So, what would you do if your husband came to you while you were working and told you that a mutual friend that you only knew from facebook was just taken away for assaulting the black female security guard at the door of the club that you are at? And in the assault the person used the word "nigger"? Do you delete that person and move on? Or do you try to find out their side of the story.
Now, I knew this person was openly out as HIV-positive, an animal lover and a sweet guy. I had run into him on the street several times and he was always pleasant and personable. So I was really surprised when my husband told me that this person acted in such a manner. This behavior was very uncharacteristic of him.
When I got home, I looked at the guy's facebook page and he had posted a racial slur there as well. I was really perplexed. Should I reach out and ask what happened or should I just move on? So, I posted that question on my facebook page to see what others thought. I got an array of opinions, but when this person actually responded on the thread I had to call and find out what was going on.
As soon as he picked up the phone and realized it was me, he broke down and started saying "I'm sorry! I had a breakdown and I wish I had never said it." Now, many on the thread said that I should just walk away because there is no excuse for using the N-word. But being that I am also HIV-positive and understand the loneliness and depression that can go with dealing with this disease, I couldn't just walk away.
After talking with him for just a few minutes, I realized that this was a cry for help. I don't believe that he is a racist. He's got some issues surrounding some racist things that have happened to him, but he is a compassionate person and hurting very badly. It is really hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes when you are not in their position in life. But I have been in his position where you feel like no one loves you and no one is there to talk to you.
Of course alcohol was involved. So, his judgement was completely impaired. He didn't realize that if the security guard thinks you are already drunk he/she can make the decision not to let you in. Unfortunately for him, he was in drag and had a few things in his purse that were not going to be permitted in the building. His thinking was that he was being shunned. The drag world in Toronto can be quite the clique. If you are not working in one of the bars on Church Street you can and will be overlooked. So, this moment brought up a lot of anger for being overlooked and ignored for many years.
Does this excuse using the word "nigger"? Absolutely not! And I made it clear that I was not going to give a hall pass on this one. I have no tolerance for racial slurs. In fact it occurred to me the other day that this is the new question: "Can your narrative be told without it? Then you don't need it."
Through tears verging on hysteria he apologized over and over again and wanted to know how he was going to fix this. I told him that I would help him. I told him that I am going be there to give him someone to talk to. Everyone needs someone to be a friend and listen. No man is an island. I told him that I understood and that I will talk with the security guard. I will ask her if she could forgive him or at least listen to his apology. I let him know that there is someone out there who cares, because I do. I hate to see someone suffer especially if I can do something about it.
This is the reason that my husband and I are so passionate about our POZ-TO event. It is not only a fundraiser it is a safe place for the HIV+ Community to come socialize and create a network of friends. You can't go through this alone.
When I lived in NYC, I had a network of HIV-positive friends who would call and check on each other to make sure I was eating and taking my meds (and I would do the same for them). The Big Apple can be a really lonely place and even though I worked in bars, when I went home I would spend a lot of time alone. (Dating can be tough if you have to disclose, so many don't bother.)
So, if you know someone who is going through something like being diagnosed with a disease or depression, reach out and talk to them. Sometimes just an ear will make all the difference in their world.
The next POZ-TO event is on April 5th at Crews & Tangos, Church Street, Toronto. And we have also started a brunch at The Lodge.