Thanks to an international army of scientists, activists, therapists, and friends, people with HIV are living long, full lives. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that some HIV-positive individuals may outlive their HIV-negative peers because they see their doctors more regularly and pay closer attention to their health. (I’ve lost the link to that study: if you have it, please share it.)
HIV treatment options are improving, too. The fistful of medications that patients used to take at precise intervals throughout the day have been reduced to one pill. There’s talk of longer-acting treatments that could be administered monthly or even annually. And every few weeks, we hear of breakthroughs that may lead to a cure for HIV: this week’s centers around a completely synthetic molecule that prevents HIV’s ability to replicate.
And so, people are getting antsy.
They see their HIV-positive friends living normal, healthy lives. They hear about medical advances that make it seem as if HIV will be cured tomorrow or, worst-case scenario, the day after. They think, “Is HIV really that big a deal? What’s all the fuss about?” And then, “Why the hell am I still using condoms?”
It’s understandable. Folks under 30 have never known a world without HIV/AIDS, never been able to express love or lust without the specter of disease looming quietly in the background. Even those of us who are older, those of us who can remember the first few years of the epidemic and the fear of the unknown — even we’re starting to squirm, to willingly forget what we once knew. Which perhaps explains why nearly 60% of gay men have ditched the rubbers and had unprotected sex within the past year.
Now, I’m not here to be a schoolmarm, to tell you, “Wear a condom, or else!” Frankly, I’m not sure that terror is the best strategy in today’s war on HIV/AIDS. And even if it were, I’d still rather people approach HIV from a position of knowledge, not fear.
So, with that in mind, here are a few suggestions on this World AIDS Day:
The Book I Would’ve Liked To Have As A Kid, Featuring Lovecraftian Monsters & On-The-Fly Sex Changes
Then, two unrelated things happened:
1. I figured out that I was mostly probably almost certainly gay. And over time, I realized that, as much as I might love Ariel or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, I didn’t see any gay characters in any of those books, no one who was going through the same things I was. In fact, in some novels — like those embarrassing Xanth things – I recall authors mocking queerness and effeminacy. That was a turn-off.
2. I went to college, which was pretty much the nail in the coffin. I don’t care how much you enjoy reading, being saddled with weekly, 300-page death marches through Victorian novels, metaphysical poetry, and experimental Modernist literature is enough to knock that enjoyment smack out of you.
It took me years to re-learn how to read for pleasure. And in the meantime, I discovered the joy of writing. I mean, faced with the option of plowing through the works of über-schmuck Ezra Pound or hammering out my own stuff, the choice became obvious.
Please note: I have no illusions about my writing abilities. My talents are marginal. If I have one thing going for me, though, it’s that I’ve made writing a daily habit. (I know I don’t post here nearly as often as I used to, but that’s because I’m banging out a thousand words or so every morning for other folks.)
Ultimately, that discipline led to a book: The French Quarter Drinking Companion. It’s not the Next Great American Novel, but it was fun to write, and it taught me a bit about today’s publishing industry. And what I learned was this: don’t write fiction. Or rather, don’t write fiction and expect to see a profit. Just write it for yourself.
So, I did. And I do. And what I’ve been tinkering with on and off over the past few months is a story that I would’ve enjoyed as a young adult reader. It combines:
1. Something I read plenty of as a kid: science fiction/horror in the Lovecraft vein, particularly works like Notebook Found in a Deserted House; and,
2. Another thing that I could never quite find during those days: the story of someone like me, a gay teen growing up in tiny-town Mississippi.
And because I’m realistic about the grim prospects for a book like that, I’ve been posting it one chapter at a time on Movellas. If people read it, great. If they don’t, no loss. Either way, at least I don’t have to beg a publisher to book me on morning talk shows to discuss it.
If you’re interested, you can skim the first four chapters here. Or, if clicking isn’t your thing, I’ve posted chapter two below.
Also note: I’m not sold on the title, Birthmark, Or How My Grandmother Taught Me To Love Myself And Save The World. It’s a little funny, and it’s a little apt, but man, it’s a mouthful.
Also also note: It’s appropriate that I’m posting this story about grappling with gender/sexual identity today, on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Learn more about that here.
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When I was six, I turned to mama and told her flat-out, “I want to be a girl”. We were stuck at a stop light that had just turned red, but she kept her eyes focused on the road.
- I am not a dancer, but when I see someone en pointe, I respond by flexing my foot.
- I hate hearing other people complain, even when I agree with them.
- I have no problem telling complete strangers to shut up when I’m watching movies or plays. I have a increasing urge to do this outside theaters, too. Eventually, this will land me in serious trouble.
- When someone criticizes me, my first instinct is to laugh.
- I have a high threshold for pain. During physicals, I like to pretend it’s even higher than it is, just to watch the expression on doctors’ faces.
- Though I’m not Catholic, I cross myself and say a Hail Mary any time I see a dead animal on the street or the news or in a documentary. (By “animal”, I mean people, too.)
- I also cross myself when I hear emergency vehicles: police cars, fire engines, ambulances, and helicopters. Especially helicopters.
- For years after Hurricane Katrina, I was afraid of thunderstorms. I wasn’t afraid that I’d get hit by lightning or that the house would flood. I was afraid that our house would lose power for days.
- When reheating and thawing things, I used to have an overwhelming compulsion to stop the microwave at 13 seconds. That’s no longer true, but I do have to stop it before it reaches zero, and I always stop it on a prime number.
- When my hot tea gets cold, I dump the dregs into the nearest potted plant. The plants don’t mind, but it seems a little like cannibalism to me.
Join Us For Readings, Signings, And Cocktails (Of Course) To Celebrate The Launch Of Our New Book About French Quarter Bars
If you’re in New Orleans this weekend and you have some free time on Sunday afternoon, please join me and my friends Allison and Elizabeth at One Eyed Jacks to celebrate the launch of our new book, The French Quarter Drinking Companion!
I promise, it’ll be an entertaining, low-stakes event. We’ll have some hors d’oeuvres on hand (or Chex mix, whatever we can find), and of course, the bartenders will be ready to serve up anything you might need (and some things you probably don’t). We’ll read from the book a bit, and we’ll be signing copies, too, but there’s no pressure to buy — just stop in, grab a drink, and say “Hi”. If I know you, it’s probably been ages since we’ve seen each other. And if I don’t know you, well, there’s no time like the present, right?
That said, we are offering a complimentary Sazerac with every book purchase. So, there’s that.
Hope to see you there!
What: Launch party for our book, The French Quarter Drinking Companion
When: Sunday, September 29, from 2pm – 5pm
Where: One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse (map)
How much: Free nibbles, cash bar