I can't pretend to call myself an activist ... yet.
For the past fifteen years, I would say I was one step above "neutral" when it comes to "activism" -- especially when it comes to issues with the LGBTQ community. For many of those years, I was too lost in my life crises (note the plural) to spend much time worrying about the "greater good."
Selfish, I know. But like with many things in life, until you know who you are, how can you actually "know" anything or anyone else? So I don't regret it; I could not have become who I am had I not gone through it and come out the other end.
And yet I regret a lot of things; oddly enough my biggest regret comes from a time in my life when I would not have been able to be the "Beacon of Light" I should have been for anyone coming out of the closet. The year is 1997: only a handful of celebrities had already come out, I was trying not to drown in my classes at Stanford, my parents were less than cooperative, I was barely grasping what it meant NOT to be a child celebrity, and I hardly knew what being gay meant to ME.
There was a time about six years ago when I thought I was ready to take on "the greater good." Looking back, I was NOT ready... in fact, I think I was using activism as a way to fix the problems in my life. I felt that if I took on the greater good, the greater good would make the problems disappear. The Fates were having none of it. Thank God, because coming out as HIV positive six years ago would have been a disaster for me personally.
And then the fates allow everything to fall together to make it clear that the time is finally right. I have a husband who is negative and loves all of my baggage. I'm finally happy. I've been financially secure for two plus years. I'm 100% comfortable with being positive. I'm ready to take on the "greater good."
Or perhaps "the cause" is more accurate. There's a lot of "not good" surrounding the topics I'm getting into and the more I learn, the more fired up I get.
I quit my job. I've cleared my schedule for the next year. I will go door to door if I have to, but my goals are clear -- I want to make the stigma surrounding HIV go away. Partly by helping people come out of the HIV closet; just like with being gay, the more people who come out as positive, the bigger the impact we can have socially which inherently reduces the stigma. Partly by helping people understand that they can be proud to be undetectable, because it means that despite being positive in the first place they are doing everything they can to take care of themselves now.
I want to find a way to deal with the complacency that has set in amongst the younger generations. They don't have the sadness and death of the '80s and '90s to scare them into being safe. But also the older generations who are done with the grief and fear and think that living a long life with HIV is good enough. If I can find a way to make not knowing your status and not using protection as unhip and unsexy as possible, we might reach a few people. And, of course, METH ... the fact that meth is still such a scourge on our community makes me furious!
The one thing that is clear is that I won't make everyone happy, I'm going to call us out on things and force us to look in the mirror and maybe make us feel a little bit bad that we haven't done more. I'm going to be brutally honest and speak from the heart, a rare thing to find in this day and age.
Now, can I say I'm an activist? No, maybe? Not yet.
I'm still learning about the issues I want to face. I need more knowledge. I need to have talks and meetings with the people who DO know, learn and live the stories of the community, and then I can hone down what they mean to me.
Can I say I'm a Beacon of Light? Yes, right now I can be that. I can reach out to everyone going through HIV or meth or both. I can show them that they can come through and find their truth ... I can help them become comfortable in their skin, and help them WANT to live a long and happy life.
Send Danny an email.
Read Danny's blog, One Hell of a Positive Methage.