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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Why "the Gays" Need Planned Parenthood Too

By Thomas DeLorenzo

March 16, 2011

This article originally appeared at HuffingtonPost.com.

I grew up in Schenectady, a small city in upstate New York. Sex education was an embarrassing night with my younger brother in the school cafeteria with a black and white filmstrip from the '50s. There was no discussion afterwards, just an awkward silence because the room was filled with people you were going to see in the morning. In high school, we were barred from learning about condoms. The thinking was, if you teach them about condoms, they would run out and have sex. Yeah, right.

I was also struggling with the fact that I was starting to learn that I was gay. Trust me, they didn't show a filmstrip for that.

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My first experience with Planned Parenthood was not one you would have expected. Coming from uptight Schenectady, equipped with only knowledge obtained from that filmstrip from the '50s, I was unfamiliar with what my body was going through after my first sexual experiences. The summer after my Sophomore year I paid a visit to the Planned Parenthood clinic. It was my first sexually active summer and I just knew, thanks to the guilt I was raised with, that this feeling in my penis was only one thing -- VD (as we called it then). The caring person at Planned Parenthood performed the necessary swab test, and a few days later had me come in for the results -- negative -- and more important -- education, so I would know how to prevent this panic moment from happening again.

Planned Parenthood had been my first and only choice precisely because of their reputation, because nowhere else came to mind that I trusted enough to go to, because the free clinic in Hempstead just didn't seem like the place I wanted to spend a day.

I had two other experiences with Planned Parenthood in college. The first one was a pregnancy test. Not mine, of course, but the woman I was having sex with. Her body did not have regular menstrual cycles and we could never figure out when she was ovulating. Given the fact that we were only 19, we, of course, figured that pregnancy would never happen to us.

Then her period was late -- much later than it ever was before.

It was Planned Parenthood on Long Island that told us she was not pregnant and told her she should be on the pill, not only because she was sexually active, but also because it would regulate her periods. Health care. Sensitive and informative health care. No abortion. And all was presented in a caring, supportive environment that did not chastise us for having sex.

During my Junior year, the next experience was a similar one. I was a Resident Assistant, the University's first line of defense for the students living on campus. Whenever one of my residents had a problem, they came to me for help. Part therapist, part social director, it was my favorite year of school. One student, who was sexually active with her boyfriend, came to me with a question. What should she do if she needed an abortion? She was using a diaphragm but it didn't work one time and her period was a few days late.

My Catholic upbringing and my new found beliefs were at war with each other. One side of my head said this was wrong. The other side knew it was the right thing to do, for if it were myself, I knew I was not ready yet to raise a child. Off I went again to Planned Parenthood and found out options for her and information for me. One day about a week later, she and the boyfriend went into New York City to terminate the pregnancy.

It was at that moment when I realized, as a man, I had no right to govern over women's bodies, that I would never, ever truly know what making a decision like this would be like. I felt it was not my place to make this decision for the women in my life, but instead be supportive no matter what direction they decided to take.

Years have gone by since that Q-tip in a very private place, but I still trust Planned Parenthood for my health care. Right now I drop by my local office for blood pressure screenings. Given the fact that it costs me a $45 co-payment at my doctor for the very same test, and only a donation at my local Planned Parenthood, it is an easy choice to make. And it is the smart choice to make. For like millions of Americans, without this affordable option for health care, it could cost me not only MUCH more money down the line, it could cost me my life.

If only the Tea Party would actually read the site, Planned Parenthood is much more than abortions. It is truly about PLANNING PARENTHOOD. It teaches us to become responsible, sexually active adults. It educates us to have healthy, fulfilling relationships that produce healthy children that grow up to be adults. Planned Parenthood is designed to help us grow and keep us safe. This branding it has gotten over the years has more to do with the people giving it than the organization.

I think the problem Planned Parenthood has it that it teaches us to feel happy about our bodies, and to enjoy them for pleasure, not just as baby making machines. I think as society offers more options for adults -- marriage, living together, civil unions, or just opting to remain single -- we need to expand our notions of what being sexually active means.

As a gay man, I know what it to be demonized for having sex strictly for pleasure and not producing children. But, unlike many people in Congress, I think my heterosexual brothers and sisters are entitled to the very same freedom I have. Having this freedom comes great responsibility, and great responsibility can only happen with education.

And that's what Planned Parenthood is here to do -- to teach us to become better versions of ourselves.

Thomas DeLorenzo
DeLorenzo.TheBody@gmail.com
Twitter.com/TDeLorenzo
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More News and Articles on HIV Groups and Medical Care in the U.S.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: C. Vegas (Las Vegas, NV) Mon., May. 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm EDT
Mr. DeLorenzo,

I think you would be very surprised to know who is reading your blog...there is at least one Tea Partier here.

Our fiscal problems in America are dire, as they are in many countries across the world. We will face tough choices in the years to come and we will have to acknowledge that all things can not be funded through the Federal government.

If you think that Planned Parenthood deserves funding at the Federal level, obviously many people agree with you.

I would give it higher priority over Harry Reid's Cowboy Poetry festival myself.

Some of us Tea Party people have even used Planned Parenthood for non-abortive services! Although my experience was a wham, bam, forgot to thank you m'am, pap smear...and not some big educational experience. I received absolutely zero counseling of any kind regarding safe sex or planning parenthood, just a service in exchange for a fee like any other business. Of course, experiences vary along with individuals and bedside manner.

There is a serious fiscal discussion to be faced regarding our national budget, for some people (of all political backgrounds) the discussion will revolve around abortion or morality, for others it will be cold calculation of what the purpose of government actually is. Rationing will be championed and decried by all sides.

There is no monolithic boogieman out there.... Many people wonder where our money is being spent and how we can determine the wisest use and greatest level of return.
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Comment by: thomas delorenzo (los angeles, ca) Wed., Jul. 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm EDT
I agree -- this is a very serious financial discussion. but its a very tough one to have that is fraught with emotion. Planned Parenthood has been great to me and other people i know -- and thats the point i write from.

But to me the bigger question is access -- we all need access to affordable and quality health care -- or else we will be in a bigger mess.

After all, without our health to perform even the most basic of duties, how are we to survive as a society?

there is a big picture here, but it cannot get fractured, or the least bit out of focus, for someone or someones trying to maintain their might.
Comment by: Thomas DeLorenzo (los angeles, ca) Wed., Jul. 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm EDT
and the site i made reference to was PPFA.org's site


Comment by: Dan R. (Monroe, WI) Thu., Apr. 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm EDT
ARE YOU KIDDING ME. I would NEVER go to Planned Parenthood. Just think of it, you sitting there and looking all guilty because you are HIV. I went to a free clinic in Milwaukee,WI because I lived there at that time, and I got some good care and consultation there. I would NEVER NEVER ever go to Planned Parenthood. And why are these kids have unprotected sex. I used protection for 14 years of marriage, bot because of catching something from my wife but as a birth control system.
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Comment by: TY (Columbia, SC) Fri., Jul. 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm EDT
There's something fundamentally disturbing about the way you talk about having HIV Dan R. Do cancer patients feel guilty for developing cancer through poor lifestyle choices? Much can be said about the life style choices that lead up to contracting HIV, but feeling guilty about not using protection? i think more appropriately, one feels more likely to regrets such choices.

The issue with religion and its idealistic thinking that the world should only have sex when they grant you permission will continue on until we out grow such first century literature. In the mean time, I would not wish to take it away from the people it inspires, so long as they don't teach it to my children. So what remains is the idealism vs realism perspective. The statistics are readily available for accuracy, but the fact remains: the majority of teenagers WILL continue to have sex before marriage. The continued ignorance that teaching abstinence alone is not enough and I think its irresponsible of public schooling not to take a realistic approach to a real issue. Whether or not PP should be billed to the Fed remains to be seen. However, every civilization known to man has attempted to control our rate of reproduction and the success of which, is most liberating to every citizen.


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Who Knew So Few T Cells Could Accomplish So Much?


Until just a few years ago, Thomas DeLorenzo never would have believed he could become an HIV/AIDS activist. Before he was "officially" diagnosed with HIV in 2001 -- with 60 T cells and a viral load of 300,000 -- DeLorenzo had been living in denial. And until 2006, he was too busy dealing with the many side effects of his own HIV meds to think about helping anyone else. Then he and his doctors finally figured out the perfect med combo -- and, finally, DeLorenzo felt that he actually had a future.

DeLorenzo lives in Los Angeles with his partner and is currently attending law school at Southwestern University School of Law. His career goals include making sure all Americans have access to adequate and affordable health care. Prior to law school, DeLorenzo worked as a publicist in the entertainment industry, representing many award-winning celebrities.

In 2006, The New York Times named him an Unsung Hero in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS for his Christmas Goody Bag Project for the residents of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation Hospice. In 2008, DeLorenzo was the San Antonio AIDS Foundation's Angel of the Year. DeLorenzo's alma mater, Hofstra University, named him Alumnus of the Month in August 2009 for his work on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS. DeLorenzo was recently appointed to the City of West Hollywood's Disabilities Advisory Board.


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