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Strength Personified

By Ben B.

March 4, 2014

My first week or two after diagnosis was, as stated prior, during "the Polar Vortex." Generally, I hibernate in winter. Negative-number temps brings this hibernation up to an art form.

Add recent medical news, and the only thing I was good for was arguing the case of Ass v. Sofa Cushion.

So I watched a lot of TV. A. LOT. And got into some new shows.

Umm ... The Trisha Goddard Show. Americans take anyone with a British accent more seriously, because we associate it with intellect. This is why Brits frequently host our infomercials (sidebar: In the Spanish-speaking world, is the "th-th-th" accent of the Catalans used to sell products in say, Mexico? I've always wondered this). The idea of merging the audio of British with the visual of "woman of African descent" is seriously a brilliant one, and whoever came up with it is now, I hope, a millionaire.

One morning, I caught an episode that really resonated with me, given my recent news.

Lamar, 22, doesn't like using protection when having sex. Joining him on stage were 3 of his "baby mamas," plus his own mother. Grandma had her own take on the women on stage, preferring some over others, going so far as to say this or that baby was not her grandchild, based on the looks of that child. Sidebar: She annoyed me. Grandma just sat there while her son offended his baby mamas specifically, but ALL WOMEN in general. Why any woman would allow her male progeny to engage in this kind of misogyny is completely beyond me.

In the next segment, Trisha mentioned that a hidden camera had been placed in the Green Room prior to the show, and a "decoy" had been sent in to interact with Lamar -- namely, a pretty Latina named Maria. Maria was to behave as bait, so that the audience could get an idea of where Lamar's "game" was at.

In the Green Room, Lamar asked Maria if she was on Facebook. Then convo ... turned south. He became very interested in what kinds of activities she gets into, and whether or not she's "clean" (more on this word in the future).

Trisha then introduced Maria Mejia to the audience. And then Maria introduced herself as HIV-positive.

At that moment it all hit the fan, and as it did, my heart fell down into my warm woolly socks.

"NASTY! You NASTY!" all the women on stage began screaming, bopping Lamar upside the head, each clucking and cackling like they'd just laid the golden egg. Meanwhile, audience is going nuts.

Maria T. Mejia poster

Maria T. Mejia

In the midst of all this chaos stood Maria. Stoic. Composed. With a greater purpose: to educate (Trisha DID eventually admonish all 3 women for their reaction, stating the trio had control over the unprotected sex they all had engaged in).

That's where I'm at right now, people: completely wowed by those of us who can wear their status on their sleeves, for the greater good. I long for that, even though currently coming out of that closet terrifies me.

I want to wear my status like an article of clothing. I want to provide strength and visibility, because you know what? It's ALL the same demons. All of it. Ignorance feeds demons. These women were able to distill Maria down into a "thing" because they probably have not had many overt human dealings with HIV.

That's a layer I'm working through right now: being visible yet not allowing my condition to define me. I have tremendous admiration for Maria, that she went on national television full well knowing that to MANY in the general audience: she would just be seen as a thing.

The impression I get from Maria is that there IS a greater good here, vis-a-vis social activism, and human egocentricity just can't feature in that.

The humility we can show others, by fearlessly educating mainstream society AS a "thing" -- regardless of whether or not humanity is then afforded us -- THAT'S what I want to do, ultimately.

Maria: You rock. Thank you for blowing my mind.

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