By which I mean it’s the beginning of the year. I’ve moved to a new city–with all the hassles that come from being the good tenant who follows those disastrous ones you see on HGTV who left the place a god-forsaken wreck–and I’ve begun a new job.
In a recent interview, Charlie Sheen disclosed his HIV+ status. I think it takes a lot of courage to do this because, despite science to the contrary, the disease is still stigmatized, both socially and legally, in ways that it shouldn’t be. However, I have to reprimand the reporter for asking questions such as, “Have you knowingly, or even unknowingly, transmitted the disease? Have you ever had unprotected sex since your diagnosis? Have you told each of your partners about your status before sexual intercourse? What risky behaviors did you pursue? And do you know how you contracted the disease?” These are invasive questions that, to me, are just as bad as asking a trans person about genitals and surgery, or maybe even worse.
So let me just say a fast few things about sex, safety, and HIV.
Friends, I said in a weekend Facebook post, I need your help.
I’ve learned a lot about systems of (dis)advantages over the past few years, and newsflash, I have a lot of privilege. In fact, it’s hard for me to find much in my life that isn’t a result of somewhere someone giving me me something that someone else was denied–whether it’s my assumed intelligence because I’m white or my assumed leadership skills because I’m male or so many other things.
So how do I hold onto any sort of self-worth when everything I thought I had fought so hard to achieve was really just handed to me?
For a long time I’ve supported the Human Rights Campaign–one of the largest and most well-known LGBT civil rights advocacy groups in the world. But as of today, I have severed my ties with them–and here’s the reason why.
I have a confession: I am bound in chains and sometimes I like it. My flesh is tethered by bands of leather and holy boxes inscribed with the word of God. The numbness under the straps speaks to me of security, reminds me of an invisible, all powerful touch.
The truth is metaphor’s a nasty animal that rears its head and paws at the dirt and runs off chasing wild game the moment you think it’s majesty might actually be your own.
But the bigger truth is this: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom, about what it means to be free, about liberation, and all the chains we carry.
Have you ever heard a joke that’s great until the punchline, and then it falls apart?
I feel opposite that: I know where I’m headed, but not how to get there–not even where to start. You see, I just spent a week in San Francisco, and seeing what the world could look like–what a more inclusive and queer-friendly world can look like–has made me realize a world where sexual orientation doesn’t matter can exist. But after seeing such high levels of inclusion, coming home feels a lot like walking back into the closet.
It’s not as funny as a joke, is it? But it does have a better punchline.
I have never been brave. I feign courage, I swallow my nerves, psych myself in anxiety until the adrenalin overpowers my emotion and I go. But I do not claim to brave. I follow the path of heroes, one step at a time, sometimes barely one breath at a time.
But I manage.
When I wrote last, I remarked about the number of unpublished posts I’ve written–it’s disheartening, the stories I yearn to tell, that I’m too afraid to share.
Today’s Independence Day. To celebrate our freedom, I’ve been planning to write a piece about self-determination, celebrating the power we each hold as individuals in the United States and encouraging people to embrace this power–to take charge of their lives, and more importantly, to take charge of their country.
But self-determination is a privilege of the modern world, and the freedom we have today came at cost far greater than any one of us could ever imagine–certainly far greater than even I could conceive.
Last night a speaker came to campus to talk about bullying. She said a few words–I probably could’ve counted how many–and then she started asking questions. And when we didn’t willingly answer, she stood in silence waiting. And if we still didn’t answer (this only happened once), she walked up to someone and asked him directly.
This wasn’t a typical lecture. It went both ways.
And that got me thinking: bullying goes both ways, too.
In a recent interview, Debora Spar–president of Barnard College and author of the new book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection–stepped forward to make the claim I’ve been saying a long time: To advance women, we need to include men.
That itself is a fantastic topic for discussion, but more so I want to point out something else President Spar said–something that blatantly stands against her ideas of inclusion.