Saturday, February 7, 2015

“Behind every beautiful thing, there's some kind of pain.”

     Pain.  That is a word I live with every day.  Physical, mental and emotional pain.  At times making me feel like a little old man, crippling me and causing me to want to crawl into a warm bath and stay there until pain medications (or alcohol)  take hold.  At times causing me to feel like parts of my brain no longer exist and then there are the times when I just want to sit and cry.
     The physical pain is all day every day.  My body aches as from a flu, total body aches and pains.  Muscles and joints sometimes scream with pain but mostly, there is just a dull ache.  I can take strong medications to ease the pain but then they have side effects too numerous to mention.  I can drink until I no longer feel but that causes problems too.  I was having acupuncture done and that really did help ease the pain and relax the old muscles but my health plan in it's infinite wisdom said I wasn't progressing enough and stopped paying for the treatments.  So, since my pain is not bad enough to give up, I stay strong and carry on.
     The mental pain I suffer from is much deeper and this is not easily fixed.  I constantly think about what my life would be like if I hadn't been exposed to a virus (HIV) that was easily preventable.  Also, if only I had been tested much earlier and my body was not allowed to be damaged by the HIV and AIDS.  What would my life be like if I had started HIV treatment when it was first available?  Would the physical pain be less?  Would I still be able to work full time and have a rewarding career?  At times my head spins with "what if" scenarios until my brain wants to burst.  And yet, no answers, I will never know "what if".  
     Then there is the emotional pain.  I look at Jim and feel so terribly awful that I have caused him to suffer along with me.  I know that when I am hurting, he is hurting. I see the pain in his eyes that look at me when I am in pain.  I remember the pain I caused him when I was first diagnosed and was close to death.  Then I look at my family and wonder if I didn't have AIDS, how would they feel about me.  Would they have less pain if I did?  And I look at where I might be and wonder what my life would be like and feel sad that I will never know. 
     All of these things, plus many others, cause me pain of every sort.
     Still, having AIDS has changed me.  The pain I endure has made me stronger that I ever thought possible.  Before my diagnosis I used to be amazed at the people who took a horrible situation and made something positive with it.  People who suffered a tragedy but instead of feeling sorry for themselves, people who were able to rise up and fight back.  I admired those kinds of people.  Now, the pain I have suffered because of HIV has caused me to become exactly that type of person.  I work hard to educate the young so that they will never have to feel the pain that I do.  I speak to my elected officials so that they know what HIV and AIDS does to cause pain and how they can help.   
     And so behind me, beautiful me, there is pain.  And behind the new me, what I have become because of AIDS, there is pain.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

When did you choose to be straight?

    Once again I have been hearing about my "choice" to live the "gay lifestyle" so I thought I would spend a moment talking about when I "chose" to be gay.  I feel it is important that everyone know when I "chose" to be gay so that the straight people who read this would think about when they "chose" to be straight.
     I "chose" to be gay at age five.  I remember the day very well, it was my very first day of kindergarten.  There were two kindergarten teachers at Jefferson Elementary, one female and one male.  The classrooms were across the hall from each other.  My teacher was the female teacher.  On our first day of class, both of the kindergarten classes got together for an orientation about our new school and we got to meet the other teacher in our grade.  It was at that exact moment, the moment I first saw the male kindergarten teacher that I chose to be gay.  I felt the first pangs of a student to teacher crush.  He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes and a smile that would melt the heart of any five year old.  Throughout the year I would go out of my way to see that teacher and I would secretly wish that I could grow up and we would be married.  I never told anyone about my feelings, I knew even then that no one would understand.  In fact, to be totally honest, even I didn't understand my feelings.  I just knew that I didn't like girls the way I liked boys.
     As I went through elementary school, my feelings did not change.  I knew that I had "chosen" to be gay and that was the way it was.  I was picked on because I wasn't like the other boys, I was bullied and made fun of, I got into fights and did not have a lot of friends and all because at age five, I "chose" to be gay. 
      In sixth grade sex education class, I learned a word for my feelings, homosexuality.  I learned that I might not be the only boy who had "chosen" to be gay.  I was happy yet afraid that someone would find out so I kept my feelings locked deep down inside of me.  I was alone and lonely all because at age five, I "chose" to be gay.
     In junior high, I continued to have feelings for boys but because I knew what was expected of me, I dated girls and even shared my first kiss with a girl.  (That didn't go well.)  And yet, I looked at the boys around me.  Was one of them feeling what I was feeling?  Was one of my male classmates a homosexual too?  And the bullying and feeling like an outcast  got worse, all because at age five, I "chose" to be gay.
     Senior high is supposed to be the best time of a young person's life.  For me, it was not.  I knew that I was different (gay) and I knew there had to be others but I felt so terribly alone.  Again, I dated and had a girlfriend.  We went to prom.  We had fun but then people started asking if we would be the "high school sweethearts" that grew up, got married, moved to the house with the white picket fence, had two children and lived happily ever after.  I knew that would never be my life because at age five I had "chosen" to be gay.
     In college I again dated women and we had fun but once again, I knew that I was not like most of the others I palled around with.  The only difference, the bullying decreased and I began to feel more like myself, the guy who at age five "chose" to be gay.
     Then, in 1986, I met the man who changed my life and my perception of my life.  I met the man that I eventually married.  That man and I eventually moved into the house with the white picket fence.  He is the man I chose to live the rest of my life with almost exactly 20 years after my first day in kindergarten, the day I "chose" to be gay.  He and I will grow old (and better) together.  Along the way he has helped me to finally realize that because at age five I "chose" to be gay, I made the choice to live my life openly and honestly.  Openly and honestly as a happy gay man!  And all because at age five, I "chose" to be gay.
     So the next time you hear someone say that gay people "choose" the "gay lifestyle", please feel free to correct them and say, "No, they choose to be honest".  And that is because you know someone who at age five "chose" to be gay.

There once was a boy....

     There once was a boy from Southern Minnesota who dreamed of a life full of love and happiness, health and wealth.  He was loved by his family.  He had a happy home and although the family was not rich, he had all he needed and then a bit more.  He was cute, sweet, smart and had dreams of making something of his future, with a life full of love and travel and happiness.
    The boy grew into a man.  One by one, his dreams started to come true.  He found out who he was.  He found true love.  He found that he could have a life away from his family but still feel the love and support of those who had known him since his birth.  He found he could be a success.  He began to travel the world with the man he loved along as a guide to show him the way. 
    All went well until one spring day a short time before the man's 41st birthday,  Then the world changed.  HIV and AIDS entered the man's life and all came to a crashing halt, nearly ending his life  and his dreams for good.  Pain and suffering became the new normal for the man.  But slowly, the man began to recover from near death.  Slowly, the shadow of the grim reaper faded into the sunshine of a new life and with new dreams.  After much trial and struggle, with the love and support of a wonderful man, loving family and concerned friends, the man's dreams one by one returned.
     Life was no longer what the boy from Southern Minnesota had once dreamed it would be.  Pain and struggles were part of  his new life after near death.  Daily routines had changed forever.  Dreams were more difficult but still they lived on.  The man became stronger and for him, life became much more meaningful, nothing was taken for granted.  Love meant more, breath was a bit sweeter, sunshine a bit brighter and the partner, lover and husband who had inspired the man's dreams continued to stand strong at his side, guiding and helping him to reach once again for the dreams he thought he had lost.
     And finally, the once little boy from Southern Minnesota realized that all along his dreams had been true.  He had always lived a life that many would only ever dream of, a life of love and happiness.  A life of health and wealth.  HIV, AIDS and all the pain and suffering that goes with it will never, can never take that little boy's dreams away. 

The politics of the day.

     As most of you may know, my political affiliation leans strongly to the left, more liberal side.  Although I do not believe in everythi...