Mickyel "Micky" Bradford

What Audre Lorde meant when she said our silence would not protect us, I take to mean "F--- silent sex!" The labored breaths and escaping moans are clues we are not meant to be silent in matters of desire.

Typically, "Harder! Faster! Yes, Daddy!," "More lube!," "Is it clean?," "Is it tight?," "Do you like that?" and "F--! F---! I'm almost there!" seem to come easier than "When was your last test?," "What makes you feel safe?," "What makes you feel sexy?," "What's your viral load?," or "Are you on PrEP?" I am learning, these days, to speak out in and before the bedroom.

My first HIV scare can be broken down to a number of reasons, but I blame silent sex. It was silent not only in the awkward way, but also silent in its absence of connection and conversation. I was 20 years old when my ex sat me down. Words we were afraid to say hung in the air. He asked me to guess. I asked "Do you have a House In Virginia?" What he was afraid to say was stuck in his mouth, but escaped in droplets from his eyes. Stones do produce water, too. I kept thinking "Why didn't I ask?" I went to bed ... silent ... numb ... I wasn't angry, but I didn't sleep that night. The silence was too loud.

About three weeks ago, I was selected for a campaign titled "SpeakOUT". Supported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Black AIDS Institute and more, the initiative seeks to empower gay and bisexual men, HIV positive or HIV negative, particularly men of color, to use their personal narratives as HIV prevention tools. 25 under 25. That weekend, we were prepared to do prevention work. We were not prepared to cry, to be our broken beautiful selves in front of 24 men we had JUST met. That weekend was powerful, not only because we were finally given a platform, but because that platform had no expectations. We were not shown CDC campaigns and told to emulate messages that didn't resonate with us. We were told simply to "Hit record. And just Speak OUT". And we did.

I told the story of my ex, and how I had put myself at risk multiple times for love, even while working in the field. I told the story of my friend, who forgot just ONCE to disclose his positive status to some guy he met during ATL Black Pride. His words cut me deep "I promised to never do to anyone what was done to me, done to you. I promised I would always disclose." It's unfair. Negative folks, too, have a duty to Speak OUT. Disclosure is complex and difficult, and criminalization laws in the South are slanted.

I hate silent sex. Maybe we don't speak for fear of not being loved, being f----d, being safe. "Our silence will not protect us" so we might as well Speak OUT about our bodies (pleasure), Speak OUT to our communities (personal), and Speak OUT about HIV criminalization (policy). Silence ain't sexy, y'all.

"We Are Here: Black Gay Men in the South," is a blog tour curated by the Counter Narrative Project and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance to amplify the voices of Black gay men in the South. For more information feel free to contact: thecounternarrtive@gmail.com.

Micky is known in Atlanta as "a young organizer with a fierce combination of intense passion and sharp skills". This has been grounding for work including but not limited to: serving on the Board of Directors of Lost-n-Found Youth (POWER), implementing youth-led cultural competency training as a co-founder of the Atlanta Coalition for LGBTQ Youth (POWER), organizing "Queer & Trans People of Color Only" socials (LOVE), Linkage to Care and HIV prevention (LOVE), organizing the Atlanta Q&TPOC for Ferguson rallies (POWER), and co-curating ""SweetTea", A Queer & Trans Monthly ARTivist Variety Show (LOVE).