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Editor’s Note: World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day 2017

A note on World AIDS Day from About editor-in-chief, Anthony Ramirez.

Hi, everyone. I hope you’ve all had a lovely week and are wrapping up your Fridays differently than I am – by not working.

As most of you who are in the LGBTQIA community know, today is World AIDS Day, a day specifically targeted at remembering those who have lost their lives to the HIV/AIDS virus, as well as to spreading education about the importance of safe sex, prevention, and living with HIV/AIDS.

I want to start by saying that there is nothing shameful about living with HIV/AIDS. I, myself, am HIV-negative, so there are a lot of aspect to HIV/AIDS that I cannot speak to. But as a person who is very sexually active and who has been with multiple gay male partners in his life, it’s extremely important to me that I am tested regularly, and that I take the precautions necessary to prevent myself from contracting HIV. And I believe it is equally important that we all get tested frequently. We have to so that we can live longer and healthier lives with those we love.

But back to my previous point: having HIV/AIDS is not a shameful thing. It’s not something that a person does to themselves. It is not a reflection of the kind of person someone is. It is not a scarlet letter they should have to wear for everyone to see. HIV/AIDS is an illness, and one that takes lives every single day. It does not, however, define a person who is living with it, nor should it affect the way that others look at them. It should not serve as an excuse for anyone to pass judgment on them. Again, it’s an illness that affects far too many people because preventative medications and healthcare are expensive, and because the LGBTQIA community does not have proper and comprehensive sex education throughout almost all of the United States of America.

The real trouble here is, nothing is 100% effective. You can utilize expensive condoms and take PrEP as prescribed, but you are never going to be 100% protected from transmission. That said, science has brought the LGBTQIA community very far in terms of prevention. True, PrEP provides a 92-99% reduction rate in your risk of transmitting HIV, but 1-8% of potential transmission is still a potential for transmission. That’s why being tested is (again) so very important. While I cannot – nor would I ever try to – speak for an HIV-positive person or try to expound upon their experiences, I can say that it is not a virus that anyone would want. For decades, our community has battled HIV – back to when it was still referred to as GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency disease) – before even that. In that same span of time, innumerable people have lost their lives to this disease.

However, science is constantly looking for ways to make us safer, because HIV/AIDS is not a virus of perverse sex or to just being gay. It’s a virus that limits our ability to love freely and live long, healthy lives. HIV/AIDS has long been used against the queer community by the conservative side of politics as a tactic to restrict the rights of queer people. And in many ways, that has served a hindrance to scientists who work their entire careers trying to find a cure for it. But no one is giving up.

We’re lucky that the number of queer people who are living with HIV/AIDS has diminished. Lucky, because no one deserves to live with something so nightmarish. Still, it is possible to live a long, happy, and relatively healthy life with HIV/AIDS. It’s not always an end-all. In fact, more people are living now much longer lives than ever before with HIV and AIDS. And that’s really something, because it was nearly unheard of just thirty years ago.

So, with all that said, About Magazine did not publish any content related to World AIDS Day, as we have a number of articles for you that will be released starting tomorrow, Saturday, the 2nd of December. We aren’t putting a time parameter on when these articles will end, as we believe that HIV/AIDS should be normalized and discussed all throughout the year. However, given what we recognize today, the next week will serve more information than normal. These articles will talk about the importance of sexual education for queer youth in schools, preventative measures for HIV, resources for people living with HIV/AIDS, a history of World AIDS Day, lists of myths about HIV/AIDS and the people affected by it, some personal stories from those in the Houston LGBTQIA community that are living with this virus, and much more.

It’s our earnest hope here at About that everyone will learn something from these pieces, and take this information to share it with the people you love and in your life. If you have questions you don’t know a credible answer to, hopefully we can help provide it, or at least point you in the right direction. Our goal here at About is always to make sure that this community lives well, happy, and healthy lives. So, please take the time to read some of the information if you’re unsure of anything about HIV/AIDS. And always feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or if there’s something you think we should touch on. You can reach us at info@about-online.com.

For anyone reading this, please know that you are important, that you are special, that you are beautiful, and that you are loved, regardless of your HIV status or anything else you may feel defines you. Because nothing defines you other than what’s in your heart and how you treat others around you.

Choose kindness.

Choose community.

Choose love.

 

Anthony Ramirez
Editor-in-Chief 

TRUTH Project Kicks Off ‘We Are Gold’ Annual Fundraiser In Houston

TRUTH Project Kicks Off ‘We Are Gold’ Annual Fundraiser In Houston

 

The 2nd Annual T.R.U.T.H. Project Kicks Off Annual Fundraiser In Montrose In October.

HOUSTON Oct 5 — The time for TRUTH has come to Houston. The T.R.U.T.H Project kicks off its annual fundraiser In Houston on Oct. 22, 12016 in Montrose. Entitled We Are Gold will be held at Zimm’s Martini & Wine Bar.

The T.R.U.T.H. Project (Telling Real Unapologetic Truths through Healing) is a 501c3 charitable organization that educates and mobilizes LGBTQ communities of color and their allies through social arts that promote mental, emotional and sexual health. The impact on the community is very surreal said Founder Kevin Anderson.

“It’s humbling to have the support of artists and healthcare providers who understand the vision for using the arts as a tool for healing through information, education, and access to resources,” Anderson said.

This year’s fundraiser will include a montage of video clips from previous installments and live demonstrations of spoken word, live music, and visual art to showcase how the T.R.U.T.H. Project connects art and health.

Since its inception, The T.R.U.T.H Project has reached more than 5,000 attendees and continues to grow. Performances are held quarterly and have addressed issues such as bullying, domestic violence, and depression. The Texas State Department of Health recognized the efforts of the T.R.U.T.H. Project and its founder, Kevin Anderson, to use the arts as a vehicle for information, awareness, and access to resources, and awarded a grant that allowed him to extend his outreach by partnering with national recording artist such as Marsha Ambrosius and Chisette Michele. He has also served as a consultant in other cities interested in starting similar initiatives.

For additional information visit:  www.TruthProjecthtx.org

No Strings Attached

Grindr Tinder no strings attached gay sex dating

Are Grindr and Tinder ruining good sex and preventing gay men from meaningful relationships? 

Online dating has transformed romance into yet another product of the digital age in which we live. Just like ordering a pizza or looking for shoes to match the season, people can now find a customizable lover through online dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble. These quick taps on our phone screens have created a new etiquette in dating where the individual connection has been replaced with a single swipe to the right and a nonchalant “what’s up” sort of intro. With instant connections on the rise, it seems as though the lengths of traditional relationships have shortened, as well. With many people bypassing the work of a relationship, they’ve now sped straight into an expedited sexual connection. This creates different types of connections that occur within this new era of social media speed-dating, whether people are out looking for Mr. Right, Mr. Free Booze, or Mr. Right Now. The latter has become the most common, due to our newly-adopted, quick, digital attention span. Hook-up culture has made it possible for people who are only exclusively looking for no strings attached sex to enjoy sexual satisfaction without the connection of another human being’s emotional attachment. As the idea of monogamy dies away, this placeholder has become a common trend. Soon, will everyone be left single? Is it possible that these unemotional and pure lustful relations could be deteriorating the traditional relationship titles of boyfriend, husband, wife, girlfriend?

Grindr is one of the largest hook-up apps. Most of these hookups are strictly “no strings attached.” User’s profiles can be straight to the point, announcing that they are looking for a right now rendezvous. Terms like hosting, travel, DDF, blow-n-go, and many others have generated a brand new language in gay dating. It breeds an aberrance not before experienced in dating: people giving out their addresses, sending genital photos, and looking for gratification without attachment. Instant connections are something that our current generation of gay men use as a means of courting. Yet, no matter how much of a connection there may be through our cell phones or online, is it as good as meeting someone new in person? With marriage equality being only a few years old, the definitions of gay relationships are just being reconstructed as society is now accepting them, especially as we enter a renaissance of relationship titles and gender roles.

Furthering this hindrance in our community is the unveiling of racism in online dating. Pride parades give the illusion that gay culture is open and inclusive. Yet profiles on Grindr show a population of those who maintain prejudices and subdued racism. Profiles which identify as discreet want to make a connection, but would rather nobody know of their orientation. Chappy, which fancies itself the “anti-Grindr,” introduces profiles that are combative of prejudicial taglines: masc only, no fats, no femmes, no [insert various racial prejudices]—which has the least to do with human connection—and rather allows users to only seek sex. Is this our old-world, subliminal heteronormative thinking? Are we still existing under the subconscious belief that homosexuality shouldn’t be placed on display in a heterosexual world? There are many reasons men want to remain discreet while looking for sex, such as the thrill of anonymity, being married or in the closet, or perhaps coming from a culture where homosexuality is still looked down upon. Perhaps being gay still is still not completely normalized, and these individuals do not feel comfortable showing their sexuality as a relationship to society. It extends beyond aps, though. Some married gay couples still remain in the closet. As much as being gay no longer seems to be a big deal, Main Street USA would still be uncomfortable with two guys holding hands or showing affection in the public, as has been made clear by the uprising in disapproving opinions during the current presidential administration. Gay stigmatization still exists, even in the dawning of 2018.

This type of atmosphere is inducing a population of men who are seeking male sexual attractions, but removing it from the forefront of a greater portrait, keeping everything out of society and into the bedroom. The down-low Casanovas typically are looking for someone who is masculine and doesn’t fit the stereotype of gay identification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. Conversely, it would seem that the act of no strings attached encounters provides an easy way to bypass societal stigmatization while being able to fulfill sexual gratification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. When a person has multiple partners without an emotional attachment, most bypass safety screening and are open to believe a person’s status for only knowing them within minutes, jaded by their own lustful desire. This alone begets sexual irresponsibility, especially when people fail to disclose their status with disease, drug use, and preventative drug use (i.e. PrEP).

Yet, unprotected sex is on the rise. And with that, these factors make such preventions even more necessary.  Taking the precaution allows a person to feel safe, even when taken without the availability of a condom., Still, PrEP is only used to deter HIV, and leaves gay men open for other diseases. Other health risks are involved with attachment-free sex. For instance, online dating now serves as a digital bathhouse, connecting men who are only looking for no strings attached sex. Like bathhouses online hookup apps help users who are seeking anonymous sex with more than one person to frequent, perhaps to fulfill some form of fantasy. These environments are often free of supervision or provide little only for the purposes of preventing drug use. Therefore, they serve as a breeding ground to spread virus and disease for individuals who do not use protection. Which the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein has noted “Because these are closed pools of people in limited geographies [using dating apps], it means that infections can spread more easily.”

Hopefully, as society continues to wrap its hivemind around the acceptance of gay culture, the need for discretion and unsafe practices will dwindle. Maybe some day people will even be able to express their sexual orientation without the stigmas that come along with being gay, eradicating the need to hide your face behind your phone screen. Still, bathhouses, hook-up apps, bar meet-cutes are often seen as gay rites of passage. While clinically discourageable if not practiced erring on the side of caution, many gay men look at them as a part of the lifestyle, something their friends have all done that they wish to experience, or even just a good story to tell. After all, apps like Grindr have also made it increasingly easy for people to meet for sex. It’s the intention of the app, with many men just have chest pics as their profile picture, whether that be to remain anonymous or simply to attract sexual partners. And yet, while there are people who claim they are looking for a relationship on these apps, for the most part, it would appear that most are only looking for sextheir Mr. Right Now rather than their Mr. Right.

Annise Parker Named Democratic National Chair Of LGBT Advisory Board

Annise Parker About Magazine

Annise Parker, former out Mayor of Houston has been named the chair of a new LGBT advisory panel for national Democrats.

The Democratic National Committee announced Friday Parker as one of two co-chairs of its LGBT Advisory Board.

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, whose tenure as mayor and concluded this month, and HIV/AIDS activist Rev. José M. Román, who worked in numerous aid agencies in New York City during the AIDS crisis, were named as co-chairs to the board, which was launched late last year. –