LSR Journal: New friends and a new commitment

Ana-Maria Baker started out last year as a LSRFA cyclist because she saw it as another way to get fit. Then she made friends with riders who were HIV-positive, and her view of the ride changed

Ana-Maria Baker

M.M. ADJARIAN  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

The Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS may have been born in the Dallas-Fort Worth LGBT community. But as second-year cyclist Ana-Maria Baker well knows, the HIV/AIDS epidemic affects everyone — and you don’t have to be gay to care.

Baker, a revenue management professional for Hilton Hotels, came to participate in LSRFA the same way that so many other people do: through the suggestion of a friend who happened to have been affiliated with the ride.

“He [the friend] knew that I was into fitness,” Baker says. “And I thought it would be a good challenge for me, so I signed up.”

Although Baker was a runner and a regular at her local gym, she was totally new to cycling. But once in the saddle, she became happily addicted to the two-wheeled experience.

“It’s awesome!” she raves. “With working out, you can get bored because your body gets used to it. But every time [I go cycling], it’s something new.”

The fact that she was doing something she adored in service of a good cause made it that much easier for her to keep up with her newfound hobby. But it was the relationships she established along the way that made her want to commit to LSRFA long term.

“I made a particularly good set of friends last year,” recalls Baker. “On the morning before the ride, I noticed they all had the same jerseys on. And I said, ‘Hey, how come I didn’t get the message about the matching jerseys?’

“One of them made a joke and said, ‘Honey, you don’t want to wear this jersey,’” she continues. “[Then I found out] that the jersey stood for the Positive Pedaler team — my [new] friends were all HIV-positive.”

In the blink of an eye, what for Baker had just been a fitness event suddenly became much more personal.

“These were people I had gotten to know really well,” she says. “[But] I had [had] no idea that they were impacted by the disease. It stopped me in my tracks and made me realize what I was riding for.”

The event has now become a family affair. This year, Baker’s husband, a paramedic, will be serving on the LSRFA medical team.

“He’s gotten to know some of the friends I made last year, so he really wants to be part of it, too,” Baker says. “He wants to help out because he thinks the LSRFA is such a neat thing.”

As straight supporters of the ride, the Bakers know they are in the minority. But this fact doesn’t faze either one of them.

“Nobody makes you feel any different because [ultimately] you aren’t,” says the sophomore cyclist.

Her participation in LSRFA has also given Baker insights that have deepened her understanding of the friends and community on whose behalf she — and now her husband — volunteer.

“I feel that the gay community is a lot more accepting than the straight community,” Baker remarks. “And for them to be so accepting of me — well, it just makes me sad for the straight community and how we treat [LGBT people].”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS will be held Sept. 24-25. To donate to an individual rider, to a team or to the Ride itself, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Fahari Arts to mark 30 years of AIDS with exhibit, issues call for submissions

In their commemoration of 30 years of HIV/AIDS, Fahari Arts Institute will host their 2011 Fall group exhibition Our 30. Artistic director Harold Steward along with Diedrick Brackens will curate the event and are now inviting artists of all mediums to participate in the exhibit set to open Sept. 10 at 1111 Studio Gallery. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 6.

The release says, “This exhibition looks at 30 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in black southern communities.”

Before you apply, read Fahari’s rules on submissions. Then contact them here about your potential entry.

The group is also counting down their season with two final events. The last Queerly Speaking is set for July 22 featuring Brandon Jackson. That is followed by Fahari Fierce: A Celebration of Black Queer Movement on July 30. Most Fahari events take place at the South Dallas Cultural Center.

—  Rich Lopez

Porn industry health regs needed

After 3 decades, California’s workplace safety officials are finally considering mandates in the porn industry, and it’s about time

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

After three decades of devastation wrought by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the state of California’s workplace safety officials are now pondering whether safe sex practices by the porn industry should be mandated in state code.

California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board recently released a 17-page proposal to the Associated Press that details all of the dangers porn stars and other workers on the set face from body fluids and waste matter produced during the course of the filming. The proposed mandate, which includes the required use of condoms and the utilization of other safety measures to prevent genital and oral contact with blood and other body fluids, will be discussed at a public meeting June 7 in Los Angeles.

In addition to the use of condoms, porn producers would be required to make sure condoms are not reused with multiple partners, make sure razors are not used by multiple people, make sure sex toys are sterile, showers are taken between scenes, medical services including tests and vaccines are employed and soiled laundry is handled properly.

All of this comes on the heels of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation lobbying for the state to require condoms be used on porn sets and the advocacy group’s filing of a formal complaint to the state in 2009.

In March of this year, the state board fined porn king Larry Flynt’s Hustler company $14,175 for three instances of failing to require condoms and of other health risks on the set. A lesser-known company, Forsaken Pictures, was fined $12,150 for similar violations.

The state cited the same laws that require hospitals to provide nurses and other technicians with protective tools, such as plastic gloves, to make its case against the porn producers.

And if the length of time it has taken for the governor-appointed, seven-member safety board to come up with a set of laws specifically addressing the porn industry isn’t amazing enough, the Associated Press reports that two straight porn industry hotshots are not too happy with the idea.

Flynt said porn viewers don’t want to see condoms on actors because it interferes with their fantasies. Vivid Entertainment founder Steven Hirsch warned the laws would drive California’s multi-billion dollar porn industry to other states to produce videos.

Hirsch’s comments are interesting because the queen of gay porn, DJ drag diva Chi Chi LaRue — who, in addition to directing and producing porn videos owns a sex shop on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood — once produced movies for a Vivid Entertainment company. She reportedly abandoned her three-year successful career in producing straight sex porn videos for Vivid Video, a division of Hirsch’s company, in 2006 because the company refused to require the use of condoms.

It seems that LaRue was reacting to what she witnessed in the late 1980s when she worked for gay porn company Catalina Video and saw many members of the gay porn industry dropping dead left and right.

I encountered LaRue in a West Hollywood gay bar about a year ago, and it was a memorable event. I was trying to get a picture of her and a few tidbits of information to write something about the experience — but she was having none of it. We parted with her thinking I was an annoying pest and my thinking she was an uppity bitch. I’m sure we were both right.

But I’ve got to commend LaRue for the stand she took about safe sex. Like LaRue, I’ve watched countless friends and other associates over the years suffer and die from HIV infections. I’ve also seen attitudes in recent years relax about the danger of HIV infections.

Too many young people simply don’t think it can happen to them, and the epidemic continues to rage.

There reportedly are still many gay porn videos being produced that do not include the use of condoms, especially now that there are so many amateurs out there with personal video cameras. Some of them are billed as “bareback” productions in an effort to entice viewers, as a scan of Internet gay porn sites recently revealed.

That’s just about the last message we need to be sending to young LGBT people, and I would like to think that porn producers would want to take a similar stand as LaRue. Of course, that’s not going to happen because we are talking about people who want to make lots of money, and some of them don’t care who gets hurt in the process.

That’s why I think the regulations in California are necessary, and I applaud the AIDS advocacy group for taking the initiative to see it happen. Actually, I think porn videos should require warnings about the mind-boggling array of infections that can be contracted during unprotected sex.

And if California’s porn producers start flocking to Texas or whatever state to avoid the regulations, I hope AIDS advocacy groups in those states follow the California group’s lead and demand the same safety regulations.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright