr unapologetically introduced middle America to gays and lesbians. Roseanne the TV show made working class people in the mid-west come to grips with the fact that they probably knew someone gay or had a gay person in their family. If Roseanne Barr through her character Roseanne Connor brought visibility to the LGBT community then why are a lot of people in that same community not happy the show is coming back? Well as it turns out Roseanne Barr is a supporter of one Donald J. Trump.

Never one to shy away from controversy Roseanne Barr did indeed vote Trump for President and her character Roseanne Connor will be portrayed at a Trump supporter in the new revival of the show. Roseanne, who said in the June 6, 2016 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, “If I were president, a majority of my cabinet would be poor because that’s true representational government here in America,” Roseanne is many things including a living breathing contradiction, especially since Donald Trump and most of his cabinet are so rich that they can’t possibly relate to working class middle American. I’m sure U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin never had to choose between buying food or buying medicine for a sick child. That same article reports that Roseanne is friends with Michael Moore one the biggest anti-Trumpers around. Comedian Whitney Cummings, also not a fan of the current occupant of The White House is acting as one of the show runners of the revival.

Long before the ‘Me Too’ movement Roseanne talked in public about difficult subjects and fought everyone from network executives to her own writers and producers to bring to life an accurate representation of working class America. Why would a strong independent woman like Roseanne Barr vote for someone who has the reputation of treating women the way Trump does? From bragging about grabbing women by the pussy to paying them off to keep silent about alleged affairs. Or the way he treats women who disagree with his policies, calling them ugly or pigs, comedian Rosie O’Donnell comes to mind.

In Roseanne Barr’s mind the explanation is simple, “4 Those who wonder-back in the day when I was called a ‘liberal by journalists, I used to answer-I’m not a Liberal, I’m a radical’ & I still am- voted Trump 2 shake up the status quo & the staid establishment,” in a Tweet reported by The Washington Post on January 11 of this year. In the same article Roseanne goes on to state that her show is about a working-class family and “it was working-class people who elected Trump.” Show runner Whitney Cummings thinks the show will give families on the opposite side of the political spectrum a chance to heal and warns against those who only expose themselves to one sided political beliefs instead of trying to see the opposite point of view. “If we aren’t disagreeing with someone, that probably means we’ve only surrounded ourselves with people we agree with. Although I’m the first to admit that’s a comfortable place to be, from what I understand about how societies work, it’s also a very dangerous place to be,” Cumming’s told Vulture. But where does the “healing” come in? Cumming’s observes that as it “turns out, many Americans never get to know or even meet people who aren’t like them, so putting them on a flickering box in their living room-full of vulnerabilities, problems, jokes, and dreams-is a great way to develop empathy toward a type of person they may normally not cross paths with. This show is not about Trump- it’s about the circumstances that made people think Trump was a good idea.” Maybe a good year after the general election some of us can start to mend fences with family or friends, maybe it’s time for forgiveness.

There are some people in the LGBT community that loved the original run of Roseanne because the show brought an awareness and an exposure that our community didn’t have in a time when it was not fashionable to do so, and many of those same people in our community won’t watch the revival of the show because they can’t forgive Roseanne Barr for voting into office Donald Trump. Is forgiveness even possible, not just for Roseanne Barr but for the people we know and love who voted the same way. Honestly, I don’t know but maybe it’s time to start trying or even better yet maybe it’s time we start listening to each other because not listening is probably what got us into this mess in the first place.

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

Rosanne airs on Tuesdays on ABC starting March 27, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.

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. 

 

Being Seen

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

We spend all, or most, of our waking hours looking around at all of the wonderful sights in our view. We look at our phones, at the TV, at the level of our beverage to determine if we need a refill. We look at a lot of things each and every day. But, how much do we really see?

As an out and proud transgender person I go about my business each day because that is what is needed to complete the to-do list. I go to the grocery store, the post office, the doctor, to wherever my list tells me to go. Most times I don’t think twice about it but every now and again I am reminded that my going places is really an opportunity to be seen. A chance to be seen by others. A moment to be seen as, well, just another person trying to figure out which avocado is sufficiently ripened. My reminder that it sometimes different is when I catch someone staring at me. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking if this happens to cisgender people or not. Doing that comparison doesn’t weigh on my goals of the day. What I do wonder, though, is what aspect of my being is so intriguing. I ponder.

I am secure in my understanding of who I am. If people take a second glance at me it doesn’t register on my “am I me enough today” radar. I usually default to “is my hair messed up?” or “is there food in my teeth?”. But never, “Am I Meghan enough for the world today?” I smile when I am the subject of extended glances. You know, just to let the gawker know that I see them. This usually ends the stare. Well, in most cases. I had a 4th grade student get caught staring at me and it ended up in a staring contest in which the rest of the 4th grade class was cheering the student on to “beat Miss Meghan”. It was fun and took a potentially embarrassing moment and made it into something altogether unrelated. The student won, by the way. They were applauded by their classmates. The moral of the story for me? Don’t be offended by the stares of others. Look them right back in the eyes and say I am visible and I SEE YOU.

Thank you.

Meghan (visible since 2009)

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

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

They Can Turn Off the Lights but They Can’t Turn Off Our PRIDE

It’s June and it’s Gay PRIDE month and more then ever we need our PRIDE. For the first time in eight years there will be no PRIDE celebrations in the White House, don’t expect the people’s house to be lit up in rainbow colors or Vice President Mike Pence to be running the halls carrying a PRIDE Flag the way former Vice President Joe Biden did. The only things that are running in The White House this year are the PRIDE Colors, running like they were hit with bleach spray and all we are left with is bland and angry white. Transgender protections have been rolled back. HIV/AIDS funding is being cut. Violence and harassment of all marginalized communities is on the rise. Even on a local level I experienced a disrespect from my employer in regards to my sexuality and my marriage. That disrespect from someone I trusted led me to leave my job, a final straw that not just broke the camels back but left him paralyzed and angry.

This blog was originally going to be the story of what happened to me and what led up to me leaving the employ of a well known local attorney. After two weeks of writer’s bloc and apathy, after two weeks of not knowing what to do with my newly unemployed self and not knowing where to start I’m continuing with the work I’m most proud of, this web-site and our own LGBT Community right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana.   “The Beacon” and our sister page OUT in Michigan City & NWIN on Facebook have been a little lite on content these last few weeks, for that I am sorry, I was licking my wounds so to speak. I had put my all into a job and a boss that who was so disorganized, so socially awkward that I thought I could “fix” him. I just thought that maybe he didn’t have the right kind of help in the past, maybe wasn’t the right kind of help. Who knows? I do know this, there are just some things that can’t be fixed. The end came when he not only insulted me, a proud gay man but worse he insulted the integrity of my marriage and made light of my husband.

So I’m done moping, I’m done morning for a job I liked but the baggage that came with it made it not even worth it, especially at the end. It’s PRIDE month and it’s time for us to shout, fight, and let Northwest Indiana, the Statehouse, the Governor’s Mansion and the nation, especially the Trump administration know that we are still here.

President Trump can keep the colored lights turned off, he can refuse to acknowledge PRIDE month. He can refuse to issue the LGBT PRIDE proclamations that have been issued in the month of June for the last eight years, and he can cow tow to Mike Pence and the religious right all we wants but WE ARE STILL HERE. OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD and WE WILL BE RESPECTED and WE WILL NOT BE IGNORED and WE WILL RISE again and again so long as our lives, our marriages, and our families are being disrespected by an administration that lives in darkness and lies. I encourage you all to go to PRIDE events. Little ones, big ones. Hold them in your back yard or your living room. Invite friends over. Go to the PRIDE events in the park or in the streets of Chicago or Indianapolis. BE PROUD and BE LOUD because the fight is not over and it’s not going to be over until we say it is.

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake on this June 1, 2017 Gay PRIDE month. Be Proud.