By Edward Pulley
Oh my lord, December 1st is here already.
That means a birthday in two days and this year it also means an audition on that very same day. So busy. Oh, and then there are all these holidays coming up, which my bill collectors seem to not recognize in any helpful way. Argh!
But I want to take a moment to reflect.
All my life, I have been a big ol’ geek. Sci-fi loving, comic book reading, board-game playing geek.
There once was a time when you really couldn’t admit to being a geek in public so easily, but now we have The Big Bang Theory and Clerks and super-hero movies topping the box office. Now I freely admit to being a geek with no problem.
That wasn’t always the case. I have to admit that I have had more than my fair share of bullying because of it. Others have suffered more, I assure you, but being a geek has not made me a stranger to the bullying of others. As a matter of fact, it has easily been more of a source for bullying and taunting than being gay has ever been.
Oh yeah, a gay geek.
There once was a time when you really couldn’t admit to being gay in public so easily, but there has been great strides taken with television and movies, and there is even a TV station dedicated to it, and kids are taking their same-sex partners to proms, and we have the gloriously open spokespeople George Takei and RuPaul. Now I freely admit to being gay with no problem.
So, yeah, back to the geek thing. I have always read comics and sci-fi. Something that my father shared with me. And one of his favorite writers also became one of mine – Isaac Asimov.
His style is a little dry and pulpish by today’s standards, but damn it, it is still good. There is a reason why he and some of the other pioneers of Sci-fi are still in print – they are just too darn good.
I had always wanted to meet him, but he unfortunately died before I had a real chance. Now, he wasn’t a spring chicken when he died – he was in his 70s already – but most people agreed that he was quite active and his death came as a bit of a surprise to many. He was known for his great intellect and humor, and also as a bit of a womanizer. Kind reports state he was a harmless old flirt, but others try to hint at more. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know.
But he died. And I did not get to meet my hero. And do you know what killed him? AIDS.
Well, technically not AIDS. AIDS doesn’t technically kill anyone. It just invites something else to take root and do it instead. But if it weren’t for AIDS, he would not have died.
And this was kept secret for a long time.
Why? Well, this happened around the same time as when Arthur Ashe revealed that he had AIDS and he and his family suffered a bit of backlash from this. Asimov’s doctor advised against going public for this very reason. While they had traced a tainted blood transfusion as the cause, at the very least his reputation would give rise to much unwanted talk. And so it stayed quiet.
See, there once was a time when you couldn’t admit to having HIV or AIDS without fear of reprisal or at least sideways glances form those who you thought you could trust. And this has not changed. Now I freely admit to having AIDS, but I do so with the knowledge that it could cost me.
We have lost many people to AIDS. Not just my hero, Dr. Asimov – whose family bravely stepped forward when they didn’t have to and revealed the cause of death – but many entertainers, actors, writers, friends and lovers. And each one had to make the decision on whether to tell the world they contracted a disease they didn’t deserve but would be judged for.
On RuPual’s Drag Race, Ongina struggled with this. On Project Runway, Mondo also had to make a stand. Recently, Charlie Sheen revealed his status – after being blackmailed for something that shouldn’t be an issue. So, the struggle is unfortunately real. How many more are supposed to suffer not just from a disease that has proven that it doesn’t care about morals, lifestyles, politics, or beliefs, but also suffer from the stigma associated with this disease?
Today is December 1st, National AIDS Day. It is a day when we get together and share in the fight against HIV/AIDS and remember those who suffered with it. But it should also be a day where we can take a stand and say that we are not to be judged for having the disease. We shouldn’t have to hide. And I don’t.
People make statements when they are ready. I don’t believe in outing people. That is crass and not helpful. It leads to the fear and stigma that needs to be fought. But I ask anyone out that who is ready, hey, maybe today you could make a statement?
I have AIDS. I am very lucky. I have friends and family who have seen me through difficulties and illness. I have a roommate (Archie) who is like a brother to me, and a man I love dearly (Joseph), in spite of his assertions that I have no feelings. I have been HIV Positive for over a decade, and pretty much had AIDS from day one of that, but I am far from the old man in the room. And I am not going to be the one to turn out the lights either. Join me. We can have some tea. Talk about comic books and old authors and loves and realize that we are getting along just fine and this is some damn fine tea.
Care to share a biscuit?