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Hep B and C

Jun09

Whats in a haircut? (Stigma that's what.)

Thursday, 09 June 2016 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Hep B and C, Activism, Living with HIV

Guest Author Rob Newman on dealing with everyday stigma and prejudice. Sometimes it's one cut too many.

Whats in a haircut? (Stigma that's what.)

,Had to get my haircut today … I would like to say that my hair was unmanageable and completely out of control but truth be told when my hair gets past a certain length, I just look unkempt. As always I get my haircut at a local joint that doesn’t charge a lot … let’s face it I don’t have a lot of hair.

During the cut as in almost every case the small talk will turn to where do you work, what do you do? This question is always a double-edged sword in that when I do tell an otherwise stranger where I work or what I do the responses truly are sometimes nice, sometimes not so much.

Today, while this person is cutting my hair I get to hear about, “those people”.. completely unaware that I am in fact one of those people. I will hear all about the “addicts” and their choices … about the cure and the drug companies killing people to make a profit. For the most part, I will keep my end of the conversation light and to the point … but then sometimes I just can’t.

I told this individual just what kind of person I am … referencing her derogatory remarks about “my people” I shared with her the struggles that I have dealt with in my addiction, my recovery and how long I have been, “clean”, her words not mine. I told her of my history in the AIDS movement and told her stories of the “AIDS holocaust” if I may be so bold as to use that term describing the early days of HIV/AIDS. Let’s be honest here … I gave her a run for her money and had hoped that perhaps she may have learned something.

"So I gave up … you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and you can’t fix stupid."

That wasn’t the case.

“It’s a gay disease right?

“Those people do nothing but stick needles in their arms … why are we more concerned about their health than they are”.

“I can’t take my kids to the park there are needles everywhere”.

“When do you think AIDS will end”?

“What part do you think God plays in all of this”?

So I gave up … you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and you can’t fix stupid.

The thing is, my kids live in this world too and so do hers … her kids could turn out to very much be the reason my kids are quiet about living with HIV. This is not just part of their lives; in so many ways it is their life. My son lives in denial about his HIV status and the family’s story in great part because of these types of attitudes and his complete inability to call 'em as he sees 'em. He’s much too nice and forgiving and couldn’t imagine speaking ill of someone he knows nothing about.

I have a different take on it all …

So … to my former hairdresser:

Your blatant ignorance about people in general is appalling. I don’t expect you to know everything that there is to know about HIV/AIDS, Addiction or Hepatitis C. I would hope that you could be kind, compassionate and caring when it entails an individual or group of people that you know very little or nothing about.

"Are your kids never going to play in a park because of your perception of a possible risk to their health and or safety?"

I do not want you or your children to suffer any kind of a health concern but I do expect that you would do more for their safety and security than just complain about it to the guy whose hair you are cutting. Are your kids never going to play in a park because of your perception of a possible risk to their health and or safety? When does this issue that you are so very adamant about become worthy of your actions and the furthering of your education on the matter, rather than just rattled and ranted about in your ignorance of the issue.

I won’t be going back to this shop and I have to say that for the most part it is simply that I can only stomach so much ignorance before I say something I either may regret or that I might make her cry. Neither is an outcome I would want, although to make her cry might in some ways feel good for the moment, I would be missing the opportunity to perhaps light at least one light bulb of hope in her clouded judgement of people.

And … I’ve had better haircuts!

This post originally appeared on poztalk, the blog of London, Ontario's Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, here.

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