April 14, 2012
These remarks were given at the 26th Annual Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference: From Abortion Rights to Social Justice at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., April 13-15. I also gave a workshop on Living and Thriving with HIV at the conference organizer's invitation.
Let me begin by saying that being a bio boy that grew up with a penis and male privilege, that I have one and only comment to make about abortion: as a man, I fully respect the autonomy and sovereignty of women over their own bodies and my only legitimate opinion on abortion is that I am required, by the privilege of being male, to use that privilege to protect in anyway and every way possible the right of a woman to choose.
Any bio male that says otherwise is entitled to have his opinion validated just as soon as he figures out how to give birth through his penis.
But this amazing and brilliant conference, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice, is centered in a reproductive justice framework, and you can't talk about reproductive justice without talking about sex, and you sure as hell can't talk about sex without talking about HIV, prevention justice, and justice for people living and thriving with HIV and AIDS.
And I am hella qualified to talk about HIV....and sex. Considering I have both.
Yesterday, I was blessed, and I mean truly blessed to sit on a panel moderated by Alice Welbourn, and with Sonia Rastogi, and Jennifer Marshall. If you don't know these women, let me be emphatic in saying that you should. You should know them. You should know their work. And you should know why they are critical to truly creating a reproductive justice movement that is inclusive of folks living with HIV as well as HIV prevention: these women are working and sometimes living at the intersections of HIV and reproductive justice, and whether or not you have been personally touched by this virus YOU as members of the reproductive justice movement have an obligation to live at this particular intersection as well.
The right to live full, happy, sexy lives without or WITH families is the right of every person living with HIV. The right to have mind blowing, wild, out of pocket, hang from the rafters, and clap your hands sex is the RIGHT of every person living and thriving with HIV. And incorporating sex positive, desire uplifting, radical and righteous analysis and messages about sex, love, and HIV are critical and core to any movement for justice and even more so for a movement on reproductive justice.
In a conference with 1,000 attendees, it was telling that there were less than 10 conference goers sitting in that workshop yesterday with Alice, Sonia, and Jennifer. That can not and must not happen again at this conference. Ever.
Let me be clear. HIV isn't over. It is relevant to your work. It is relevant to your lives. It is not just a disease that affects white gay men. It isn't a disease that impacts only men of color on the down low, in fact, it isn't a disease that impacts only men. Women, and specifically women of color, and even more specifically African-American and Latina women are the fastest growing population of people living with HIV, and with 300,000 women living with HIV in the United States and women representing more than 50% of HIV cases around the world, you can not in justice or in faith remove issues of HIV from reproductive justice.
I challenge each and every one of you as allies, as conference attendees, and as conference organizers to make HIV more than a side note at this conference and in the places you center your work. Ain't nobody coming to lift the burden and stigma from HIV from us, and doing work around HIV is about so much more than handing out condoms and old, tired, worn out ineffective admonishments and moralizing that haven't done shit but make a lot of old white men at Pharmaceutical companies over the last 30 years very very very rich.
It's about creating and building a world that strips the stigma out of HIV, that strips the stigma out of just and healthy choices about reproductive health, and it is about loving, uplifting, and holding high every person that has had to make a difficult choice about her body or had to hear the words, "your test came back positive."
Thank you for sharing this space with me and giving me the honor to share some thoughts with you today.