World AIDS Day

Theme for this 30th (!!!) anniversary, per WHO: Know Your Status

I owe one of you Jackals (OzarkHillbilly, probably) a hat tip for this Guardian linkInstagram’s Aids memorial: ‘History does not record itself’ “ :

The Aids memorial on Instagram is unlike anything else on social media – there is nothing trifling about it. The first face I look at is of a New Zealand airline host called Barry Hayden – an ordinary man, extraordinary to the people who loved him, the sort of handsome that looks made to last. There is a lightness about the picture, as if there were no end in sight. The man raises a glass of wine to propose a toast. But it is we who must toast him instead. As the Aids memorial’s profile page explains, this is a place for “stories of love, loss and remembrance”. Scrolling through the feed is like looking at an unending family photograph album in which people are related by one thing: Aids, the disease that has led to the deaths of 35 million people worldwide. There are men, women, a handful of children. Not strength in numbers, only mortal weakness. So many gone – seen here in their carefree prime. The faces are mainly young, often beautiful. The collective impact is devastating…

… The Aids memorial was started in April 2016 by Stuart, a Scot who prefers to keep himself – and his surname – out of the story. Each contributor emails or messages Stuart with the story of a friend or family member affected by HIV. He then posts their text and pictures on to the Instagram feed. If you don’t have a photo of your loved one, he’ll help you find one. If no image exists, an illustration by artist Justin Teodoro will be used instead. This was never a vanity project and Stuart is no fan of social media’s narcissistic routines. Nor does he swank about educating a younger gay generation, even though his site succeeds in doing exactly that. “It’s still taboo to talk about Aids, I thought maybe I could help change that,” he says. “History does not record itself, Instagram reaches a far-ranging demographic.”

The feed has taken off, especially in the US, and has more than 4,500 posts and 67,000 followers. It has attracted high-profile supporters such as Tatum O’Neal, Shirley Manson and Alan Cumming, who appear wearing their Aids memorial T-shirts and posting messages of solidarity. Peter Spears, producer of the film Call Me By Your Name [a gay coming-of-age story], saluted the Aids memorial in his speech at the GLAAD awards in May. One of the posts, he said, about “the mystery of first love” explained the way they made their film. The Aids memorial is, in contrast to the famous Aids quilt – at 54 tons the largest community artwork in the world – a weightless gallery, dominated by photographs. Celebs and non-celebs are remembered and some entries (written either by Stuart or by people who knew them) are about people you may not be aware had the disease, such as 70s tennis superstar Arthur Ashe or actors Anthony Perkins and Alexis Arquette.

Stuart laments the stigma around Aids, even within the gay community: “On dating apps, there are those who seek to date only men who are ‘clean’. There are people fearful of being tested, afraid of what their family – or society – might think were they to test positive. They end up dying because they left it too late. HIV diagnosed can be treated, it’s no longer a life sentence.” Occasionally, Stuart adds, people intending to post have changed their minds at the last minute, fearful of judgment…

You might assume the contemplation of all these deaths would turn mawkish but, as Stuart rightly claims, the feed is not depressing: “Ironically, it’s the opposite.” The feed’s brave hashtag, “what is remembered lives”, is endlessly appropriate. Yet, when I ask about posting these stories day-in, day-out, he admits: “It’s difficult. Sometimes, I feel too emotionally drained to continue. However, I sleep on it. I don’t stop. There’s more to each post than death. I’m reminded to live life to the full, appreciate the people closest to me, be more compassionate, less judgmental, not to sweat the small stuff. I relapse constantly but these daily reminders call me to action.”…

Friday Morning Open Thread: Finding A Home

From the Washington Post, “Matthew Shepard Will be interred at Washington National Cathedral”:

When Matthew Shepard died on a cold night 20 years ago, after being beaten with a pistol butt and tied to a wooden fence, his parents cremated the 21-year-old and kept his ashes, for fear of drawing attention to a resting place of a person who was a victim of one of the nation’s worst anti-gay hate crimes.

But now with an anniversary of their son’s murder approaching on Friday, the Shepards have decided to inter his remains inside the crypt at Washington National Cathedral, where gay equality activists say they can be a prominent symbol and even a pilgrimage destination for the movement…

On Oct. 26 this year, his ashes will be placed in a niche in the National Cathedral’s columbarium, a private, off-limits area on the lower level of the massive Gothic cathedral, which is the seat of the Episcopal Church and a popular spot for high-profile national spiritual events. Shepard, who had been active in the Episcopal Church, will be one of about 200 people whose remains have been interred at the cathedral in the past century…

The Oct. 26 service will be open to the public and will be presided over by Washington’s Episcopal bishop, Mariann Edgar Budde, and Bishop Gene Robinson, whose 2003 ordination as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church set off a dramatic split in the denomination that is still unfolding.

Robinson is friends with Judy and Dennis Shepard…

Dennis and Judy Shepard said that their son loved the Episcopal Church. As a child, he was an acolyte while his mother taught Sunday school; when he moved to Laramie for college, he joined an Episcopal church community there, Dennis said.

“He loved the ceremony, the pomp and circumstance that went with it,” he said. “I think he’d be thrilled to know that he’s home, in a place that he would like, a sanctuary. … I think he’s laughing about the whole thing. ‘All this time, I finally ended up in the perfect spot. No wonder you wouldn’t do anything with my ashes.’ It’s like it’s meant to be.”…

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I’m going to talk about it a little bit, as I do every year. But first: If you are feeling like you might hurt yourself, or just want to talk, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. (Want an LGBTQ+ youth specialist? Call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or follow that link to chat.)

Now then.

Have you ever felt suicidal? I have. I even came very close to doing it once or twice. Thankfully and obviously, I did not.

It’s something I live with, though. Like jaw pain from grinding my teeth, it pops up during periods of high stress, and floats, in a low-grade way, in the back of my mind. But it is managed, with therapy, medication, and lifestyle choices.

Some of the management takes the form of morbid self-talk. People really hate it when I narrate this, but here goes:

Me: “Bullshit problem x is intractable and you should just kill yourself.”
Also me: “Well, how about we finish writing these tests, and then we can kill ourselves over bullshit problem x.”
Me: “…You finished the tests, and bullshit problem x is still…”
Also me: “Look, if I don’t finish writing this story, nobody’s ever going to read it. I can kill myself after that, okay? Great.”
Me: “…The story is out to readers now. It’s late at night and you’re alone. This would be a great time to kill–”
Also me: “Nope, can’t, somebody is wrong on the internet. Let’s pick this back up when that stops.”

Not today, satan, as they say. Don’t get me wrong: My life isn’t entirely, or even mostly, a mad scramble away from such thoughts. It’s just one tool in my toolbox for when things get especially hairy.

But enough about me. Today I would like to talk about my friend SP. We met when I was thirteen, and starting high school a touch early. I didn’t know anybody. SP was fifteen, probably, a sophomore. She was great, one of my first new friends in that new part of town. Always happy to show you around, lend a hand as needed, or listen to your dumb problems. Sort of the school mascot for the weird kids.

SP was bi, though I sorta figured she was probably totally gay. She was the first queer person I knew who didn’t have HIV, no joke. It seemed like her hair was always a different color. She wore Doc Martens and these ridiculous military surplus outfits, that bright red camo stuff. I remember she used to joke it was in case she needed to blend in with a pile of flaming moose. Her family was also a bunch of religious fundamentalists, including her parents, so that was fun for her.

I remember the phone call my parents got when she died. I picked up the phone and somebody I didn’t recognize asked for my parents. I assumed a telemarketer and said they weren’t there. Then she said she worked for the school and started to cry. I got my mom. A few minutes later, my mom sat me down on the white leather couch in the living room, and I started to learn a very confusing lesson about life.

SP’s family was so ashamed of her, they didn’t even have a memorial service.

Here are some facts about LGB people under twenty-five.

  • They are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
  • Their attempts are five times as likely to require medical intervention.
  • If their families reject them, they are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their LGB peers with low levels of rejection–peers who are already many times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals.

We don’t have great statistics on trans* youth, but here’s one we do know: 40% of transgender adults report having made a suicide attempt; of that group, 92% did it before the age of twenty-five.

These statistics are via The Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention nonprofit for LGBT youth. It is a very important organization to me. At my wedding, I requested donations to them in lieu of gifts. Perhaps you would like to donate something today too.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Pride

From “mostly lurker and very occasional commenter” BlueinSLC:

This is a GREAT story about how awesome and diverse Salt Lake City is and has become. We have an incredibly vibrant LGBTQ community here, and a great Pride parade. Unfortunately, at last weekend’s pride parade some idiots harassed some participants on their way home. They sought refuge in a local ice cream shop, where one of the employees bravely confronted a crowd of 15-20 harassers. They attacked this guy, but he kept them at bay, eventually turning them away from the shop…

Here is a link to the Salt Lake Tribune article about it, and about how people have since been coming by to thank him. It’s a nice, hopeful, and sweet story, and one that (I hope) shows off where we are going.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

On Saturday night, the 21-year-old was working behind the counter at Doki Doki dessert shop during a quiet shift. Just before closing, about 10:30 p.m., four frightened men who had just left the Utah Pride Festival burst through the door. The group of guys that had chased them in was gathering outside, making taunting gestures and yelling homophobic slurs.

[Terrance] Mannery ran to the entrance to block the mob from coming into the cafe.

One attacker shoved Mannery into the glass and metal door, breaking its hinge. Some of them started punching. It was dark and Mannery couldn’t see how many there were. He felt at least seven hits; one left a dark red scratch on his cheek. Witnesses have said he was trying to fend off some 15 to 20 muscular men.

The group, described by one bystander as some “wholesome Utah boys,” dispersed when a security guard approached. Mannery went back inside Doki Doki. Not knowing what else to do, he went back to taking orders. The four victims who ran in left in a Lyft. It was over in minutes…

“Even in hindsight, I would have still gone out,” said Mannery, who came to Utah from Wisconsin three years ago for school. During his first summer here, he went to the 2016 Pride Parade. There were a few protesters but nothing like what he saw Saturday.

“I hope this inspires more people to stand up, but hopefully they do it in a safer way. I don’t want people to try to take on entire groups by themselves, but if you hear your friends making jokes, definitely say something.”

Convert that Gravy Boat into a Battleship!

As is its wont, Fox News is ginning up outrage among the duct-taped naugahyde recliner set by highlighting godless liberals’ plans to persecute Trump supporters over turkey this year:

The suggestions for how to ruin Trump-supporting relatives’ holiday dinner in the linked GQ article are clearly tongue-in-cheek and purposely silly. But this part is kinda true, IMO:

This year, if you’re headed home to a household that still thinks a sex-offending game show host in rapid cognitive decline was the best choice for a president, it is your civic duty to filibuster Thanksgiving.

Trump has spent the entire year performing one long, clumsy touchdown dance atop the wreckage of America’s former norms and values… Any parents still riding the Trump Train at this point have thereby signaled that nothing is sacred. It is time to follow their example. They can’t stand idly by while President Deals tramples every other American tradition and yet somehow expect that Thanksgiving will be normal too. If every other moment of this year is going to be drastically out of whack, nobody should get to pretend that everything is normal for one meal just because that’s what the pilgrims would have done.

It’s not so much that Trump supporters don’t deserve a normal Thanksgiving (although they don’t); it’s that we who are related to or otherwise entangled with these assholes have a duty to try burst their bubble of complacency.

As it should be, this obligation is borne almost exclusively by my fellow white people — it was our demographic cohort that foisted this treasonous buffoon on the world, and it’s on us Saltine-Americans to try to fix it.

Trump voters should know we feel demeaned every goddamned day that dawns with a self-described sexual predator (and child molester apologist!) representing our country. We should make them aware that we’re appalled that literal Nazis and white nationalist trash are elevated and empowered by this administration.

Trump supporters should understand that we’re repulsed by the Bible-humping hypocrites who flock to support their degenerate president, and that we’re revolted by the arrogant, preening, phony morality of anti-gay creeps like Mike Pence.

We should point out that the huckster-in-chief invited a gaggle of plutocrats to loot the U.S. Treasury while he and his pack of grifting-hyena relatives convert the presidency into a personal branding engine and profit center. That “drain the swamp” thing was 100% bullshit, and if they’re still lapping it up, Trump supporters are a con man’s willing dupes.

And Trump supporters should know we’re repelled by people who wrap themselves in the flag and invoke “the troops” as an excuse to cram their jingoism down our throats while at the same time expressing enthusiasm about a foreign autocrat undermining our democracy or turning a blind eye to it.

I could go on, but the point is, this shit is not normal, and if we’re ever going to get within hailing distance of normal again, we must not only call out Trump and his official minions, we must confront the people who put him where he is. Even if they are our dads, aunties, cousins, etc.

The techniques to confront MAGAts vary. I favor sarcasm. Valued commenter Mnemosyne has described a gambit that I’ve found particularly effective in exposing the stupidity at the core of Trumpian conspiracy theories: Feign ignorance when wingnuts repeat some chain-email lie, politely ask them to elaborate and ask pointed questions until the full lunacy of the premise is exposed, sometimes even to the speaker, who eventually trails off in embarrassment or changes the subject.

Anyhoo, arm yourselves with the rhetorical weapons that suit you best, including sweet reason and loving kindness, if that’s your thing. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m off the hook on Thanksgiving Day since no Trump-supporting relatives will be in attendance. But I will be seeing them over the coming weeks, and I will give no quarter. They don’t deserve it, and these days, silence equals complicity with a white supremacy agenda. Fuck that!