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Pickett Fences: Act the Fuck Up!

By Jim Pickett

May/June 2002

I awoke from my denial as someone who has been sleeping a long time and is really warm, comfortable and cozy does. That is to say, bleary-eyed, pissed off and craving desperately to crawl back under the covers. A year and a half ago, the night George W. Bush and the fiendish cast of freaks that make up his family and friends stole the American presidential election, I sobbed uncontrollably. I sat here in my little apartment and cried like I did when I found out I had tested positive for HIV. I was that distraught. I felt that much grief. I felt that hopeless.

And then I sorta forgot about all of it. The wracking, heaving, and wailing turned into more of a tired, cynical sniping about how dumb poor W is. Not like I had gotten a major hard on for Gore or anything. At most he inspired in me only semi-wood, and I know had he won the election (wait a minute, he did win the election) I would have spent a lot of time cringing when he talked, in that embarrassed way you have for people who are smart and mean well but are just so geeky. Ya know, and let’s be clear, I certainly wouldn’t want to, like, have him over for tabouleh. But he isn’t stupid. And I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have surrounded himself with scary right wing ideologues hell bent on destroying me.

So, okay, time is of the essence my dears, so let’s get on with my awakening. I’ll tell you a little story. Recently, the Community Planning Leadership Summit for HIV Prevention had it’s big annual conference here in Chicago. It’s funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and put on with the help of the National Minority AIDS Council, the North American State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and the Academy for Educational Development. I was on the Chicago Host Committee, and when the organizers said they wanted a dance company to entertain at one of the big plenary lunch sessions, I thought, “I know just who to get!”

There is a dance troupe here called The Sex Police who have been doing HIV prevention work in our high schools for 10 years. How perfect, what a match, this was going to be cool. I approached them, they had time on their schedule (to donate their services by the way), and it seemed like a done deal. Fabulously done! Well, here is where the problems began.

It was requested by the Executive Committee for the Summit that the group send in the lyrics of the music they were intending to use for their performance. Our federal partners were hyper-concerned about the content because of the truly harrowing climate we are in. A frigid climate where a group called The Citizens Against Government Waste releases a report called “Through the Looking Glass -- AIDS Programs: An Epidemic of Waste,” which basically calls for the dismantling of all our programs, and on the prevention side, specifically targets interventions directed towards gay men.

Check it out for yourself, it was released on Valentine’s Day 2002. A Big Brother climate where the new leader of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, Patricia Funderburk Ware, is a rabid proponent of abstinence-only education, publicly states time and again that condoms aren’t effective, and believes sex should be had only within the sanctity of marriage. A climate where all of us doing prevention work are being scrutinized like never before, and our culturally appropriate messages are being taken out of context and twisted and distorted dangerously by right wing fascists who would prefer to see baby fags die.

But I digress. Let me share with you a few of said lyrics to the Sex Police’s theme song:

Sex Police, we’re the Sex Police
we have a warrant for your sex;
Sex Police, Sex Police
we’re here to serve and protect (repeat chorus)
When it gets too hot for the senses,
keep your cool, you’re not defenseless;
a flash of light, a funky sound,
the Sex Police will turn you around
in our black shields of steel.
Your mind’s confusion it’s for real
is it voodoo, is it a hex
what you say, it’s about sex.
If it’s black or bright moon light,
you make the choices about what’s right.
Don’t take chances, don’t roll the dice;
It’s not just sex, it’s your life.
Feel the heat of the street
take the lead of the beat.
Don’t let your love pay the price
it’s your future don’t think twice.
In the heat, the heat of passion
Sex Police will jump into action.
Know in your mind to be cool is cool,
It’s your responsibility to be in the rule.
You’re the one playing the game,
life’s a struggle, ain’t it a shame.
Losing ground
what a shock
remember this, you ain’t no bum
Who’s on the street to protect us,
no heroes left to honor and respect
But who’s keepin’ the beat,
hippin & hoppin’,
it’s the Sex Police.
Guess what? The Sex Police, who have performed to this song for thousands and thousands of high school students, were summarily disinvited. Specifically, the line “We have a warrant for your sex” was deemed too provocative for a room of 1,500 adult HIV prevention professionals. The organizers were afraid (rightly I’m afraid) that a line as innocuous as that could be taken out of context and turned into ammunition for fascist freaks like Pat Funderburk Ware and the Citizens Against Government Waste. The Axis of Evil indeed.

Sure, we can listen to women have orgasms as they condition their hair during the commercial breaks for the nightly news; aspirational dressing for six-year-olds is less enchanted princess and more porn starlet, we are saturated in sex and sexual images from the time we get up (excuse the pun) to the time we get down (couldn’t resist)… but “We have a warrant for your sex” is just too naughty.

What does this mean in terms of the work we are doing? The insistent push for abstinence-only education (which is seeing increased funding by the way), coupled with the “sex only for marriage” mantra and the inability to say even the most innocuous things about sex, is going to spell GENOCIDE for gay men, who are, HELLO ladies, still the population most likely to get infected by the virus that causes AIDS.

Well, as fellow Chicago activist Tyrone Pittman so eloquently put it, “HIV and AIDS are letters that kill. Don’t let W be another.”

Silencio = Muerte.

We will not be silenced.


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