The last question: could we possibly be human again?

Published 16, May, 2017
Author // Dennis Battler

There's big money and status in HIV stigma. Dennis Battler writes about the sly ways the HIV-positive are marginalized and rendered invisible in gay media.

The last question: could we possibly be human again?

Photo: Jeff Stroud

I follow Kevin Sessums on Facebook, a successful American author. Candidly speaking of his life as a former participant in The Factory of Andy Warhol, a “gay emeritus of the Vanity Fair staff”, and subsequent positions in media with unabashed personal trials and tribulations of being a gay man from the south moving in celebrity circles of stage, TV, fashion and media. A published author, his first memoir in 2007 “Mississippi Sissy” and “I Left It On The Mountain: A Memoir By Kevin Sessums” published in 2016.

A FB post of his tonight pitched support for TowleRoad … “Passing this on for my buddies Andy Towle and Michael Goff at Towleroad.com. We queer media types have to stick together. And their site is one of the best ones out there of any type.”

And at the site: "Please help support Towleroad by filling out this important survey."

Given the background I’ve just shared of a noted gay man, writer and admirably unabashed including no shame of being HIV+, I plunged into the survey. The questions stimulated in-your-face stats of my place in the gay-world as do many surveys I’ve completed (most for institutional research specifically for HIV.) This survey in its own way was more cruel for one reason. It is by gay men with sweeping access to make a compassionate difference In the LGBTQ community rather than a difference in their bank account alone. For your own experience I invite you to take the survey. If so moved, make your views known to Andy Towle via a message on FB.

Art: “Night Watch” Gregory Little

My FB message to Kevin relating the FB message to Andy Towle:

Hi Kevin ... took you up on the survey request for TowleRoad. As a fellow HIV+ gay man, the last question was glaring in its obtuse lack of inclusion for HIV/ Poz media.

I appreciate your broad scope of life, experience, awareness of culture and politics past and present. Being fully open and vulnerable on this FB page is admirable. Drawing the line with those declaring friendship or family ties yet taking actions against inclusion is one I'm familiar with. Much of your life experience I am familiar with, in my own version.

Learning to be vocal is new. The TowleRoad survey, with glaring lack of consideration for HIV/ Poz media having only 1 reference out of dozens of LGBTQ media sites listed in the last question, begged to be called-out. Here is my shout out:

Hello Andy ... just filled out the survey, brought to my attention by Kevin Sessums. Possibly of interest is a noted missing in your list of dozens of LGBT media sources in the last question. Of the dozens listed, including blogs, 1 is related to HIV/ Poz status and life. Really? 1? This is what stigma looks like. Sidelining, disappearing an inconvenient segment of the LGBTQ population.

Thanks for your time.

Dennis Battler

Where do we go from here? … Down! To an Opinion article from an Australian online site – not included in the TowleRoad survey as a go-to media source:

“But he’s sick of countering myths, he’s sick of explaining the difference between HIV and AIDS, he’s sick of defending his right to have a pleasurable sex life, and he’s sick of educating when he could be cruising. He’s sick – but not because of a virus – because of a community that seems so far behind.”

“… if you only limit your partners to guys who say that they are negative (or think that they are negative), and engage in condomless anal sex on that basis, you are putting yourself at a higher risk.

"A person is most infectious in the first few months of acquiring HIV, which is possibly where they might also show up as ‘negative’ due to the window period of a HIV antibody/antigen test. There is a folklore wisdom that suggests that sex with a HIV positive guy with an undetectable viral load is safer – it’s true.

"I call upon my fellow HIV negative guys to learn about HIV. To read up about stigma and disclosure. To think through your assumptions about HIV. To get tested. If you meet Mr. Right and he turns out to be HIV positive, he’s still Mr. Right.”

Here is where we must make a difference, to take back life. By reaching out, as human beings to human beings. Unlabelled. Undemographic-ized. And to stop being used as a tool of the system being divided into digestible 5 second sound bites immediately pigeonholed into “Useful to me” “Not Useful to me” categories. Could we possibly be human again?

About the Author

Dennis Battler

Dennis Battler

Dennis lives in Toronto Ontario and has been living with HIV for 3 years “I’ve returned to my love for words. Twenty year’s pursuit of connection with my Realized Self, presented in mysticism and Eastern Practices, informs my writing. My intention? To expand consciousness of both self and the audience.

Life's learning? Life’s zenith rollercoaster is normal. There’s nothing wrong. Surprise. Single with Pets.”