For our Pride columns, we wanted to capture the true diversity of the LGBT community. So, we reached out to people across the world -- and our own bloggers -- and asked them to write the topic of their choice. Please enjoy these thought-provoking and heartfelt columns that are written by people who are either LGBT or allies to the LGBT community.
"Pride for me is about FREEDOM," Khafre Abif writes; "This Freedom allows me to be who I am and express myself how I choose. A freedom I found late in my life." Khafre had been observing Pride celebrations on the sidelines for nearly two decades, participating only when he could fade into groups where he felt safe to be known as bisexual. But by 2009, everything had changed.
In Tree Alexander's eyes, advancement of groups in society -- including LGBTQ communities -- boils down not just to basic rights, but "the ability to form our own self mold and belief system. ... As we take the month of June to celebrate our diversity and sexual pride," he writes, "let's take the time to explore how we have experienced oppression, and ways to free the future of our community and society from this depressive cycle of narrow-minded conditioning."
"I am not a perfect driver; I sometimes still make slight detours," Brandon Lacy Campos writes about how he has navigated the road to self-acceptance. "Over the last five years, I have learned to drive with my hands in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, I signal before all turns, I consult my GPS, and I pay attention to the road signs." In this blog, Brandon talks about living with HIV for the past 8 years and how much has changed in his life (good and bad) over that time.
"I read stories in the gay mags that hide in the back of my closet. Pictures show me all the things I should never try. AIDS kills those that do. Why can't I be straight?" writes TheBody.com blogger Philip D. He reminisces on what thoughts occupied his18-year old mind when the AIDS epidemic first, the "strategies" he implemented in hopes to dodge HIV and how he ultimately ended up testing positive.
"Mostly Black and Latino lesbians, gays, bisexual, queer and transgender folks were coming to and fro from Jersey City, Newark, and all parts of New Jersey in between, in search of community, a good time, or some place that felt safer than the homes, apartments, shelters, or street corners from which we were fleeing," writes Kenyon Farrow. In his speech for the opening ceremonies of Newark Pride 2011, Farrow talks about his experiences with the flourishing and vibrant LGBT community of Newark, New Jersey.
Therapist and longtime HIV survivor David Fawcett wasn't always as out and proud as he is nowadays. In college in the mid-'70s he sat, red-faced and closeted, through classes that taught homosexuality as a form of social deviance. A lot has changed since then. "That old internalized fear of being devastatingly flawed is gone," he writes. "Today, my gay pride is rooted in a balance of giving to our community and receiving the positive energy that comes back to me."
"HIV/AIDS used to be an existential threat to our community, and we treated it as such," fogcityjohn laments. Now HIV/AIDS has fallen off the agendas of most mainstream LBGTQ advocacy organizations, and he wants to know why. In this article, he looks at what several organizations have to say about HIV/AIDS, and takes them to task for their blatant neglect of HIV-related issues in recent years.
"Although there are countless stories of the LGBT community's remarkable, pride-worthy and praiseworthy response to the pandemic ... I've decided to take a slightly bigger-picture approach to what transpired," writes Bob Frascino, M.D. He's created a photoessay of the epidemic, and he's commemorating Pride 2011 by unveiling Part One. "It's not really a story we as members of the human race should be proud of, but it's what I feel further generations need to hear and remember."
"Many of the young people who have lost their lives this past year may have thought that "coming out" would lift the heavy burden of internalized oppression and that such an act would provoke a feeling of liberation," writes Allen Kwabena Frimpong. In the wake of the recent suicides of LGBT youth in the U.S. Allen stresses that coming out isn't as freeing if you are coming out to a world that consistently oppresses you.
"It's easy for us to condemn society for the social norms that stigmatize and discriminate against people whose sexual orientation and gender identity do not fit the heterosexual status quo," said Laurindo Garcia, an international HIV advocate from the Philippines, in a speech at an AIDS memorial in Manila. "But ... by continually diverting attention to external factors out of our control, we deny ourselves a role in making change happen." His powerful speech decrying the lack of action against HIV among MSM in parts of Asia is reprinted here.
"I still have a problem getting close to gay people. I do not feel comfortable passing by a gay sign or getting involved in gay issues. Is this a clear case of internalized homophobia? The answer is No... This is me trying to avoid getting close to my HIV," writes our blogger Ibrahim. In this controversial first-person perspective, Ibrahim discusses how navigating and reconciling his own identity of being Muslim, gay and HIV- positive, is still a work in process.
"I've lived with HIV more than half my life, and people often praise me far more than I deserve, simply for surviving," writes Mark S. King. "You know what takes courage? Getting an HIV test every few months. ... If you don't define yourself, in large part, by the fact you are HIV negative, start now. It is your accomplishment. It says you are taking care. And it says you are eligible to participate in vaccine trials or mentor someone else trying to remain negative."
"My running away from home and joining a gang, the things we had to go through in our home with my father, and then having to tell her that I was HIV positive was just enough for [my mother] to handle," writes blogger Maria T. Mejia; "I didn't want to give her one more thing to worry about, and tell her: 'Mom, I am a LESBIAN also!'" In this video blog, Maria shares how finally coming out to her mom was easier than she ever imagined.
From Lady Gaga's catchy song to President Obama's speech pleading for tolerance, more and more LGBT advocates and allies are pushing for equality by using the stance that the LGBT community is "born this way." In this column, Joe Osmundson argues that yes, the LGBT community does deserve full equality under the law and acceptance from society, but genetics have very little to do with why that is.
Because I'm interested in LGBT rights (read: equal rights), and AIDS, both inexorably linked, in the public mind anyway, to sex, there has to be something there; I have to be a closeted lesbian, or something," writes Aless Piper. People are always asking why she's so "into" LGBT issues, to which she replies, "Because it is the right thing to do. ... If we do not stand up in solidarity with our fellow humans, who will?"
"My being out as a LESBIAN is not solely political. It is literally and metaphorically about my own survival in the entity known as Aishah Shahidah Simmons in this lifetime," writes activist and filmmaker Aishah Shahidah Simmons. In this piece, she reflects on her coming to grips with her sexuality, being sexually assaulted in her 20s and her activism.
"I knew I was gay, but I didn't want to be what television told me I had to be: Flamboyant, with arched eyebrows, with ear piercings, who takes drugs and sleeps around," writes Steven Villa. But he admits that in the process of coming out and finally feeling that he was accepted by his community, he embodied the same stereotypes that he initially didn't respect. Read about his journey to find his authentic gay self and stand on his own.
The Body is a service of Remedy Health Media, LLC, 750 3rd Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017. The Body and its logos are trademarks of Remedy Health Media, LLC, and its subsidiaries, which owns the copyright of The Body's homepage, topic pages, page designs and HTML code. General Disclaimer: The Body is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through The Body should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.