Posts Tagged ‘Health Care’

RIP – A very dear friend of mine passed away this past week. I know that many of my friends relied on him through the years and would want to know. My dad introduced me to them and for years I have relied on their stability. Now more than than ever I will really miss em.

Over the centuries, Facts became such a prevalent part of most people’s lives that Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said: “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.”

Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.

Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012

In memoriam: After years of health problems, Facts has finally died.

Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012.

Again I apologize for not being more consistent in writing. After fifty years of trying to do every thing myself I have realized that this time I am over my head. I have been depressed before but not like this. I have put on 18 pounds of comfort food since January and spend a great deal of time sitting in a chair in my living room staring at the beach.

I did have a string of good days, four in a row this past week but hit a pothole yesterday. I did get a chance to go to Orlando for a day and spend a great day at Disney Animal Kingdom on a “photo safari.” I have finally let a few friends know the depth of the hole and how close I came to crossing the Rubicon. Now on medication to sleep better and on Testosterone shots. There are many different factors at work in this bout that are causing the perfect storm. My lab work came back much better and that helped. I have come to realize that there is a huge generational gap with respect to AIDS. When I was first infected int he first wave of infections in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s there was not a name for what was killing us. Boyfriends, partners, friends and tricks were healthy one day and dead a week later. There was never a question of “if” it was going to kill us. Only a matter of “when”. for the better part of ten to fifteen years there was no real hope. AZT appeared to be as toxic as the virus.

People today say oh – it’s no big deal anymore. Just take a pill every day and you can live normal. That is like telling a survivor of Iraq or Afghanistan that the pop was just a car backfiring or the transformer explosion is nothing or the knocked over trash can was just a cat there is nothing to worry about. Years of mental programing take years of programing to undo. Even now, the meds only prolong – they do not cure. It is very hard to start living again when I’ve spent so long getting ready to die. And to that the drive to succeed that becomes hindered and blocked by the medical condition life is frustrating at best. Then there are the chemical changes the body encounters as it grows older.

Each of these is now being felt with. I will say I spent several months actively damaging relationships and professional licensing in an attempt to make sure there was nothing keeping me tied down here. I have begun the journey of repairing them but it will be awhile. As the quote goes. Life does not come with a remote. Ya gotta get up and change it yourself!

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I am sorry the blogging has sucked. I hit a major depression a month ago and had trouble pulling out. Think that is behind and off to Disney for the weekend. Regular bloging should be back then!

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July 2012, Washington DC is hosting the International Conference on AIDS. The Names Project Foundation, which takes care of all the Quilt Panels is trying to ‘blanket DC’ with all the Quilt Panels. The Quilt has been to DC in 1987, 88, 89, 92 and 1996. Some of the Quilt were included in President Clinton’s Inauguration Parade. The Quilt was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. It is the single largest community project in the World to this day.

The Quilt continues to grow as HIV/AIDS takes more lives. The Quilt now has over 47,000+ panels, weighs over 54 tons and has over 92,000+ names listed. Some famous names include: Arthur Ashe, Eazy E (rapper), Perry Ellis, Rock Hudson, Richard Hunt (muppeteer), Liberace, Freddie Mercury, Tim Richmond (Nascar), Robert Reed (Brady Bunch), Anthony Perkins (Psycho), Max Robinson (ABC News anchor), Jerry Smith (Redskin Football player), Ricky Wilson (B-52 band), Ryan White, Rudolf Nureyev, just to name a few…

According to POZ magazine, the  AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed in its entirety for the first time since 1996 in multiple key locations on and around Capitol Hill and throughout metropolitan Washington, DC. from July 21-24.

Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt is a 1989 documentary film that tells the story of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman with a musical score written and performed by Bobby McFerrin, the film focuses on several people who are represented by panels in the Quilt, combining personal reminiscences with archive footage of the subjects, along with footage of various politicians, health professionals and other people with AIDS.  One of those focused in the film was an ex of mine Tracy Torrey. Part of me want to go to DC to see the quilt, but after all this time and all those deaths and all those funerals, not sure I could handle it.  One of those focused in the film was an ex of mine Tracy Torrey. Part of me want to go to DC to see the quilt, but after all this time and all those deaths and all those funerals, not sure I could handle it.

This past week has seen the reemergence of the red-herring, “war on religion” screams from the GOP. The Catholic Church is crying foul over the Presidents plan to have all business health insurance plans cover contraception. Combine that to the recent Republican legislation in Virginia that requires women be forcibly probed in order to prove the age of the fetus. We see a full fledge attack on our right to be free from religion.

Women in Virginia who want an abortion will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure. This is a medically unnecessary procedure in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since a proposed amendment to the bill, a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound failed, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.

During recent testimony on the insurance bill, I was left speechless at the sight of a table of Catholic clergy testifying before a House of Representative Committee exerting their right to deny federal law and refuse to cover some woman’s health coverage under a separation of Church and State argument. No women were allowed to testify on the Congressional bill concerning churches that operate businesses refusing to cover women’s health option.

This would be the same as the catholic clergy that argued that separation of church and state meant that the local government authorities did not have the right to investigate sex abuse charges. These are the same people complacent in the sex abuse scandal now claiming moral authority to defy federal insurance law. This has nothing to do with doctrine but apply when the church runs a business. The church argues that if they are running a business, that they should be able to pick and choose what laws apply to them based on their interpretation of their doctrine.

This argument, about protecting religious freedom from government interference, should be of concern to everyone but especially the GLBT community. Drunk with power, the radical republicans have waged war on anyone one and any things that upsets their status quo. In Michigan, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act. Social conservatives believe that efforts to protect gays from assault, discrimination or bullying impinge on their religious freedom to express and act on their belief that homosexuality is an abomination.

Freedom of religious expression doesn’t give someone the right to kick the crap out of a gay kid or to verbally torment her. It doesn’t give someone the right to fire a gay employee instead of dealing with the potential discomfort of working with him. It’s also a highly selective conception of religious liberty. The same religious conservatives who applaud the religious exemption would be appalled if it protected a Muslim student who defended bullying a Christian classmate by saying he considered her an infidel.

There is a war in America being carried out by those wrapped in a flag carrying a cross. Unless we as citizens stand firm in our convictions, stand firm in opposition to laws written or change to conform to religious doctrine, we are destined to lose the few rights we have remaining. Every little encroachment matters. Every “creation based” science book matters. Every restriction on a women’s right to health care matters. Every bullied child matters. Every business and restaurant hat refuses service to gays and lesbians matters. It should matter to each and every one of us.

As we approach New Years Eve and the inevitable resolutions concerning weight loss, I thought it would be a good thing to post a little information. Scott Herman has a great series of training videos on YouTube. Here is a recent one.

 

 

Recently I started to member my first swim classes at the Naval Base In Washington DC. As I thought more about it, I remembered having to swim nude. At the time we were told that the lint from the swimsuits were tough on the filter system. That is why girls had to wear swim caps. Men did not have long hair then, especially on a military base. I started wondering when things changed. I spoke with others about this and they too remember nude swimming as late as high school in the mid 1970’s. During a recent trip to Budapest the public baths were clothing optional during male only or female only times. As far back as the Romans the baths were public and nude. When did we determine that the body has to be hidden?

It seems to me that this was the first time I saw a nude man and realized that as boys aged the bodies’ changed. All the bodies were different and with age they changed. Therefor when mine started to change I was not as insecure and “freaked” by the experience.  I truly believe this Victorian sense of modesty is partially responsible for the explosion of porn. Once we tell kids that the body is shameful and has to be hidden, the first instinct is to peak and see what and why. If families were more upfront about sex and the body the curiosity level would not be as desperate.

Clearly the body has not changed so we as a society have changed. Personally I hate wearing a swimsuit in the pool and don’t unless there are people around who would be clearly uncomfortable. If, as it appears, it changed in the 1960-70’s I am trying to understand why. That was the height of the sexual liberation movement. The body was celebrated! Why did the powers that be determine we need to be clothed?

The best answer I could come up with is a combination of causes. First the “Woman’s Liberation Movement” demanded gender equality and therefore separate swim times for men and women fell away for total co-ed swim facilities. Second I think, was the use by Richard Nixon of the “silent majority” myth. Nixon argued that the vast majority of the Americans wanted a return to the “high moral” standards of America past. The years of Joe McCarthy and “One Nation Under God”.

The strange thing about people who long for the “good ol’ days”, is that their vision of those days is seldom correct or complete. They long for a Norman Rockwell vision of the past. The present, and especially the future are too full of the unknown for their comfort level. As a result they try to impose an unlivable myth on the population at large. This is why so many conservative religious and republicans with repressed feelings and urges and found to be living hypocritical existences.

Another reason is that as America became more obese, people want more reasons to hide their body. Even body image is less of a problem for cultures that embrace the body openly and honestly. We recently went to Budapest where many of the public baths are still clothing optional. This despite the fact that many of the people bathing were not particularly attractive to me.

The other problem with repressing the body and sexuality is that it is ungodly! God, however you might define it, has created a body that is capable of so many fantastic feeling from just touch alone. One should not ignore it. Our body has evolved over the ages to be built for stimulation. To ignore it, to not explore it, would be to ignore gods work.

I would and will continue to argue that we need to become more like the rest of the civilized world. I hope that the scifi writers are correct and the future world will be beyond this issue.

Studies have shown that people with low self esteem suffer Floating hostility, irritability out in the open, always on the verge of exploding even for unimportant things; an attitude characteristic of somebody who feels bad about everything, who is disappointed or unsatisfied with everything. One way to help is to take the stress of a “shameful body” off kids as they mature. We need to stop all forms of sexual repression and deal with the body and sexuality honestly and openly. Much like the Europeans.  They have lower rape and incest rates that are a direct result of an attitude that sees the body in a more complete way. They also have lower violent crime rates due in part to a more securer self image in all people. I think much of that is due to their ability to accept their body for what it is and is not. We need to teach that the body is good in all its’ forms and not evil.

This past week I posted what I thought would be a cute innocuous blurb about Christmas. It simply said that “December 25: That awkward day when God is reminded that He slept with His own mother to conceive Himself!”

I thought it was cute but by reading some of the responses, you would think that I attacked the Holy Mother Church during the height of the Inquisition. People were responding about the bible saying this and that and others were urging me to stop my attacks on Christians especially at this time of year. I finally responded back by saying that these people had no room to speak of attacks. I feel that it needs a bit more explanation of my spiritual journey.

I was raised Catholic. Elementary school, middle school, graduate school and law school. During my time at the University of Maryland, I got sucked into Campus Crusade for Christ and the now infamous “Family” of “C-Street” fame who tried to “Pray the Gay Away”. From early on I questioned Dogma and theology. I asked the nuns in school how god could die on a cross and if he was really dead who raised him, or the salvation of the Indians in America while Jesus was alive in the Middle East, and other scenarios. After years and years of dogma dumped into my head, and developing a self loathing trying to resolve the “gay-issue” I looked to the evangelical movement. During this time I was never able to stop acting on my gayness. I only knew that one had to win over the other.

While I was living in the “Cornerstone House”, a home managed by “The Family” of  Jim Hiskey, Chuck Colson and The Coe’s (Father and sons), I was involved with Campus Crusade for Crist. After talking to the director, Dan Mosley, his wife told me point blank that she was; ”going to pray that the lord take me before I had a chance to sin again.” Yes she was going to pray for my death. This caused me even more confusion and anxiety since I was having sex with several of the other men at the house involved at Cornerstone and with “The Family”. I knew that something was very wrong with this situation. The Christians I met were either hateful or hypocrites. Often both. After trying several different types of counseling and often having sex with these counselors I made a clean break.

Once outside this environment I realize more and more how it was like a cult. So many people try to rationalize how to square biblical interpretations and religious doctrine with the reality of their life. I went a different rout. I question the bases of the foundation or their arguments. I looked at the validity of the “New Testament” as the word of god. I saw that the story of god coming to earth, having a son with a mortal woman who was to save the world, has played out time and again. It is the story of Zeus and Hercules. It is the story of Isis and Ra. It could also be the story of Odin and Thor. It is a story that repeats through history. The names change but the themes remain the same. It is in a writing that is done decades or even centuries after events in a time with no hard records. In short, it is a belief system base ancient myths that are reworded and refitted for a different time and period. These are nothing more than stories parents used to frighten their children and that the rich embrace to enslave the poor and keep them under control. Even the bible itself says men are but sheep being lead to the slaughter.

One of my favorite lines recently is that if the US got rid of all atheists, it would lose 93% of the National Academy of Sciences but less than 1% of the prison population. I could live with that. I would like to live someplace sane! As we get more into the Christmas season the evangelicals complain about this fictions war on Christmas is destroying the holiday. That somehow stopping government from sapling nativity sets on public land is a slap at Christmas. Or using Happy Holidays is destroying the institution. I would simply say that before they worry about keeping Christ in Xmas, they should try putting him in their religion first.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

That was never more evident that during the beginning of the AIDS crisis. Instead of helping the sick and dying, the Christians were advocating a roundup and death camps for people with AIDS. Instead of caring for the sick, the Catholic Church in Washington DC ordered an AIDS support group in their parish to cease and desist using the church basement for meeting. Jerry Farwell declared AIDS “God’s wrath on homosexuals. Christians used AIDS to justify hatred and fear of gays instead of caring for the sick and dying. Indeed and thought and action, the Christians were very un-christ like. It was not until the early 1990’s, some 45,000 deaths later, that the mainstream churches began actually helping instead of demonizing. That is unforgivable.

I have no need for a life based on mythos and I have no room in my heart for forgiveness. That is my position on Christians.

World AIDS day is upon us. That magical time of year when we celebrate…. What?

For as long as I have been active in the AIDS community, 30 years in one capacity or another, I never understood what exactly World AIDS Day is about. I went to Wikipedia for the answer.

According to Wikipedia World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements.

OK – nice start. But what has it become. The first thing to greet me, as a visitor to the official World AIDS Day site, was an ad to purchase a “limited edition sparkly red ribbon.” Wow! What a great way to show solidarity with the dead and dying. Be all sparkly and happy. “See I support you!” I really don’t need that kind of support. I could order a box of red ribbons for 30£. And that helps me how? In my mail over the past month, I have more than a hand full of invitations to fundraisers. I am surprised Hallmark does not have a line of cards out. The smallest box on the front page of their web site is dedicated to “getting involved.”

I think it is clear that we have gotten off topic. World AIDS day was created to honor the dead and prod governments into action. It is still a pandemic and the there is much to be taught to friends and co-workers and most important, to government officials who control the purse strings. At least once a week I get a question about how I can be Positive and my partner is still negative after almost 19 years. My partner gets asked regularly, “how could he have sex with someone who is positive?” The lack of knowledge within the GLBT community is breathtaking. Maybe because we are in the south where schools are forbidden from having frank discussions about sex, but we as a society are setting ourselves up for an epic fail in protecting the next generation.

Every few years the virus has been shown to mutate. The virus is getting stronger and more and more resistant to medications. People are going to start dying again. Having gone through Kaposi Sarcoma myself and having had patients with Pneumocystis pneumonia die in my arms, I can tell you that it not pretty. It is not dignified. It is not painless. There was never a time in my life that I was negative. From the first month the test was available I flunked. There is no reason another person in Florida should get infected if we were doing our job, our obligation, to learn and teach about AIDS.

This year nationally is becoming a year of political action driven by the Occupy Wall Street movement. We need to recommit ourselves as a community to political action. One of the causalities of the past decade of budget cuts to support the wealthy and corporations is that many AIDS and public health groups have been force to close or cut back on services. So yes, we need to dig deep and give. Not just money. We need to give of our time and talents. We also need to focus on direct political action. We need to develop a new generation of leaders who understand what we have been through and have a desire to stop it from being repeated. We need to lobby for more money or at the very least not to loose any more. Most importantly we need to stop acting so corporate in our response. We need to start acting locally and maybe take a lesson from ACT-UP about direct political action. Locally we have some very good people on the school board and a few on the county commission. We need to support them and talk to the others. We need to recommit ourselves to the original goals of the World AIDS Day founders. At the same time we should not forget that some times direct political action is necessary. The world’s spotlight will be on Tampa next summer when the Republican circus comes to town. We need to let them know that it is not ok to lie to the children about AIDS and gays. Neither is “curable” and only one needs to be treated.

When AIDS first attacked in the early 1980’s some of the very first organized response came from the Leather and the Drag community. The very simple reason for this was that they were the two main organized communities. Some of the major cities had political groups or “Pride organizations” but they did not seem to enter the fray as quickly as the leather and drag communities. Washington DC had MCC and political clubs. One of the reasons the Leather and Drag folk were quick to respond was, in my opinion, that they were more frequently in bar settings and the news traveled there faster.  It was not until July 1981 that the Washington Blade carried their first article on what became known as GRID and later as AIDS. The “Gay Cancer” had an article in December of that year.

In January 1982, after 1300 reported cases and 317 reported deaths, the Whitman Walker clinic in DC began organizing a response. They eventually incorporated and formalized the AIDS buddies program. This was a program that took what the leather club members were already doing on a less formal level of bringing food and home care to people with AIDS. Helping them shop and bath and do chores. The goal was to assign two buddies to each patient. When I got involved they were training people as quickly as possible and the reality was that many of us had two patients with no extra help. It was a surreal time.

The reason I bring this up is that it seems to me to be the last time the “leather community” really existed. Frankly the last time the gay community really existed. The leather community, in my opinion has basically become a network of people into different fetishes who cannot agree on an umbrella or even desire to. As past chair of St. Pete Pride, I see a similar thing.

 The women have splinter into factions and the drag community and the trans community all feel left out of the process yet they fail to come to the table to help produce the events. And the gay man have splinted into many factions too. The twinks hate the bears and the leather and, well, just about anything that isn’t cute and tweeking. I remember the gay community in DC when it became the “gay and lesbian community”. Then there was the ongoing war of calling it the “Gay and Lesbian” community or the “Lesbian and Gay” community. (See Why Lesbians Aren’t Gay a 1994 article in the National Review.) –  I also remember these very same women screaming because more money was spent on AIDS research and care for men then women. This despite that fact that lesbian HIV rate was one-tenth or one percent of the rate in men these women wanted equal funding! It just never ended and today we have the alpha-bit soup of names that I am not even sure of.

This to say, that once a community was created, it then began splintering and digressing. Having had a leather bar in Tampa in the 1990’s I have seen the changes in the leather community first had and up close.  Leather  was once a community with a proud heritage, first decimated by AIDS, and then destroyed by stereotypes. Today it is been become a network of people involved in kink.

Circuit boys looking pretty have usurped leather and safe SM is now learned by the J Crew set on the Internet. There is a leather contest this week in St. Pete. After a recent conversation with Race Bannon, I am anxious to see how often the word community is used and then test to see if it is ever defined.

I think the bigger question is whether we should be ok with this splintering. When it comes to the goals of the gay community, the larger the coalition the louder the voice. I think there is a need for real, grass roots leadership in America and the corporate fundraising machine that is the Human Rights Campaign is useless.

As to the leather community, I think it needs to adapt. What made it a community, actually, what makes any community is shared experiences. In this day of electronic communication and instant hook up, the leather club may be a relic. But I think a network, created of the like minded, should flourish. Occasional public meet-ups with the purpose of meeting new people, and private play parties are the way to go. Local, with  people you know and trust. Maybe the regional events and national events on like Chicago Hellfire and the ilk still provide a great service. But people need to ask, what purpose does a leather club serve today?

Just my thoughts on the demise of the community.