First thing in the morning, sometimes before we even open our eyes, we are consumed with a dozen responsibilities. I know my daily "to-do list" is as long as my weekly grocery list. Of course, that's not very short when you're shopping for the whole family. But, maybe your day starts a little different. Maybe your day starts out simple and gets a bit hectic just after you clock in at work. Here comes that neck cramp then, that tooth ache. You wonder just how much extra your manager will load on you today, while awaiting a call from your sister about any complication with her pregnancy, or hearing about the health of your parents. As these thoughts rumble through your brain, your body gets prepared for the fight. The nerves in your brain signal an alarm letting the rest of your body know that the war is right ahead. Your hormones ignite your heart while you immune system preps the front line to fight pathogens. Your muscles pull in more oxygen while your senses flare on high alert -- and it's not even lunch time.
Since when does being clean have anything to do with serostatus? Recently, I was at Sunday brunch with friends. The euphoria created by our many mimosas was unceremoniously interrupted by a newcomer. Our new friend pulled up an Adam4Adam profile he just "stumbled upon." He proceeded to put it on full blast. With a tone of incredulous disbelief he said, "check this shit out!" and began reciting the following words from his iPhone, as if talking into a microphone:
Last year I was having a quarter-life crisis at the age of 26. I felt lost, stuck, and in a deep rut. I felt like I needed something BIG to happen. Something that would change my whole life. So, I waited, but nothing happened. Every day that passed me by only made me feel worse. One morning I woke up and couldn't con myself to get out of the bed. At that point I said enough is enough.
Over the past year I have been an emotional wreck. I was lost in a pool of wants and needs while drowning in my own self-pity. Like somehow the whole world revolved around me and everyone in it was against me. Frustrated with my underpaying job and my overpriced apartment I got so overwhelmed that I lost sight of me. It wasn't constant but it truly was a rollercoaster of emotions including the vicarious traumatization within the community in which I serve.
Many people have experienced oppression in their lives -- which is the prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control, as well as the state of being subject to such treatment or control. I am not sure if you have been told this before, but we are all different and come from extremely different realities. Even twins within the same household have very different realities as they live life in their own truth. I like to look at oppression as not really an action of an evil person but as a form of narrow-minded conditioning. Conditioning built off the moral beliefs and social norms of the influential leaders in our lives.
Every Pride season I think back to when I first came out to my mother. I was out to my friends and a few family members that were my age, and that was it. This experience was nothing like I expected it to be.
In the HIV community disclosure is a controversial topic right now. "Tell. Tell. Tell," they say. I feel before we can tell our status we must consider three things: Why am I telling, who am I telling and am I ready to tell.
I speak out every day about my HIV status. I tell a large number of people my story. I want them to know my name and of my many experiences. Some people thank me. Others despise my exposure. They tell me it's no one's business but my own, what I have done and what STD [sexually transmitted disease] I have. However, I'm honest and have no problem telling the world that I have sex with men on occasion and that I'm HIV positive.
My name is Tree Alexander, born in Chicago, Illinois. I have lived in NYC for almost two years after moving here for a relationship. In that short time I have experienced a deranged partner in a domestic violence relationship, homelessness with hunger, loneliness, heartache, pain and deceit. That relationship lasted for about nine months. I had to make that end through tears and heartache -- but, I will save that story for another day. I found out my HIV status one month after I turned 20 and HIV has changed my life completely. I went from acting to producing. I don't just "act" like who I want to be ... I am! I can now experience life as it is.