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Addiction, HIV and the Healing That We Need: A Community Call to Action

By Brandon Lacy Campos

April 12, 2011

Let me go on ahead and give a testimonial up in this piece for a minute. I am a recovering meth addict. And while there was an element early on, back in the late 90s, when I was bedazzled by the glam party boys at the club, my meth addiction had nothing to do with that. Meth came later, post HIV, and my meth addiction had everything to do with the mind blowing numbing power of the drug, the power of the drug to let me feel beautiful, wanted, loved, in control, powerful ... for as long as the high lasted, I was Superman and all the bull shit of the world just bounced off of my chest.

Let me preach on this for a minute. I know you all are the choir but sometimes the choir needs to hear the sermon too. When you grow up a man of color in a country that is designed to shut you up and, if it can't, lock you away ... when you come out in a queer community where, at least where I was from, you are told to your face, "Sorry ... you're cute ... but I don't do black/brown/not-white," ... when you are targeted and tokenized ... when you are outside peeking in ... any thing that resembles a key or a pathway to acceptance becomes very attractive and BECAUSE we did not then and still do not love each other deeply, fearlessly, strongly, toughly, wholly enough ... we do not give ourselves nor those that are coming after us the spiritual or communal strength to love themselves despite what the world or anyone in it has to say about the matter.

If we want to see an end to the spread of HIV, if we want to see the end of addiction, if we want to see beautiful brown, black, red, and yellow men loving each other wholly, beautifully, powerfully, then we need find a way to build each other up spiritually and communally ... all the prevention messages in the world don't mean SHIT without the work to heal the wounds that most of us are born with. ... I knew all about condoms and how to protect myself from HIV. But when faced with a moment (even illusory) of feeling whole, wanted, loved, and accepted. ... I was wiling to give up just about anything to have that moment.

This isn't about some "gay party and sex" ethos. That idea is dismissive and simplistic. It is also a shiny, pretty masquerade masking what's really going on beneath the surface. What's really going on underneath is a world, despite the GLAAD Media Awards, despite Ricky Martin coming out, despite Ugly Betty and Will & Grace, despite gay cruises and gay carnivals, despite the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, despite the right to mimic failed heterosexual relationship structures as evinced through state sponsored marriage, despite a welcoming church here and there, despite "It Gets Better," and despite all the superficial bullshit where queer people, queer people of color and especially genderqueer and trans people of color are targeted, wounded, hurting, marginalized, isolated and struggling--at least for a good chunk of their first two decades of life. And, my friends, don't get it twisted, each and every one of us knows that what happens to us in the first 20 years of life is most likely what we are going to spend the last 60 years of our lives trying to heal ... if we have the privilege to do so and if we live long enough.

So, when I read half-assed assertions about what is REALLY needed to curb meth addiction, when I read folks that have never struggled with addiction coming up with the same old tired solutions to dynamic issues of mental health and spiritual wounding, I really want to start screaming. The fact is that the solution to meth addiction is not MORE FEAR. It is not MORE JUDGMENT. It is not MORE SHAME. It is not simplistic answers to a complicated problem. And there is no single solution for an addiction and a wounding that is absolutely personal. When one goes into the emergency room with chest pains, the doctor doesn't apply the same diagnostic and healing plan that she gave to the patient just before you with chest pain. Your healing path is personal and specific to the nuances that are you. Some of the techniques applied may be universal, but the situations of each surgery are unique and require specialized care. The same is true of addiction, and don't let anyone tell you differently.

With all my heart, I wish that the moment any queer and/or trans person of color turned 18---before we send them out into the adult world--, they were whisked off to a magical queer camp where for a year they are given the tools and the love, and lots and lots and lots of therapy, to start undoing the hurt that they have already, inevitably, received.

So let me ask you to join me in figuring out a real solution. I am going to talk to my friend Maurice Jamal, the folks at the Audre Lorde Project and a couple of other folks and see if we can pull together a series of long term discussions in queer/trans communities of color, with queer/trans people of color, facilitated by queer/trans people of color, to try and find long term solutions not to addiction but to the root causes that lead to addiction. HIV and Addiction are symptoms. The symptoms need to be addressed but until the underlying wound is healed, no matter how much love and support is thrown at the symptoms, they are going to keep returning. I, for one, am tired of the symptoms. I am ready for healing---and I can't do it by myself.

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See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Using Safely/Dealing With Addiction


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Queer, Poz and Colored: The Essentials

Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos is a 32-year-old queer, poz, African-American, Afro-Puerto Rican, Ojibwe and Euro (smorgasbord) poet, playwright, blogger, journalist and novelist (that last one is slowly coming along). In 2009, named him the #2 queer, Latino blogger to watch. In 2006, the Star Tribune named him a young policy wonk for his political shenanigans. His writing and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies including, most recently, Mariposas, edited by Emanuel Xavier and published by Floricanto Press. This fall, his work will appear in the academic text Queer Twin Cities, published by the University of Minnesota Press. And, one of these days, Summerfolk Press will be publishing his first solo book of poetry: It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt. Brandon is hard at work on his first novel, Eden Lost, and he lives in New York City with his partner, artist David Berube, and his boss, Mimzy Lacy Berube de Campos (their dog).

It's with heavy hearts that we share that Brandon passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. He was 35 years old. Read memorials by Brandon's friends and colleagues.

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