In my last blog, I spoke of the "gay family" I established in NYC back in the early '80s and how I had lost all but one to AIDS. Sadly, I lost my last remaining HIV-positive friend from those days when he died in a car crash this past May. His name was Mark Weins, aka Marcus, and we had been best of friends for the past 35 years speaking almost daily. He and I had outlived our close-knit group of gay friends that we considered family and would constantly wonder why we were the ones left alive.
On Monday, May 12, I had the honor of attending the premier screening of The Normal Heart as the guest of my sister Nancy. It was a star-studded event held at the Ziegfeld Theater in NYC.
The last movie I saw at the Ziegfeld was Longtime Companion in 1990. After that screening, I got completely drunk and told my best friend Alan my deep dark secret: I was HIV+.
"HIV/AIDS both derailed and defined my life."
This one statement sums up the effect this disease had on my adult life.
My parents "outed" me as gay the summer of 1980 and they did it with a great deal of love, dignity and respect and they told me it was perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of! So I got to come out in a big way that summer in my hometown of Westhampton Beach, N.Y.
I'd like to dedicate this blog to the incredible work done by Love Heals: The Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education. I have had the great fortune to be a speaker for Love Heals for the past 10 years, which has allowed me to be a part of their effort to educate young people by sending HIV-positive people like me to speak at high schools and middle schools throughout the New York tri-state area.
My name is Jimmy Mack and I was born gay and an alcoholic. I always knew I was gay, in the same way any heterosexual person will tell you they always knew they were straight. To this day, it offends me when people say "sexual preference" -- as if it was a choice -- to which I always say: "Why in the world would I choose to be part of a group that it is still socially and politically acceptable to discriminate against?"
I've spoken at length on this blog about the disease of HIV and how it affects me and my life. But I live with another disease that is just as devastating and deadly. It is also a disease that has no cure but can be "managed" with proper treatment. The disease I refer to is also one that I'm sure affects many of the readers of TheBody.com, it is the disease of alcoholism/addiction. This is a disease that I believe I was born with, just like I know I was born gay, and both have shaped my life in a big way.
As many of you reading this know, I just did an interview on TheBody.com. I have to say that having my profile on The Body was a trip (around the world) as I got e-mails from Turkey, Costa Rica, Australia, Russia and Canada, as well as the U.S. All of them were so positive and supportive.