Coming Out

Here’s to Anderson Cooper, who so eloquently came out as a gay man yesterday.

Anderson Cooper at Qualcomm Stadium during the...

“…I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.

I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”

Being who you are is never a reason for shame. It can be, however, a reason for caution. It’s not always safe to be who you are- and everyone gets to make that call for themselves. For all the kids out there who may not yet be fully able to be themselves: Be patient, be gentle with yourselves and quietly gather supportive and loving people around you. Your day will come.

The Joke (on us) Has (at least for now) Ended.

Yes, folks, the circus that was the 62nd Legislature of the State of Montana has been officially closed.

It was one of the most contentious sessions in memory- and one of the most publicized. Sadly, for Republicans, it was mostly at their expense. Republican lawmakers introduced the most ridiculed and bigoted legislation in Montana history- giving the state its fair share of national media attention. Only some of it good.

Mostly it was about third-rate candidates such as Billy Bob Wagner, who introduced legislation to reinstate the gold standard, and was laughed at nationally on Anderson Cooper 360 for his ridiculous “birther” bill (but mostly for his stupidity). Then there was Kris Hansen, a “secret lesbian” who introduced one of the most pro-discrimination legislative actions to ever hit the aisles of the Capitol. Mary Cheney, anyone? And the Montana GOP, for no good reason other than to perpetuate hate and shame, voted to keep The Gays illegal- and we heard some of the most disgusting testimony to ever foul a Capitol microphone.

And don’t forget (as if I could) Janna Taylor’s ridiculous, ignorant and dangerous comments about HIV in the Montana prison system. In my opinion, the defining moment of the session. And that is a short list of all the craziness perpetuated at the time and expense of the people of Montana-a better list is here.

But I want to take a minute to thank the legislators who spent a great deal of their time and energy standing up for the rights of Montanans. Diane Sands, Carol Williams, Christine Kaufmann and Bryce Bennett all spent a lot of time defending equality and testifying against discrimination, bigotry and homophobia in this session. If you see any of them, thank them. Buy them a drink.

Hell, give them a kidney if they need one.

It is folks such as these- and all who testified, protested, blogged and wrote letters-, who keep our freedoms alive- and who stand in the face of political bigotry and chicanery.  And let’s not forget Jamee Greer, Mike Wessler, Niki Zupanic and all the representatives of groups who lobbied for human equality- they get all the abuse, ridicule and sleepless nights, but not enough recognition. Drinks and kidneys for them, too.

Let’s give Carol Williams the last word (for now):

“I’m proud of our work.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will wish you luck in the next session probably trying to fix a lot of the things we broke this time.”

Facebook Plea

Also published at

National HIV awareness organization Who’s Positive is launching a ten-day effort to promote HIV testing by taking a Facebook group viral.

“Just like a successful attempt to bring Betty White to Saturday Night Live, Who’s Positive encourages people from all over the World to join a Facebook group called “ANDERSON COOPER or Dr. SANJAY GUPTA – PERFORM LIVE HIV TEST ON AIR on 6/27,” said Tom Donohue, Founding Director of Who’s Positive.

“Yesterday was not soon enough, tomorrow is too late to bring much needed attention to this epidemic” says Donohue. “We need to respond to the HIV epidemic with the same urgency as our nation has to the H1N1 virus. I’m hopeful that this Facebook group will become viral and Anderson and Sanjay will step up to dedicating a small part of their nearly daily appearance on CNN to getting tested and showing how painless and simple being tested can be.”

Painless and simple, right?

Not really.

Who’s Positive is a great organization – I subscribe to their email newsletter, have been inspired by the stories of members, and used their resources for my clients and HIV+ support groups. But I wonder if the message is just getting lost with all the other distractions of Pride Month.

Like many others in HIV prevention work, I see the uphill battle every day. I see the LGBT kids who have little or no self-esteem, the married men who are secretly having unsafe sex on the side, the middle-aged out-and-proud gay men who are tired of condoms, and the HIV positive people who are worn out from rejection, hypervigilance, economic worries and fear of the future. I see them all. I’ve staffed the HIV booths at Pride festivals, I’ve handed out condoms in parades. I’ve watched the glazing over of eyes when talking about HIV to high-risk groups. I’ve worked my ass off. Often it makes me physically and emotionally very tired- and sometimes very cynical about the ubiquitous pairing of HIV and Pride.

Let’s face it, denial in the form of colorful parades, drunken revelry and hot bodies is much more attractive than the reality of an HIV wake-up call.

Don’t kill the buzz, dude.

But I take a breath, reinforce my belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity and soldier on – like thousands of others.

Like Tom Donohue.

It’s people like him who can take that cynicism and turn it around. ” A facebook group, well why not?” Maybe people can click a link in between sewing sequins on their g-strings and waxing. In fact, maybe we could make it sexy. “Join this group while naked!

However it works, it can only help. But only if people join.

Personally, I did it while wearing my sequined g-string.