Era of the Death Sentence: Our AIDS Legacy

Remembering Ryan White and the millions of gay men who died during the darkest days of our AIDS crisis

By C.L. Frederick
Contributing Columnist
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C.L. Frederick

It’s easy for the LGBTQ community to forget the past, since we are always looking forward and breaking down the societal barriers that have held us back for eons.  I for one have been guilty of forgetting our past struggles for the sake of moving our community forward socially and, in all honesty, because I never believed our history applied to my life.

Then I was diagnosed with HIV. That was certainly was expectedly a life changing experience, but it also changed the way I looked at the gay community.  Stories from our past became my saving grace.

I found myself being re-introduced to the era of the death sentence and I realized that I owed a debt of gratitude to those who came before me during the early days when medicine and treatments were not advanced enough to save lives, those who died during the time when HIV/AIDS was looked at as the “gay disease,” when hate and ignorance were mixed into one’s fight to live.

I was just a boy when AIDS began to enter the public consciousness, and I acutely remember hearing news reports and adults in my life discussing this “gay epidemic.” I just wanted to know why so many people were dying and why people on the news and the grown-ups I respected lacked sympathy for them.

I picked up on the vitriol being spewed at gay men with HIV/AIDS and it was jarring for me. News reports on TV seemed to shame these men and I was confused as to why that was. Then a few years later I heard about a boy named Ryan White who acquired HIV/AIDS through a blood transfusion.

He was a boy close to my age and I found myself paying attention to his story.  He seemed so strong and was so well spoken.  Here was a boy fighting for his life, growing gravely ill from his disease and treatments, a boy who encountered a great deal of hate and ostracism from all over the country because he wanted to simply go to school and be a part of his community.

Such hostility aimed a boy who did nothing to deserve the social prejudice added to his fight to live!

I could identify with Ryan and I continued to follow every bit of information concerning his journey as a youth with AIDS. This was not an interest that I could share with my family or friends, but my soul was rooting for him.

Ryan did not survive his fight against HIV/AIDS and when I learned of his death I was quietly heartbroken. Ryan’s life was quite possible the first human interest story to have an impact on my own humanity.

The years following Ryan White’s death saw HIV/AIDS treatments advance and prolong lives.  I began to come into my own as a gay man and started to forget about those who had died. People with HIV/AIDS were living longer and issues like LGBTQ equality and gay marriage were on the cusp of national and worldwide attention.

I would think of Ryan’s life from time to time, but I failed to realize how globally impactful his story was and should continue to be.

After learning I was HIV-positive, I found myself searching for stories to relate to, stories to comfort me in my time of need.

One night I watched the HBO movie The Normal Heart, and I was reminded of the struggles gay men with HIV/AIDS dealt with at the onset. I don’t cry much, but watching the movie was an emotional rollercoaster for me.  I have never been moved to that extent or cried so much because of a film.

To be reminded of those who came before me was a painful and humbling moment. The cards were stacked against them during that time: medications that would put a body through hell, men fighting to live only to be beaten down by society and ignorance in the process, and the fact that most knew they were dealing with a death sentence.

I am able to live a fairly normal life as a positive man today because of their voices, their fight and their bravery to live in the face of so many painful obstacles constantly working against them. Living with HIV/AIDS today still has its challenges. It is still a mountain of obstacles to overcome to remain healthy and get access to medications and treatment.

But the fact is that I only deal with a fraction of the challenges that those who came before me encountered. We have lost millions of voices that could have told us billions of stories. And I can’t help but think how different life would be today if we never had to lose any of those men.

What plays would have been written? What art created? Would one have become our first gay president? Was one my soul mate?

I get to live today, but I fully realize that all who have died of AIDS deserved to live just as much as I do.  I will never again forget the legacy of Ryan White and the men who came before me.

—  Tammye Nash

Starvoice • 05.27.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Heidi Klum turns 38 on Wednesday. The model turned TV host and producer changed the way we look at the fashion world with her very popular Project Runway. Because of the show, some gay designers have gone to be stars of their own like Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice and season four winner Christian Siriano. A Runway all-stars is apparently in the works.

…………………….

THIS WEEK

Mercury squaring Neptune in Pisces while entering Gemini inflates wonderfully imaginative notions. Jupiter entering Taurus could ground them and find profitable applications. Jupiter in Taurus for the next year should_ be good for the economy. It will be good for bankers at least.

…………………….

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Get creative. You have big challenges in the next year. Your intuition is now unusually sharp to see how you can turn those into opportunities. Spiritual guidance can be especially helpful now.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Dreams lure you too easily into never-never-lands of fantasy and escape. Sharing some of those phantasmagorical reveries with friends can help you find some practical outlet for them.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Remember the difference between dreams and goals. Friends encouraging you to chase after your dreams offer helpful inspiration, but don’t let them distract you from practical aims.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your brain is buzzing with schemes for success. Your partner encourages all your wildest ideas. Not. You need a leveler head with a bit of critical distance to give you pragmatic advice.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Expansive, fortunate Jupiter is starting a year in your house of sex. The deeper you go the greater the rewards. Don’t be shy. Neither is without risks, but Jupiter is good to have on your side.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You and your sweetie are due for some frolic. That could open up some questions and confusion. Keeping communications clear is a small challenge. The rewards are well worth it.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Job opportunities open up for you. Have faith in yourself. If familial encouragement is unrealistic, don’t worry about letting them down for what’s in the real world. If you’re happy, they are too.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You’re way too open to distractions and thus, accidents. Mediation, poetry, music or art will get you back in balance. Take classes in any of those . You need new ways of seeing the world.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Struggle between your deepest desires and economic necessity feels brutal. A light, playful conversation with your partner  can help you find a way to afford your dreams, or find reconciliation.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Whatever you have to offer, make it heard and known. Your family will back you up in your endeavors, but you really need to be very clear on who you are and what it is you’ve got.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Your recent lucky spree will focus more on financial fortune. Mad dreams and inspirations offer some clues. Talk out your crazy notions with friends and find a way to bring them to the bank.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Recent hard times turn around. Cash in on your good fortune. Turn your friends’ suggestions into practical ideas. Inspirations now point the way to future fulfillment of your dreams.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

What Happens When Trans Model Lea. T Kisses Lady Model Kate Moss: True Love

THE SHOT — Givenchy trans model and Oprah object of intrigue Lea. T smooches Kate Model on the cover of Love's Androgyny Issue. First Lurve, now Love, huh Lea? (Another cover of this issue, featuring Justin Beiber, is forthcoming. No, really.)


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Photo: Transgender Model Lea T. Kisses Kate Moss on ‘Love’ Mag

Lovemag

For LOVE magazine's 'androgyny issue' they paired Kate Moss with transgender model Lea T. Apparently Justin Bieber is involved a second cover but it's unclear whether this pair will join him on it.

You may recall that Lea T. graced the cover of Lurve back in November.

(via modelinia)


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Did Model Renato Seabra Kill His Gay Activist Boyfriend Carlos Castro And Cut His Scrotum Off?

Carlos Castro — the 65-year-old Angolan-born Portuguese columnist, TV journalist, and gay activist — was found in his New York City hotel room lying face-up in a pool of his own blood — with his scrotum cut off and his bead bludgeoned, the NYDN reports. His suspected paramour Renato Seabra, the fashion and underwear model who was staying with Castro at the InterContinental, was arrested hours later after officials tracked him down at a Midtown hospital when a nurse tipped them off. Seabra, who competed on (but did not win) the Portuguese modeling reality show A Procura Do Sonho (Pursuit of a Dream), was there seeking treatment for cuts and scrapes. That's a pretty damning scenario given witnesses saw the pair arguing loudly just hours before Castro's body was found after a visiting friend — who spotted Seabra in the lobby leaving the hotel, and who had gone to dinner with the pair just days before — could not reach him in his room. The pair were in town to spend New Year's Eve in the city and catch a few Broadway shows including Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

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Republican Cosmo Model Scott Brown Will Vote To Repeal DADT

Military vet and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown says he's down with repealing the law that keeps gay soldiers from pinning up his magazine spread.


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Model Florian Van Bael Kicked Off Bruce Weber’s A&F Shoot For Eating Carbs

Belgian model Florian Van Bael was fired from Bruce Weber's Abercrombie & Fitch catalog shoot in the Hamptons for — wait for it, wait for it — taking a bite of a croissant. Had he made it all the way through, he would've earned a pittance: of the 30 models on set, the men earn ,500 for the seven-day shoot; women grab ,500. Van Bael's own agent sided with Team Weber: "I don't think it's a question about coffee or croissant, it's just a question of respect during an important job." To which I say: While models, especially the barely clothed type A&F uses, of course have to look amazing, who the hell puts out croissants at craft services? That's just mean to the human hangars.

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—  John Wright

Video: A model ‘queer’

On last night’s edition “Top Model,” the contestants channeled their inner Goldie-Hawn-from-”Laugh In” (ask your grandparents), painting words on their bodies for the big photo shoot. Only this time, the theme was all about bullying, with anti-LGBT harassment getting a prominent mention:

It’s easy in this reality-saturated culture to get all “whatever” about these kinds of inclusive clips. But the fact that they are so common and casual now? Well, that’s kind of something. 5-10 years ago, most gay mentions still received some sort of pre-episode warning notice. Now, the teachable moments are as common as showmances, slick editing, and dramatic casting-offs that are broken up by a commercial break. That may just be reality TV’s biggest community service.




Good As You

—  John Wright

The Problems With Focus On The Family’s And The Alliance Defense Fund’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy

Thumbnail Link To TrueTolerance.org's/The Alliance Defense Fund's 'Model Anti-Bullying Policy for All Schools'Focus On The Family, via their activism arm CitizenLink, has been using their website to promote the Alliance Defense Fund’s (ADF’s) Model Anti-Bullying Policy. When I read the model policy, I saw the problem with the lack of enumeration, and contacted the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to get their statement on the Model Anti-Bullying Policy. Also, I vaguely remembered their was documentation on why enumeration is important in bullying policies, and wanted to know they had information on the relevant court rulings and statistical documentation.

During my phone communication with their media relations department, I learned there are actually four significant issues with the ADF’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy that Focus On The Family’s/CitizenLink‘s Education Annalist Candi Cushman is pushing in the media. (You remember Candi Cushman: she’s the point person that CitizenLink has declared on their website is “a  leading national expert on education issues” without providing corroboration as to how or why she is a leading national expert in this field.) So here are the four major issues with the Model Anti-Bullying Policy:

  1. Enumeration.
  2. Lack of a training component.
  3. Over-limitation on locations where school bullying falls under the policy; over-limitation on when school bullying falls under the policy.
  4. Overemphasis on free speech.

Point by point:

1. Enumeration.

GLSEN has a document available on the importance of enumeration — simply entitled “Enumeration,” and it references theirs and Harris Interactive’s From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America; A Survey of Students and Teachers and The 2007 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools.

In a legal sense, enumeration refers to the identification of categories — of people or things — to which a law applies. In anti-bullying laws, in hate crime laws, in laws that protect against discrimination — these categories are referred to as protected classes.

One of the main reasons to spell out protected classes regards how students are better protected from bullying where enumerated polices exist.

[More below the fold.]
To quote from GLSEN’s Enumeration:

Students who attend schools with policies that enumerate categories report less bullying and harassment then students who do not.

• Research has shown that students in states with non-enumerated laws are no more protected from bullying than students who live in states without any anti-bullying and harassment laws (74.3% with generic policies vs. 75.0% with no policies report ‘often or frequently’ hearing homophobic remarks based on sexual orientation).

Thumbnail Link to Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network's (GLSEN's) 'Enumeration'• Students report less overall harassment when they know their school has a comprehensive policy that includes enumeration. Students from schools with an enumerated policy report that others are harassed far less often in their school for reasons like their physical appearance (36% vs. 52%), their sexual orientation (32% vs. 43%) or their gender expression (26% vs. 37%).

• Students whose schools have a policy that specifically includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are less likely than other students to report a serious harassment problem at their school (33% vs. 44%).

Enumeration is essential if laws are to be implemented.

• History and the Supreme Court tell us that enumerating policies is necessary. Girls would not have sports and our schools would not be integrated if policymakers had not specifically addressed these inequities by enumerating categories like sex and race in our laws. The Supreme Court of the United States noted in Romer v. Evans that “enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply (Romer v. Evans 517 U.S. 620 (1996).”

• Enumeration gives teachers and other educators the tools they need to implement anti-bullying and harassment policies, which makes it easier for them to intervene to prevent bullying. School personnel often fear that they will themselves be targeted for intervening on behalf of LGBT students. When they can point to language that provides clear protection for LGBT students, they feel more comfortable enforcing the policy. Students reported that teachers were significantly more likely to intervene always or most of the time in states with enumerated policies, as compared to states with either non-enumerated policies or no policies at all (25.3% vs. 15.9% and 12.3%).

Comprehensive policies with enumeration help ensure safety and reduce absenteeism.

• Students from schools with an enumerated policy are 50% more likely to feel very safe at school (54% vs. 36%). Students without such a policy are three times more likely to skip a class because they feel uncomfortable or unsafe (16% vs. 5%).

Unlike GLSEN, the Alliance Defense Fund and Focus On The Family — on their TrueTolerance.org — don’t list studies that support their conclusion that anti-bulling polices that don’t enumerate protect students better than enumerated policies. Unlike GLSEN, Focus On The Family has not funded its own studies to determine if their model policy actually does what thay state it will do. In fact, one of their bullet points on the subject actually states:

Statistics also indicate that race, ethnicity issues, and even opposite-sex harassment actually account for more bullying problems, than do homosexual-related issues.

If, as Focus On The Family states

• Focus on the Family believes that bullying should be recognized as a serious problem and should be strongly addressed.

• We believe schools can address this issue with a strong prohibition against any form of bullying-for any reason, against any child.

…Why point out which group is bullied more, or bullied less? This isn’t the Oppression Olympics, but the Alliance Defense Fund, Focus On The Family, and specifically Focus on the Family Action (CitizenLink) Education Analyst Candi Cushman, are trying to make this the Oppression Olympics. Specifically, Candi Cushman stated (emphasis added):

…In fact, when you look at the more objective data sources, and not just the information coming from gay activist groups, physical appearance-or the general concept of appearing different than one’s peers — is actually the most common reason reported for why victims are targeted. This can involve a whole slew of issues, such as one’s weight, a girl who is developing faster than others, a child who wears glasses, or a boy who acts more effeminate than his peers, etc, etc. In fact, statistics indicate that race, ethnicity issues, and even opposite-sex harassment actually account for more bullying problems, than do homosexual-related issues.

It’s sure appears to me that Candi Cushman is defining how serious bullying is against individual students by puting it in the terms of how many in each catagory are bullied. It seems to me that Candi Cushman is framing anti-LGBTQ bullying as a lesser form of bullying then of bullying for race or gender — she’s more than implying that because the quantity of students who are bullied for being perceived as being LGBTQ are less in numbers than other forms of bullying, it’s not a serious problem.

2. Lack of a training component.

There is no training component to Focus On The Family’s and the Alliance Defense Fund’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy.

Think about that for a moment. How is a teacher or administrator going to know how to identify what constitutes bullying — identifying bullying that falls under the parameters of a school district’s policies? How does a teacher or administrator recognize the students who are being bullied if one doesn’t know what typical bullying of specific types of students looks like? How is a teacher or administrator going to know, by district policy, when he, she, or ze is supposed to intervene in accordance with the policy? What are intervening actions are the teacher or administrator is supposed to take if he, she, or ze determines bullying has occurred? How is a teacher or administrator going to know what intervening actions are effective, and what intervening actions are ineffective? — and could make the bullying escalate?

With no training component spelled out in Model Anti-Bullying Policy, Focus On The Family’s and the Alliance Defense Fund’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy, the bad outcomes that GLSEN’s studies indicate in Enumeration document seem assured.

3. Over-limitation on locations where school bullying falls under the policy; over-limitation on when school bullying falls under the policy.

This is what the Model Anti-Bullying Policy states about where the policy applies:

The District prohibits all bullying on school premises, at school-sponsored functions or activities, or on school-sponsored transportation.

Thumbnail Link to GLSEN's 'Victimization Relates To Lowered School Connectedness For LGBT Youth, Institutional Support Relates To Greater Connectedness, GLSEN Article Finds'This is the definition of these locations:

B. “School Premises” means any building, structure, athletic field, sports stadium or other real property owned, operated, leased or rented by the District or one of its schools, including, but not limited to, any kindergarten, elementary, secondary, or vocational-technical school.

C. “School-Sponsored Functions or Activities” means a field trip, sporting event, or any other function or activity that is officially sponsored by the District or one of its schools.

D. “School-Sponsored Transportation” means a motor vehicle owned, operated, leased, rented or subcontracted by the District or one of its schools.

This means that students who don’t take the school bus to and from school are subject to bullying that doesn’t fall under the district anti-bullying policy if they walk, ride a bike, or take a privately owned vehicle to school. This means that all bullying that takes place on a public sidewalk or street in front of the school doesn’t fall under the district anti-bullying policy. This means that all cyberbullying that is initiated via electronic devices that are not physically on school property when the cyberbullying is initiated is cyberbullying that doesn’t fall under the district anti-bullying policy.

A student bully essentially just has to move his bullying off-campus, off school buses, and away from within the confines of school-sponsored events to engage in bullying that impacts his, her, or hir chosen bullying victims.

And remember, bullying can include physical violence.

4. Overemphasis on free speech.

The last line in the Model Anti-Bullying Policy states this:

This policy shall not be interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students, and is not intended to prohibit expression of religious, philosophical, or political views, provided that such expression does not cause an actual, material disruption of the work of the school.

Thumbnail Link To Citizen Magazine's (Focus On The Family's) Parents Beware; 'Anti-Bullying' Initiatives Are Gay Activists' Latest Tools Of Choice For Sneaking Homosexuality Lessons Into Classrooms Note that the first listed protected viewpoint listed  is religious. That means an Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian student is free to tell lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students as frequently as he or she desires:

You homosexuals are an abomination to God, and are going to hell.

As long as an Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian student does not cause an actual, material disruption of the work of the school — which I’m assuming means doesn’t disrupt work in the classroom — this would not be administratively considered creating a hostile school environment for LGBTQ students. So a bullying Christian student could repeat this over and over again as long as he or she said this to LGBTQ students between classes and during lunch period.

This means that a transgender elementary school student could be harassed with faith-based free speech as frequently as frequently as a peer Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian student desires — except when that faith-based free speech causes an actual, material disruption of the work of the school. Recess and lunch then are fair game in the school day to harass transgender elementary school children.

The Alliance Defense Fund’s and Focus On The Family’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy is designed specifically to let Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian students (and their Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian parents) to create hostile school environments for LGBTQ-identified students.

And let’s again remember the woman who is currently pushing the meme “Anti-Bullying” Initiatives Are Gay Activists’ Latest Tools Of Choice For Sneaking Homosexuality Lessons Into Classrooms. She’s the education expert…right?

~~~~~~

Further reading:

* Twin Cities Daily Planet: Mother: Anoka-Hennepin School policy contributed to gay son’s suicide

* GLSEN: An Open Letter from GLSEN Board Member Sirdeaner Walker to Candi Cushman at Focus on the Family

Related:

* AFA Highlights/Recycles FOTF Campaign Against Perceived Gay Public School Agenda

* Focus On The Family/CitizenLink Sees “Sneaky” Gay Agenda In The Public Schools

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Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Kayla, America’s Next Top Lesbian Model

I haven't watched America's Next Top Model in several years, but here comes Kayla, a lesbian Hooters waitress, and what other reason do we need to tune in? "Being the openly gay girl in the house, I was afraid about how the others would receive me," she tells Us. Sorry ladies, she's taken.

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—  John Wright