“First Name Mayor, Last Name Pete”…Why Running for President Mattered.

On Sunday Mayor Pete suspended his presidential campaign, but in running for president he changed perceptions and started a conversation.

On June 26, 2015 Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend Indiana published in op-ed in The South Bend Tribune called “Why Coming Out Matters,” effectively letting all his constituents know that their mayor was a proud gay man. Since coming out Mayor Pete and his husband Chasten have lived openly and proudly sharing their lives with the City of South Bend and the rest of the state of Indiana. Last year he announced that he was a candidate for President of the United States. Building a grass roots momentum as the only gay man to ever run for president he was able to out raise campaign funds of other more established candidates that have been on the national stage for years. After winning the Iowa Caucus but showing a poor performance in the South Carolina primary the New York Times and other media outlets reported on Sunday that Mr. Buttigieg has suspended his race for president. Stating in a speech given in South Bend Sunday night, “The truth is that the path has narrowed to a close, for our candidacy if not for our cause.” Mayor Pete’s popularity and visibility comes on the heels of the damage that now Vice-President Mike Pence tried to do to Indiana’s LGBTQ community by signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

Governor Mike Pence signing RFRA

On March 26, 2015 the state of Indiana gained national attention when then Governor Mike Pence signed RFRA into law behind closed doors and surrounded by local religious “leaders” thus sparking national outrage and drawing protests to Indianapolis. A year before that the LGBTQ community were fighting HJR-3, a proposed law that would change Indiana’s state constitution stating that legal marriage was only between one man and one woman. The LGBTQ people of Indiana were not just fighting for the freedom to have our relationships legally recognized we were fighting for respect. We were fighting to show all law makers both Democrat and Republican that our lives and relationships mattered, they mattered just as much as the cis gendered straight couple getting married in that small town church on any given Saturday. 

Over the years so many of this states LGBTQ youth have left to make their way in Chicago, New York, or other “big” cities, leaving their home towns because they were either disowned by their own families or they felt like more accepted more in a strange city. How many amazing and talented people have we lost because they felt unaccepted?

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s so many gay men were vilified by the HIV/AIDS crisis. Gay men were portrayed in the media and television and effeminate or as joke, never to be taken seriously. In Mayor Pete we have an example of what could be accomplished. Mayor Pete’s political agenda aside, in running for president and proudly embracing his home town of South Bend, Mr. Buttigieg has set an example for not just the LGBTQ youth of Indiana but to the entire LGBTQ community. As a solider in the military he showed the world that a gay man could be brave. When he was still Mayor of South Bend he was deployed for active duty. In the time he was gone he did not take his mayoral salary, in this he showed the world that a gay man could be honorable. While running for president he talked about his Christian faith and how proud he was of it. He showed the world that you could be a gay man of faith. 

Pete Buttigieg in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: CNN

Mayor Pete will not be the president elected in 2020 and that’s okay. What he did do though was change the playing field. When he stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest on the candidates during debates or in interviews, when you saw him on television or in your news feed unashamed to embrace his husband it started the conversation, it set an example. Pete Buttigieg showed that whoever you are, however you identify and no matter where you’re from it’s not the bigots or the homophobes that define who you are or where you choose to live, it’s you. Pete Buttigieg showed us all that it’s okay to be exactly who you are and that is not something the Donald Trump’s or Rush Limbaugh’s or the Franklin Graham’s of the world can ever take away from us.

Thank you Mayor Pete, job well done.

Undetectable = Un-transmittable, Getting Over the Stigma of HIV

Recently I was asked if I was still single would date I someone who was HIV positive but undetectable. My answer was a resounding yes. If the chemistry were there and I loved that person I would date them if they were undetectable or detectable. I don’t usually write articles about HIV/AIDS, I leave that to our columnist Danial Ashely Williams, since he is HIV positive he has a perspective that I don’t. In this case maybe as someone who is HIV negative, I should share my perspective on dating someone who is HIV positive. All though there is no real cure yet, drug advancements have come so far that with daily treatment HIV can become undetectable in the body and undetectable means un-transmittable, that means you can’t pass on the virus through sex. NOW, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying not use a condom, that is a personal choice. I’m just saying HIV can’t be transmitted to a sexual partner if it’s undetectable in the system. That being said, what do we have to do as a community to make the stigma of HIV undetectable and un-transmittable?

The AIDS epidemic during the 80’s and early 90’s wiped out whole communities. Major Cities like New York, San Fransisco, L.A., and Chicago were not the only places devastated by the virus. The gay community in smaller cities in the mid-west were all but wiped out. Calumet City IL for example. Cal City had a thriving LGBTQ community. Now there’s just a gay bar or two left and the community has never fully recovered. All around the globe, gay or not the world lost potential artists, entertainers, scientists, doctors and people lost loved ones. What if we lost the person who could have actually cured this disease.

Now with the advancements in drug therapy the healing has started, at least for the people who are HIV positive. They have a new lease on life and yes of course the potential that they MIGHT develop AIDS will alway be in the back of their minds, but at least now they have hope. They have the hope that they will live a long normal life and the hope that they will maybe date, fall in love, Netflix and chill on a Sunday afternoon with someone. In the 80’s and early 90’s hope was a luxury that a lot of gay men couldn’t afford.

Life returns to semi-normal if you don’t count the expense of the drug costs and the daily doses of medications, these are things that become routine. Now that HIV positive gay men are living longer what do they hope for now. Obviously I can’t speak for all of them or really any of them, but I imagine that some of them want a heathy dating life. Some may want to find a boyfriend settle down get married get that house with a white picket fence, maybe have a couple of kids and a dog. Live the “American Dream,” but I bet for SOME HIV positive men it’s hard for them to even try.

How many times has someone who’s undetectable started to get close with THAT guy? That crush from the office or the guy who stands next to you in line at Starbucks every morning. That guy you’re finally making a real connection with. The innocent flirting and the unmistakeable chemistry, not being able to concentrate because THAT guy is on your mind all the time. He’s sending all the right singles and admits that he feels the same way. You go on the date you’ve been waiting to go on with THAT guy. The flirting gets to that next level and you finally gather up the courage and tell him you’re HIV positive but undetectable, he pretends not to be taken aback, but you see it in his eyes. You finish your date on a positive note yet he declines the offer to come back to your place claiming he has an early day tomorrow. The next day you don’t hear from him, then three days go by then five. You don’t see him at Starbucks anymore. He doesn’t return your texts, but you knew all along he wouldn’t. You’ve been ghosted, and it fucking hurts like a symptom of the disease you don’t even have.

Look I get it, people get scared. HIV/AIDS has wrecked havoc on a community struggling for acceptance and just when it was starting to happen gay men started dying. The Reagan Administration did nothing at the time to address the epidemic and wouldn’t even utter the word “AIDS.” Lack of response or even acknowledgement from the Reagan White House only made the sigma of HIV/AIDS worse. Like a lot of people I lived through that time. As a teenager in the 1980’s who was growing up in a town so small we only had one traffic light, I automatically thought being gay was a death sentence. I fought my sexual identity until I couldn’t anymore. It was a fight with myself I’m glad I lost. Now there’s another fight happening, the fight to rid this community of the stigma of HIV.

In plain simple terms everyone can understand, if someone’s viral load is undetectable in their bloodstream then they are NOT able to transfer HIV to sexual partners. If you are one of those gay guys that have an issue with HIV positive guys get the fuck over it. They are just as much a part of the LGBTQ community as anyone else and just like our trans brothers and sisters or that kid who has been shunned by his family for coming out or any other person in this beautiful and tough community that we live in all HIV positive individuals need support from us all. HIV positive individuals also need the encouragement that we give everyone else in this community to live their truth.

The best weapon we had during the hight of the AIDS epidemic was education. People had to educate themselves that they couldn’t get AIDS from a toilet seat or drinking out of the same glass or even a kiss. Education is essential. I dated someone once who had cerebral palsy, I read up on what it was and how and what to expect and how to deal with certain things IF they came up, which they didn’t. If you get asked out by a guy who is HIV positive and he’s undetectable educate yourself on what that is and what to expect. Do it for yourself especially if you like him. But, even after everything that I’ve said if you still have an issue and you don’t want to go out with a person who has HIV, don’t ghost them. Have the courage to admit that you just don’t have any courage, it’s the least they deserve. Besides people living with HIV are forced to be brave everyday even when they don’t want to be, they deserve friends and lovers that are as brave as they are.