February 25, 2014
A few years ago, I did some work volunteering for a project detailing the history of LGBT America. We had some fairly intense training sessions prior to launch, to make sure all volunteers were on the same page, especially where "sensitivity" and "political correctness" were concerned.
We represented a wide cross-section of America, and the Boomers among us were very happy when I shared a correction to a typo in our training text:
We don't say 'sexual preference' anymore. This implies choice. Who chooses to be a stigmatized minority? Nowadays 'sexual orientation' is preferred.
I mention the Boomers' appreciation because no one wants to attempt to sound knowledgeable while making others believe they just rode into town on the back of a turnip truck.
That being said, in the 2 months since my diagnosis, I've picked up on some new "Rules of Politeness" where HIV in 2014 are concerned:
Something I learned from early perusal of HIV forums: "AIDS" is when your Tcell count falls below 200. Due to genetics or other factors, there ARE Positive people in 2014 whose Tcell counts loiter just under 200. Meaning: they have AIDS in 2014. And I would imagine they're quite sensitive about it. So let's just use "HIV" in all cases, not "AIDS."
How did it happen?
You should know that this is probably the most intensely personal question you could ask someone with HIV. It's a normal, human, kneejerk response ... but don't be surprised if it's met with a haughty smile and a "that's not really your concern."
Truth is, this can take a long time to work through. There are layers to working through a diagnosis, and it can take years to piece together exactly when; I would wager there are some Positive people out there who will NEVER know. Putting them on the spot so that they reply with, "I don't really know" is only going to add to the intense "dirty/worthless" emotions the newly-diagnosed might be struggling with.
The only template I have to go by here is racist jokes.
I asked a black friend once, "Black Friend, do you laugh at racist jokes?" His response: "Yes, because otherwise the racists win."
This is not a simple concept of humor to absorb. The JOKE here is the ignorance. Those who constructively laugh at racist jokes are actually laughing at the racists. It's a fine line, though, because that takes an awfully "high brow" to comprehend; low-brow rednecks laugh at racist jokes for an entirely different reason.
I find South Park's skewering of AIDS hilarious (literally, their Jimmy Buffett parody song "AIDS Burger In Paradise" is infectious), but then my sense of humor has always been a bit off. Myself personally, though I DO know those who have died of AIDS, I was not close to them, nor was around in their final days.
My personal "humor boundary" ends with Alzheimers. It's not funny, and it's probably the saddest way a human can decline. Because you're not even a part of it -- it's inflicted upon your loved ones, as you grow more and more oblivious.
So. I would not find Alzheimers jokes funny. But ... maybe there are those out there who would, and also find AIDS jokes repugnant? It's entirely possible. Therefore, re: AIDS humor, you gotta examine your audience first; an intelligent laugh isn't always received properly.
This is a living document; I intend to update as I learn more!