I recently saw a cover of your magazine [January/February] at the clinic I work at, and am thoroughly disgusted by it! On the cover are two "cowboys" with their arms around each other and the words written on the magazine are "HIV in Rural America."
As a rodeo promoter, stock contractor, my husband a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association, and my father who has been a rancher in South Dakota for 30 years; this is a slap in the face. How dare you associate cowboys with HIV! Just because of that horrible movie "Brokeback Mountain," you think two gay men who have on cowboy hats should be on the cover of a national magazine. And to send this magazine out to rural South Dakota, you have got to have a lot of guts. Think about the gay man who does come into the clinic and sees this magazine, what do you think they are going to think? You could have chosen to put a million different pictures on the cover of this magazine, but you chose the most distasteful picture imaginable.
I will be expecting a full apology and for these horrific magazines to be pulled. This is so disturbing, someone should be fired for this type of slander!
Ashley, South Dakota
I am the photographer who took the image used for the cover and feature for Positively Aware magazine. There was no ridicule nor intended malice directed toward rodeos or cowboys in any regard to capturing this image. I, too, am from a fourth-generation ranching family in the mountains of western Montana, the ranch having been homesteaded by my great-grandfather before Montana was a state. I grew up on the cattle ranch and my brothers and I still own it. I am very proud of my heritage and to have grown up in such an inspirational and traditional lifestyle. I am also a card-carrying member of the Pro Rodeo Association, as well as the Pacific Northwest Gay Rodeo Association, and have photographed rodeo events for both organizations around my home state of Montana.
Don't be fooled, there are more gay cowboys out there than you would imagine, most of them feeling isolated, lonely, and shut off from the rest of world and still engaging in unsafe or risky behaviors, many of them with wives and girlfriends, stepping out on the side, trying to hide feelings born within them. I am gay and have been gay from birth. It's what I am. It doesn't change my connection to the land and my family or friends that surround me.
I have been living with being HIV-positive for the past 24 years and, believe me, these are real issues that have hit all communities across the country. HIV does not discriminate whether you are straight, bi, gay, male or female, single or married. In fact, we have a fairly large group of straight, traditional women here in Montana who have been living and struggling with this virus for years, many of them with families and children. My job has been to reach out and educate people about what's happening here. A couple of years ago, I received an award from the Governor of Montana in recognition of my efforts toward prevention and helping others within my community. I am glad it has stirred a reaction from you in South Dakota -- that means it's working. A little awareness and compassion go a long way.
Terry J. Cyr
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