You might remember when we last looked at this campaign from COCQ-SIDA in Québec.: http:/www.jesuisseropo.org/
Well, this year it is back with a second set of spokespeople adding to a growing community ready to stand up and tell the world: “Here I am. I’m HIV positive, and I’m a person with hopes and dreams and experiences to share with you.”
Two of the new videos went live at the end of November, and the remaining three in February. I waited to write this until now because — well — my videos are in the last batch to be released. I thought I would show you the campaign all over again, but also talk about why I wanted to participate in it.
The principle is quite straightforward: people are much less likely to fear or dismiss others when they have a sense of them as people. It’s a challenge to try to communicate your humanity in a short video (each is about two minutes long), but it’s a start down the road of being something other than “the other”.
During the first year of the campaign we were facing many unknowns: what kind of reactions would the videos get from the public? Would the spokespeople face hostility? Invasive questioning? The kinds of things that each of us worries about when we approach the question of disclosing our status to someone new. And like that process unfolding with people who know us in the flesh, the virtual process of disclosing and sharing through video led to a lot of compassion, encouragement and respect.
So what was in this for me? I started writing my own blog at the end of 2006 because I believe in this approach. You can’t hate and fear me if you know me (I suppose I also remain firmly convinced of my own lovability!). We have seen this work for LGBT communities — when people come out in number, it becomes more difficult to treat them as different or less. Some people take longer to learn this lesson, it’s true, but it can’t happen at all without bumping up the familiarity factor.
It’s a good thing that there isn’t an element of surprise in this, as I have been pretty open about my status for quite some time. I still find myself in situations where I am disclosing for the first time and then dealing with all of the elements of that. A few years ago I was interviewed by a TV reporter while participating in Ça Marche, our AIDS walk in Montréal. A few days later, the woman who moved into my building a few days before me almost twenty years ago told me she had seen the interview and we chatted a bit on the stairs out front about my health. And hers. Everybody likes to talk about themselves and to find the parallels with the experiences of others.
So even though I’m notoriously HIV positive — it says so right on my blog! — I wanted to take this additional step in solidarity with those who have gone before me and with all of us who could benefit from the general public knowing a little bit about some people who happen to be living with HIV. So how did I do?
See below - and then look at the other ones too.
Donald (LSQ with French subtitles and voiceover)