Positive Voices: A Journey Toward Acceptance
Words by W. Brandon Lacy Campos
From 2001-2003 I served as the first chair of the National Lavender Green Caucus of the Green Party of the United States. Each year, I wrote an open letter to the queer community during Pride in which I exhorted folks to engage politically and do their part to create positive social change. It was the beginning of the Bush era, 9/11 went down very shortly after I became chair (and our Caucus was the FIRST queer political organization to come out against any retaliatory war), Ralph Nader was not a joke, and no one had even heard of American Idol. I was also HIV negative.
Ten years later, Osama bin Laden is dead, there is a black man in the White House, Donald Trump was considering running for president (talk about a joke), two tsunamis have devastated large swaths of Asia, Hurricane Katrina almost killed New Orleans, cell phone signals—it turns out—are killing bees, and I have been living with HIV for the last eight years.
Oh, the times how they change.
I am a student of history, and history fascinates me. What fascinates me just as much is human psychology. Choose any ten year period of history and in that ten years the world has always radically changed, especially in the industrialized era. Imagine the world in 1960 and the world in 1970. Imagine the world in 1855 and the world in 1865. The world and everything in it is in a constant flux of social change. Yet, at least for me, I live my life day to day assuming that the world is pretty much a stable constant that changes incrementally, yet when looking back on the last ten years, the world looks nothing like it did a decade ago.
How the hell does that happen?
I should know better. My own life looks radically different every time I pass gas or wake up from a nap. But the difference that I am celebrating now, today, during this Pride season, is my own personal growth over the last eight years as an out, HIV positive individual—my pride, if you will, in who I am and who I am becoming (I should have “work in progress” tattooed someplace conspicuous on my body).
It has been a rough, sometimes lonely, and sometimes hideously paved road with big old potholes, a few U-turns, a couple of almost dead ends, and more than a few stops to ask for directions along the way. For the first three years I was driving the HIV road without a license, blindfolded, intoxicated, high, and with my hands handcuffed behind my back, in a sling, texting, and with my toes on the steering wheel. Over the last five years I have learned to drive with my hands in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions, I signal before all turns, I consult my GPS, and I pay attention to the road signs. I am not a perfect driver, I sometimes still make slight detours or find myself questioning Google maps, but despite sometimes having to combat old feelings, old habits, and old fears, I am confident that I am heading in the direction and towards the destination that was meant for me in this life. Hell if I know what that ultimate arrival point is, but I do know that when I get there, it will be with confidence and love of myself.
A work in progress, indeed.
Writing openly about my HIV status, in my personal blog or in other publications, has been the most effective vehicle in my personal journey towards acceptance of myself as an HIV positive man. Each time I write, openly, about all of my struggles with HIV—the gut-twisting fear around disclosure, the acceptance, the rejection, the awkward moments, the mistakes, and the successes—I find myself moving closer to seeing and loving myself with all of my complications, and because of my history and not in spite of it.
The sadness is that there are more than 40,000,000 people around the world who are also somewhere in their personal journey with HIV. The beautiful truth is that there are 40,000,000 people who are not alone as they walk the road.
Brandon Lacy Campos is an HIV positive writer, author and blogger living in New York City. He blogs regularly at MyFeetOnlyWalkForward.com, and he has two books out this summer, both from Rebel Satori Press: It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt and Eden Lost.