Back in the day I was I was a big gay wheel. Chairman of the board of directors of Virginia’s state equality organization. Chairman of the campaign to defeat Virginia’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment. Founder of the Gay Community Center of Richmond. Gay was my life and my obsession.
My network grew until it included some of Virginia’s most powerful people. I attended swanky cocktail parties, seminars and massive nationwide LGBT extravaganzas. I was a jet setter and visited LGBT community centers nationwide where I was greeted as an expert on their operations. This was heady stuff and it gave me what I craved above all else ̶ respect.
I do not know how I grew into this need for the respect of others. I believe all humans want respect and in some cultures it is much more important than in ours. In America it seems to me many are more concerned with their finances than they are with what people think of them. They will be bastards so long as it makes them a buck.
In my mind respect was gained by accomplishment. I believed that to have the respect of others I must always find a bigger, more difficult challenge and then succeed in a public way. This plan worked quite well. For a time.
I do not know how I chose the LGBT equality movement as the focus of my drive for respect but from a distance I can speculate. Over the decades I came to feel very personally the oppression brought by my second-class status. I think this was true because I understood the legislative process very well. I knew the requirements to change my situation were not onerous. I knew that if people were reasonable my life would be better.
Of course in Virginia people were not reasonable. At my core I am a fighter. I took up the sword against my enemies ̶ the Virginia GOP, right-wing windbags, unfeeling churches. I fought the battle without dramatic success but for me it was the battle that mattered. The battle made me proud, and yes it brought me respect.
It seems to me my drive was a simple reaction to the fact that society gave me little respect. I needed to find it elsewhere, and so I did among an overlooked, disliked people who became my own.
In early 2012 I lost my connection to the movement when I was let go from my job. A month later I was diagnosed. I wrote about the challenges I faced and overcame on the road to physical and mental health. The disease brought many changes. Most were negative. Some, on consideration, were positive. This time my battle was against these changes and I engaged as fully as I did in the fight for equality.
In this battle I gained respect as well. This time it was self-respect. I have come to realize that in the past, before, I struggled to gain the respect of others to offset a lack of self-respect. I know why this is true and probably always have but I was never able to face these questions or to face the truth. My victory in this new battle was gained when I looked at my life in a way I never had. It was gained when I began to understand.
This process will continue for my life. It is not enough to analyze and parse the past. One must be aware of today and the role he plays in it. I will continue to strive. I can do nothing else. My striving will be personal and not public. My victories will be one man’s.
Do not misunderstand. I will continue to follow the LGBT rights movement and I will comment when I am moved to do so. Today my writing is more important. Here on PositiveLite.com I can address topics that concern me. I will not be roped in by others’ agendas. Here I can write of what molds my life today – the victories and failures, challenges and triumphs of a person with AIDS.
I have noticed as I write that these challenges and triumphs are at their heart not so different than those faced by uninfected humanity. We all know, though, that we have our personal spin that is unique. This is what I want to write.
I am proud of my accomplishments and I value the many wonderful people this work brought to me. I am about to begin a new career, a flyer really but one that has the prospect of success. It is in no way gay. This, and Angelo, will be my life now. I am glad for the change.
I am less gay. So be it. Nonetheless I am more human, more a man. That is quite a fair deal indeed.