May 24, 2009

May 24, 2009
Yes Ashley, There is a Daddy Dab

Welcome to another blog entry about my life. It is Sunday and still raining in north Florida. But luckily the bad weather means I can catch up on my rest in which I was starting to be severely deficient.

I recently have reconnected with some of my fellow students from Pensacola Catholic High on Facebook. One of my fellow classmates, Ashley, has started a reunion group for our class because we have another milestone reunion coming up. Through the group, I have connected with several from ours and other graduating classes who I have not spoken to since graduation.

See high school was not the best of times for me. I knew I was living a lie and was gay. But when you live in a small southern town and go to a small Catholic high school, the last thing you want to be is different. And in the '70s, you could not get more different in an unacceptable way than being gay. Some of my fellow students started figuring it out by junior and senior year which made for constant bullshit. But the good that came out of the gay bashing was developing a thick skin and learning to stay turn to myself regardless of what others think.

So I did the whole trying to be straight thing during high school. I had a couple of girlfriends and a couple other girls whom I dated in high school and yes we even had sex. But the whole time, I knew I was not being true to myself or being honest with them. That I was trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be. I had known from the time I was around five years of age I was different from other boys. But it was not until puberty I began to understand what the difference was. Living a lie sucked.

Through every experience during my growing up in church and my local community, I knew I would be hated and despised. Sodom and Gamorrah. So I did my best to fit in. But I will write more about the early years in another blog.

After a few emails over the past month or so, I received an email from Ashely giving me compliments about my work in HIV and AIDS. I must admit I would be amazed if my fellow classmates were all so supportive but life has taught me better than to be that optimistic. The following is the reply I sent back to her and I guess is how I feel about my work for my community.

"thanks for the comps Ashley. But it really isn't about me. It's about my 2 partners, god child and over 8000 men, women and children I have held as they lost their battle with AIDS. It's about my 1st partner who had to die in quarantine in '81 without the comfort of human touch. It's about being honest about who you are and what you have been through in order to save others from the same fate and helping those less fortunate in the same boat.

If sharing my story as a gay man with AIDS in DC by testifying before Congress, meeting with our elected officials in DC and their state capitals, participating in HIV clinical trial studies for 23 years, speaking at colleges, high schools, conventions and conferences helps stop the spread of HIV, make people aware of the lack of funding for treatment and the American men and women dying on ADAP waiting lists; then it has been worth the names I have been called, having my car and house set on fire in the early days, the snickers, the whispers and all the other bs.

Because I hold out for that one kid who listens and gets it and hopefully will never become infected. For that one politician that views us as more than numbers on a page and doesn't accept that American men, women and children with HIV and AIDS are acceptable casualities of war. For that one person who will not reject their friend, family member or coworker when they find out their HIV status.

Then when my time does come I will know I will have done all I could to make a difference.

So while I do appreciate the comps, it's just who I am and I thank God for every day I wake up when so many I have loved are no longer here.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,"

So for those of you out there who are still afraid to come out of the closet about your HIV status, please know I understand the fear and the potential consequences. Taking a stand is never easy. But if you never take a chance, you never stand a chance. Think about it.

But I can honestly say I have no apologies and no regrets. I have had a wonderful life, met some incredible people, seen beautiful places and had the time of my life. Yes it has been a life of incredible highs and lows. But that is what happens when you get out there and really live life. Remember life is not a dress rehearsal. So get out there this weekend and make yourself a special memory.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab