Why is the rate of HIV infection still out of control in a country that has nearly eradicated smallpox, polio and Legionnaire's Disease? Globally we have worked together to manage leprosy, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea, yet the numbers of HIV and STD infections keep rising. Our foremost problem is in the department of sexology. We suck at sex education and we suck at understanding sex and gender.
Why is it that intersexed infants must be assigned a gender as soon as they are born? Why can't we have male, female, transgender, hermaphrodite and intersexed appear on birth certificates and application forms? That would be too simple.
HIV is not under control because America is in denial that sex goes on, truly, madly, and deeply. The denial starts within the heterosexual communities and from there on the fish gets bigger and bigger. We have entire ethnic cultures within our population that flat out deny having any gays in their gene pool altogether. Most of these poor suckers have to grow up in the closet. Life is easier in the closet. The only good thing about the closet is we sometimes get pro-gay legislation or communal tolerance from our brothers and sisters who must stay in their closets for the time, because for them life is also easier in the closet.
We have a hard time dealing with sex and when in doubt turn to the holy books. It is literally hard to find proscribed homosexual acts in these books but most of the time spent on prophesying is based on sex. Everybody has sex so it gets the highest point for a return engagement at next week's service. The African American community is uncomfortable with the gay and lesbian issue, let alone mention HIV because that brings up drug abuse as well. The Hispanic and Latino community is not too keen on accepting us either. I've been told by my own family members that there are no Cuban gays because we're all so fucking macho! Every other community feels the stigma as well. Many cowboys would rather die from any medical malady rather than admit to complications from HIV. Even cancer and mental disease are now more easily accepted for cause of death than HIV. What if the definition for HIV meant Human Imperfection and Volatility? We have evolved into a biased, sexist, racist, imperfect and volatile race. Darwin, where are you?
The list of famous gay people who have molded creation with all its beauty and brilliance is so long. From Sappho and Marie Antoinette to Bella Abzug and Bessie Smith, what great combo meals they would have enjoyed together. If only Eleanor Roosevelt, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Rosie O'Donnell, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang and the Indigo Girls met all at once they could have come up with a band with Freddie Mercury singing lead with a song entitled We Are The Queen Champions.
And there's the list of famous gay men. I've even read that certain Popes were supposedly "family." Why do they keep that Sistine Chapel painting up there if the artist is truly their idea of an abominable deviant? If I felt this way about the art on the ceiling of my chapel I would have a morally respectable, upstanding artist paint over the ceiling for me. Priceless, huh?
What we do best is dramatize the murdered victims of our society's worst nightmare; the dark side of hate crimes. The crimes exist because the homophobic criminals believe they are doing society a favor and they believe they have proof -- it is written -- that is where they always point. The same book they need to be sworn in with. Matthew Sheppard becomes a made-for-television movie.
Now we are about to embark on a road of government cutbacks to HIV programs and we will be refocusing our funding for HIV education on abstinence based programs. That should work about as well as prohibition did. Everybody drank bathtub gin then and everybody will keep on having sex now, as always, and we will continue to see the HIV, hepatitis and STD rates rise. The puritans who are in control of us as a nation are uncomfortable with sex. We have to stop agreeing with them and remember that sex is good and normal and hot.
I am hopeful that the respect for humanity and the courage to keep things beautiful and brilliant will shine on. I hope that Sylvester and Divine kicked some sense into Liberace and Rock Hudson when they met up in heaven. I hope they reincarnate into a future governing body that would demystify sex and therefore humanize sexually transmitted diseases.
Our society includes an ex-football player who got away with murder and is enjoying retirement quite nicely. Millions of misappropriated tax dollars. A President who denied having a sexual tryst although his date saved her dress with his DNA print on it. We now blame the illicit drug trade for terrorism. These examples of bad examples does not give us the right to "act out" but it sure wears down on the populous' patience and you can feel the apathy everywhere. When will our healing begin?
We must have a renaissance of HIV prevention and rethink our plan to survive. In order to do that we have to overcome racism first, before we can get to the sexism, and you see how well we're doing with racism. Our current administration in the White House needs to sober up to reality. What was that again? Abstinence? Hasn't the Catholic Church been preaching abstinence throughout history? You see how well that plan worked for them.
Our leaders need to show encouragement and not give in to apathy and depression. They need to stay frisky, because after September 11th and now with a new administration in the house our social services are up for grabs! Our leaders need to inspire us instead of drowning us with senseless laws and making us feel like we don't matter.
Carlos Perez is editor of the Chicago Area HIV Services Directory and Information Services Coordinator at Test Positive Aware Network.