I keep hearing people say “Next there will be a pandemic.” It’s here, in case you haven’t noticed.
It’s not really a coincidence that AIDS emerged just after the Queer movement really started. Excuse me, Gay liberation, because that’s what they called it. The two epicentres of the pandemic were San Francisco and New York. There were also two experimental vaccines being given to gay men in both of those cities. For the old school boys, they still remember getting those vaccines and it still freaks them out. Obviously not every vaccine had HIV, because that would be too obvious. But I think whatever the concept was, they didn’t realize that pansexual identity was alive and well, and that it was never going to stay in that one community. Currently 70% of seroconversions world wide are through heterosexual intercourse. In Mumbai almost 600 people contract HIV every night.
You might be surprised to know that the best HIV prevention education I got was from sex workers, gay men, and recovering junkies. They were amazing to talk to! I remember dating a sex worker once and I started asking her how she stayed safe, I mean, because it is a risky job, clearly, and for all kinds of reasons. She told me some neat things. She talked about being careful with lipstick, because sometimes it eats away latex. She talked about how you never put your seatbelt on and if it gets dodgy you open the door while they are driving, because no matter what they were going to do to you, they don’t want to fuck up their car. She was intense! I don’t think she knew why I was asking, I wasn’t going to be a sex worker unless I had to do survival sex, but I always knew that it was possible I would need to do survival sex work because of my identity. But mostly I just wanted to know that she was as safe as she could be, because I loved her and we really didn’t know how to be ourselves in this kind of a world. We broke up over triggers, I was still pretty clueless about them.
And then some of the most politically aware people I met were recovering junkies. My friend Brent used to talk to me about his life in the downtown eastside and all these socialist things he used to do in his life. He was an amazing political activist for a really long time, and he’s an older guy, he must be fifty now. Anyway, I remember one day he said “They’re sharing HIV positive needles on purpose now. It’s the only way they can get on disability, and disability pays more than regular welfare.” It was sad. I mean, we both knew the kinds of people who walked through that neighborhood, and most of them had hard luck lives. ANYONE can end up in the downtown eastside. And once you’re there, holy fuck, it is hard as hell to escape. I gave him an Erika Lopez book to entertain himself with, I think he liked it.
I was talking to a friend once and was shocked to find out that she was as old as me and had only ever used condoms once. I think people have romanticized unsafe sex. I mean, you can do risky stuff but you have to be really really fucking careful and really clear about boundaries and wow, it’s intense. And not many people can do monogamy. Some can, but relatively few. And sometimes I wonder if that’s just because they’re looking for better sex, more than that they are not in love. It’s funny though, that in a time when we HAVE to really take this pandemic fucking seriously, so many of the most well trained HIV educators have been silenced because of their identities. And instead we have fucking True Love Waits campaigns, and girls are doing anal because they think it’s safer than possible baby making sex. It’s insanity! Most youth are total sodomites now, and they don’t see it as sex, it’s foreplay. I don’t know how that happened. I mean, sodomy is ridiculously fun, and if boys don’t know how vaginas work, and most don’t, then maybe they should stick to that! But really, you need to think about safer sex for all kinds of things, not just penis in vagina sex. And it’s true that condoms break, but fuck, that is better than none at all isn’t it? I don’t know, homophobia and transphobia really is going to kill the planet. And we’ve been distracted with some fucked up campaign against a country not many Americans really care about except they’ve been told to hate it.