More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

death

Bystander: a horror story.

Bystander: A Horror Story.

Spilt milk
As Megan opened the back door, her mother’s voice boomed out from the lounge, “Don’t blame me, blame the cat.”

Negotiating the minefield of saucers of souring milk, Megan mumbled to herself that the damn cat had been dead for years. Stepping into the back room, she looked around at the fading floral wallpaper, marked out with bright squares where pictures had once made the place a home. Back then Lilly had been very keen to present to the world a well maintained home, with everything in its place. However, that was a long time ago, now the house was practically an empty shell. The front room was the only place in the house that was barely hanging on to its former memories.

Megan had had the room converted into a bed-sit after her mother had suffered a small stroke and could no longer manage the stairs. That day had been a test of everyone’s patience; with her younger sister, Gloria complaining that she had little time to spare, as she still hadn’t found the perfect outfit for Charle’s and Di’s wedding. The fact that she would be sitting at home watching the event on the television did not seem absurd to her at all. In the end, Gloria got her husband Nigel to help shift the furniture around downstairs to accommodate a single bed. Lilly had wanted her double bed, but even she had to agree it would leave little room for her wing-backed armchair and precious sideboard. In the end the single bed was wedged against the front door, allowing Lilly to see through the middle room and the kitchen at the back. Her armchair was placed by the window while the sideboard took pride of place against the far wall.

In the centre of the sideboard stood a faded black and white snapshot of Lilly and her husband Joe on their wedding day, to the left, a photo of Gloria, aged fifteen wearing a light pink sash declaring her, ‘Little Miss Brighton, Seaside Queen 1969’. A year later Gloria had married Nigel, a man seven years her senior. Their collection of brightly coloured nuptials dominated the other side of the sideboard alongside a stash of memorabilia from Gloria and Nigel’s various holidays abroad, including: a conk shell from the Maldives, a ship in the bottle from the Caribbean and a Micky Mouse letter rack declaring Florida, ‘The Sunshine State’. Megan had thought her sister had married too young, but now she saw that her sister had been more than canny in getting away with caring for their mother.

The only photo Lilly had of Megan had been tucked behind the other memories. It had been taken the year before she had left school. She hated the face that stared from the frame, all teeth and hair; harking back to the time when she was openly known as the ugly sister; a label Megan had never quite been able to let go off. On numerous occasions Megan had asked her mother to get rid of it, only for Lilly to snap back, “If you’d got someone to marry you, or done something important with your life, then I would have had that framed instead.”

With a deep breath, Megan stepped into the front room and once again the stale smell of her mother and the state of the room reminded her that things could not carry on like this for much longer.

“Is that you Meg?” boomed Lilly.

“Yes Mum, replied Megan, “you’ve lost your teeth again?”
* * *

Like to read more? pop on over to blanchestreet.co.uk for info on all ten tales and how to get your hands on the e-book

 

Posted on by admin in Brighton, creative writing, fiction, Horror, short story Leave a comment

writing everyday in October. Anna Nicole Smith, Love After Death

From our Afterlife showbiz reporter: Kelly Ross.

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Dressed in a figure hugging, pink satin dress, fabulous fake fur stole, diamond drenched chocker, perfected platinum blond hair and flawless makeup, Anna Nicole Smith made her debut into the afterlife with the usual style, panache and a touch of car-crash that had made her the most talked about woman (after Princess Diana) in the National Enquirer.
Standing at the top of the stairs, Ms.Smith raised her hands above her head, went to speak but instead slurred, “Do you Like my Body? It’s all down to Trimspa you hear?”

When the only response was a whispered, “Is she drunk?” Ms. Smith threw down her hands, pushed out her bottom lip and sulked. Thankfully a lone female voice shouted, “I love you Nicole”, which was just the thing Ms. Smith needed to get her back in her stride as she switched from grumpy brat, to the sultry, sexy, siren Ms. Anna Nicol Smith we are more attuned to.
Assured she had the audience’s complete attention, Ms. Smith thrusted her ample assets forward and swished down the stairs; gyrating her hips in a fashion that one could almost have assumed Ms. Smith was in fact spinning an invisible hula-hooping all the way down to the bottom step.
As was Ms. Smith’s want while alive, she was greeted by the maître d’ with a substantial serving of deep fried gizzard wings, large fries and a diet coke. Ms. Smith squealed with delight, chowed down with a ravenous appetite, which is not unheard of for those who have made the journey into the afterlife, burped loudly and said in her distinctive Southern drawl, “Well this sure is heaven, thank you all, I’s was famished.”
Next came the main part of the afterlife floor show that as always is the main draw for these shows. A ripple of an applause filled the auditorium as the wardrobe mistress pulled a cloths rail with a single dress, hidden under a very pretty, pink silk protection cover.

Ms. Smith squealed with delight and announced she was so glad to be changing her outfit as she was already bored to tears with her present attire.
Next, Ms. Smith was taken behind a changing screen, blindfolded and asked to strip. Not wishing to miss an opportunity, Ms.Smith shouted, “Queue music!”.
The band instinctively began to play, “You Can Leave Your Hat On”.
Unbeknown to Ms. Smith, a back light shone onto the screen allowing the full effect of the striptease to be observed. Such was the performance, one had to wonder if Ms.Smith wasn’t a little aware of the playful prank being played on her.
As the band reached its crescendo, a pink silk camisole and matching knickers came flying over the screen, just as the auditorium was plunged into complete darkness.

A cough and shuffle of anticipation rippled through the darkness as the sound of the wardrobe mistress slipping the dress over Ms. Smith’s head was followed by Nicole letting out a huge belch,
“That should give this pretty dress some room”, giggled Nicole as the wardrobe mistress pulled and buttoned Ms. Smith into her new frock.
A cymbal simmered from the percussion section of the band, as a single light pierced through the darkness.The other percussion instruments gradually joined in while the spotlight expanded until a perfect silhouette of Ms. Smith was once again in full view. Then came the big reveal as the screen spectacularly fragmented into ninety white doves, causing the audience to gasp at just how stunning Ms. Smith looked.
Still blindfolded, Ms. Smith’s voice cracked slightly as she tried to reach out to her adoring fans and asked, “Do I look pret-ty?”
A collective “Ahhh” and clapping of hands, quickly brought back Ms. Smith’s smile.

Once the applause had died down, the Grim Reaper slowly made her dignified entrance, scythe in hand. Again there was a murmuring of anticipation from the audience, which in turn made Ms. Smith let out a giggle and a very faint fart.
Unable to hold back her excitement any longer, Ms. Smith pulled in a deep breath, which in turn put considerable strain on the upper part of her dress and cried out, “Is this when I get my sur-prise? Is this when I fin-ally get the thing I’ve always dreamed off, tell me now, is now the time I fin-ally  get what I tru-ly de-serve?!”
The Grim Reaper in turn, whispered sweetly, “Yes Nicole”.
Stamping her feet in quick succession, Ms. Smith enquired, “Does it begin with ‘M’?”
To which the Grim Reaper again whispered very softly, “Yes Nicole”.

IMG_3732
Unable to control herself, Ms. Smith span round and round, shouting, “I’ve got it, i’ve got it, I beat E. Pierce Marshall, I’m rich, I’m rich at last I’m rich.”
The Grim Reaper waited for Ms. Smith to stop spinning and with a quick flick of her Scythe, snipped Ms. Smith’s blindfold in two. As it fell to the floor, Ms. Smith looked down and saw she was wearing a massive white, meringue inspired wedding dress.

Slightly dumbfounded and rather confused, Ms. Smith turned to the Grim Reaper and asked, “Am I ma-rry-ing the mon-ey?”
The Grim Reaper solemnly shook her skull, clicked her boney finger and thumb in the band’s direction, who again hit their stride at once as they played, Mendelssohn’s, Wedding March’.

Meanwhile, the distinctive sound of a wheelchair creaked out from within the darkness.

Nicole had a terrifying moment of clarity as she realised just what the ‘M’ stood for as the creaking wheelchair pulled itself out of the shadows, a musty Howard Marshall, dragged his dusty tongue across flaking lips, smiled a toothless grin and croaked, “I love you Nicole, I’ve been waiting for you baby and the really good thing honey, I’ve got viagra! And best of all sweetheart, sugar-pie, we have all of eternity to consummate our marriage over and over and over again.

th

 

 

Posted on by admin in creative writing, Flash fiction, Gothic horror, short, short story, Writing everyday in October Leave a comment

Writing everyday in October Part 3, Ronny’s comeuppance!

Writing everyday in October: Hate, Part 3, Ronny’s comeuppance:

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Ronny squatted over the bucket and roared as the fermenting concoction brewed and spewed from both ends: one in the bucket the other in the sink. Ronny’s groans quickly turned to screams as his insides tensed tighter and tighter in their desperate bid to rid themselves of the poisonous prawns Ronny had so greedy gulped all in pointless pursuit of getting revenge on a neighbour he had never met.

Ronny had not anticipated his plan to backfire (quite literally dear reader) with the force of a huge ‘wet shot avalanche’. On and on went the evacuation with such force that Ronny thought he was going to be turned inside out. After what felt like a life time, Ronny’s guts took a breather, allowing Ronny to catch his breath and thank his lucky stars that the worse was over, but unbeknown to Ronny, that first explosion was the first of many more to come. Ronny gingerly lifted himself off the bucket but this just allowed the gas inside him to shift and expand as once again his whole insides contracted and forced what they could through every single orifice. At one point Ronny thought his eyes were going to pop out, such was velocity of his body trying to survivor its poisoners assault.

After an hour of constant extraction, Ronny was left crawling around the floor, covered in array of bodily fluids with every inch of his body racked in pain, and still his innards continued to contract.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to Ronny, after helping transport the soul of Ronny’s last victim, Death had decided to stop in the flat below, knowing that Ronny was next on his list. Unfortunately for Ronny, his attempts at trying to piss his new neighbour off had not gone unnoticed.

Death had tried blocking out the disruption during the hourly news reports, but was constantly distracted by Ronny stomping around in his boots. This, Death had tolerated up to a point, as he knew there would sure to be another death and destruction story within the hour of the previous one. But when Derrick’s dirty tricks had caused Death to lose all concentration during Only Connect’s, missing vowels round, well, Death was not happy. But it was when Ronny had gone all out with his bombardment of noise the next day when Death, guessed wrongly who the murderer was in Miss Marple’s, A Murder is Announced: that for Death was the last straw.

With just Death living below Ronny’s flat and no one above him No one heard Ronny’s please for help as over the next twelve months Ronny slowly began to decompose, feeling every single pin prick of pain, every nibble from the maggots, every drip of blood congealing diamond sharp in his veins.
Ronny begged for death to come, but the one thing you never want to do is piss Death off.
You see, Death was pleased to make Ronny wait as she took a break, slipped on some earphones and worked her way through box set after box set of crime, comedy and horror dramas that she had been wanting to catch up for a very long time.

Posted on by admin in Gothic horror, short, short story, Writing everyday in October Leave a comment

Writing Everyday in October: Telephone.

IMG_3655Telephone.

The toilet had been a place to step out of the engulfing fog more then anything else. Thankfully it wasn’t one of those rank smelling ones Jess found herself in, in fact it looked like it had only been recently opened to the public.
Not wanting to look like a creep, Jess stepped into a cubical, tipped the toilet seat down with the tip of her shoe, and sat down. She was about to get her phone out of her bag when she saw a phone number neatly written at the top of the door. Jess paused as she went to call her parents to tell then that this time she had left George for good this time, but instead she found herself punching in the numbers from the toilet door.

It was only when the phone started to ring that she realised what she was doing and hung up. She then scrolled through her list of M’s until she got to Mum & Dad and pressed dial but only got the engaged tone.
Thinking how silly it was to be sitting in a public toilet, Jess stood up when she heard someone else come in the toilet. Without thinking why, Jess called out, “Hello?” but no one answered. She tried again, but whoever it was ignored her call and went into the cubical next to her.

Jess sat back down again and leaned forward enough to see a pair of black leather boots with a spiked heel through the partition.
Jess stared at the boots when suddenly her phone rang. Jumping up, she rummaged through her bag and saw it was, Mum & Dad calling. Now with someone else in ear shot, Jess felt really conspicuous as she pressed answer and whispered, “Hello.”

It was her mum on the other end, “Jess? Is that you? It’s a very bad line.”
Again, Jess found it difficult to speak up, without really knowing why. “Yes, mum, it’s me. I’ve left George.”

Jess’s mum raised her voice, even though it wasn’t necessary, “Sorry darling, You’ll have to speak up. George called said you and he had had an argument and that he was worried. He said you had taken the car. Jess, are you there?”
Jess raised her voice above a whisper as she heard the person next door move, their heels clicking on the tiled floor, “Yes, mum, i’m…” before she could continue, her phone bleeped telling her there was a call waiting. Pulling the phone from her ear, Jess looked to see the number was from the toilet wall, without thinking, Jess pressed answer. At the same time the person next door left their cubical and tapped on Jess’s door.

Jess held the phone to her ear, a voice said, “It’s time Jess, come on, i’m waiting for you outside.

Posted on by admin in blogging, Horror, short story, Writing everyday in October Leave a comment

Edgar Allan Poe, The Man, The Madness, The Movie.

When it comes to great literature, gothic horror is usually classified at the bottom of the pile. This genre is often seen as little more than pulp fiction to amuse teenage boys, where they can delve into a place filled with crumbling castles and damsels in distress.  This is particularly true when discussing the works of Edgar Allan Poe, whose short stories and poems hang heavy with bleakness and dread, where the reader can be pretty sure there will be no happy ever after, but there is sop much more to his work than the usual clichés

To dismiss the work of Poe’s as little more than a throw away read would be doing this man a great disservice as his work has gone on to influence some of our greatest writers and helped bring dark stirrings into some of the best-loved literature. It was Poe who invented the detective genre, with his shocking short story, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue, (1841) which in turn led Arthur Conan Doyle to stand up and say that Poe was a major influence on his own tales in detective fiction. One doesn’t have to look too far to see how Poe has influenced other writers, including Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre where the pages are littered with gothic images, from the imposing building of Thornfield Hall, to the terrible secret locked away in the attic. (no spoilers, just pick up a copy and find out just how dark celebrated romantic Bronte was).

To understand Poe’s work, one only has to look into his life, filled with great tragedies and heart ache. Edgar Poe was born on 19 January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, to parents Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins and David Poe. Before he reached the age of three his father had abandoned him and his siblings; further gloom fell upon when their mother died after a short illness. Soon after Poe would find himself separated from his brother William Henry Leonard Poe and younger sister Rosalie, and would be brought up by a wealthy merchant John Allan and his wife, moving to Richmond, Virginia. Although Poe done well with his studies, he would later become estranged from his adopted family after accumulating huge gambling debts.

Unable to pay his college fees or debts, Poe enlisted in the United States Army, although he had been writing for some time it was at this stage he started to take his role as writer seriously and paid for his first set of poetry, called Tamerlane and Other Poems (1831), published. Later that same year he published a second book of poetry called Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane with growing success. Around the same time he left the army and moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt Maria Clemm, and her daughter Virginia Eliza Clemm. Poe’s brother Henry was also living at the house but died shortly after from tuberculosis.

When Virginia turned thirteen, Poe proposed and married his cousin; back then neither her age or relationship to Poe were considered out of the ordinary. However, for Poe, his marriage to Virginia and her subsequence period of ill-health would prove to have a massive influence on his work. For many months Poe would have to watch the woman he loved slip onto the brink of death. Poe would sit by her bedside and watch helplessly waiting for the love of his life to leave him forever, only for her to make a near partial recovery giving him hope that Virginia would be back in his life again. Time and time again Poe was put through these agonies, as Virginia fell dreadfully ill and again Poe would watch on in horror as death waited patiently on the other side of the bed. The experience would lead Poe to revisit these horrors in some of his most celebrated work, including, the poem, Lenore, (1831) and his brilliant short stories Ligeia, (1838) and brilliant short story, The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) where within these dark tales the heroine would come back from the dead to haunt the living.

Although Poe wrote prolifically throughout his life, he never had copywrite to his own work. So although he was celebrated during his own life time, he would struggle financially throughout. Alcohol would also play a large part in Poe downfall.

Throughout the early 1970’s Poe’s tales became the bread and butter for the films directed by Roger Corman   where their main star Vincent Price reveled in bringing Poe’s creations to life with such classics as The Fall of the House of Usher, (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Tales of Terror  (1962), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death  (1964), and The tomb of Ligeia (1965).

As camp and fun as these films are, nothing compares to Poe’s words. In a rather tragic, although very Poe way, Edgar Allen Poe died in mysterious circumstances, with no one really sure how he met his demise. A film released next Friday called The Raven (2012), directed by directed by James (V for Vendetta)  McTeigue, where some of Poe’s best known stories are brought to life. For those who have never read a word of Poe, get yourself a copy of his tales and see what you’re missing, for as much as he’s work is considered pulp, the world he has conjured will stay in your mind long after you have put down the book, now that is a true master of literature.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Fiction & Books, film, Gothic horror, Leisure, Literature 4 Comments

Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! Out!

“Politicians, ugly buildings and whores, they all get respectable if they last long enough.” These words from actor john Huston in the film Chinatown, feel rather appropriate when considering the release of The Iron Lady, starring the scarily convincing Meryl Streep, as Maggie Thatcher.

Now that Thatcher no longer has the ability to breathe fire of fear into anyone, there will no doubt be those who will watch this film, championing the girl of a grocer, who came to power and promised her voters to make the world a better place…

Of course there are many who benefitted from Thatcher’s breaking up of the unions, selling off our utilities, and giving many people the opportunity to buy their council homes; but all to quickly the dream turned sour, with a generation now paying for a decade of excess and greed. But there is also a more sickening legacy from Thatcher’s era that the film makers have glossed over. These include; the introduction of Clause 28 and the lack of care or understanding regarding the devastating effect the AIDS crises would have on the UK’s gay community.

At the beginning of the AIDs epidemic in 1981 when large groups of gay men, drug users and hemophiliacs, began getting rapidly ill and dying, both Thatcher and Ronald Regan decided to ignore the impact this new disease was having. The national press was quick to flame the fire calling AIDS a ‘Gay Plague’. Those diagnosed with HIV found themselves treated with fear by the general public as well as the health professionals. For example in the early days of the disease, those seeking treatment would find health professionals using the  barrier method, wearing gloves, masks, gowns and hats; making those already feeling alienated even worse. However, there was a huge response from the LGBT community, with support groups springing up, doing much of the work that was lacking from the Conservative Government.

Six years into the epidemic, the Conservative Government brought us the Don’t Die of Ignorance campaign, which basically said ‘Abstain from sex and you’ll be fine.’ The campaign failed to address the real issues and year on year those diagnosed HIV+ has continued to rise.

In 1994 a new AIDS campaign was produced at the cost of £2 million pounds including a pocket guide “Your Pocket Guide to Sex” aimed at educating 16 – 25 year olds on safer sex. However, the Conservative Government got all hot under the collar and had the whole project deleted from existence, much to the disgust of its author, Nick Fisher.

“I don’t believe this government has teenagers’ interests at heart, it has become a political exercise to be seen to be stamping on things that are considered rude. Have they actually thought about how many teenagers are getting pregnant, how many are screwed up because they don’t know whether they are gay or straight, how many are not using condoms because they don’t know where to buy them or how to use them properly? If people are so messed up about sex that they deny its existence on such a massive scale, then there really is something wrong.”                             Nick Fisher.

Fast forward to present day and we find that once again Thatcher’s legacy living on, with the Conservative Government unwilling to provide funding for HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.

With funding for HIV treatment costing the NHS 1bn per annum, there seems little reason to celebrate the mass destruction Thatcher has caused in her lifetime; and then there’s section 28.

Things first kicked off with the Daily Mail newspaper ranting that there was a campaign by the liberal left to pursued children to be homosexual, feeding the public with the idea that homosexuality was a choice which people could be persuaded to make. Books like Jenny lives with Eric and Martin were used in the propaganda war, with suggestions that such books were being used to undermine the heterosexual family.

Although no school was prosecuted, Clause 28 stopped many schools from teaching or talking about alternative sexualities, which without doubt had an effect on many young people growing up as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender with feelings that they are in some way wrong to have these feelings. It is all too easy to think there are many support groups like the brilliant Diversity Role Models for young LGBT teenagers to get in contact with, but back then there was no internet and just a couple of gay magazines which were only marketed at the older LGBT groups.

One of the best things to come from Section 28 was the way the LGBT community pulled together, stood united and fought back. Lesbians assailed into parliament, while others stormed onto the live set of the BBC’s Six O Clock News, with one woman managed to chain herself to Sue Lawley’s chair. From here, MP’s and famous actors like Sir Ian McKellen came out, as did film director, Derrick Jarman about being HIV positive. These high-profile people added their voices of support and helped form LGBT action support groups including Stonewall and OutRage and even a couple of protest songs

When the Labour Government came to power, they began to pave the way for the Clause to be removed from the statutory books. It is worth noting that those unelected people in power in the House of Lords tried time and time again to keep Clause 28 in place, however, the Clause was eventually scrapped by the Labour Government pushed through the abolishment of the clause on the 18th November, 2003.

Interestingly, when David Cameron was an unelected Conservative member, he spoke out against a repeal of Clause 28 and accused Tony Blair of being ‘anti family’. Although he has since apologized and said equality should be taught in schools, the new legislation, Sex and Relationship Education (SRE), guide mentions that schools are obliged as a minimum to talk on issues of HIV and AIDS, but there is still no legal requirement for schools to talk about LGBT relationships. This may certainly leave many young people believing the way they feel is wrong and unacceptable, showing just how Thatcher’s legacy continues to do more harm than good.

Instead of spending money on seeing Meryl do an impersonation of Thatcher, I have invested my money in the Chumbawamba single, a celebration of Thatcher’s demise to be released on the day she pops her steely clogs.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in film, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, Zhoosh 4 Comments

Speak Out Against Online LGBT Bullying

For as many people who go out of their way to say something nice, there are a few bad apples who think it quite acceptable to spout words of hate believing their actions have little or no consequence to their victims; this is never the case. Last week it was reported that a fourteen year old boy named  Jamey Rodemeyer had taken his own life after suffering a sustained campaign of homophobic abuse at school and online. Some of the messages read “’JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT AND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!’ while another said: ‘I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!’

New York police have said they are considering charging three students for sending messages of hate, Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Human Rights, LGBT Leave a comment

Help Stop Anti-LGBT Campaigner’s of Hate

Help Stop Anti-LGBT Campaigner’s of Hate.

Throughout the years there have been countless cranks, politicians and religious fanatics ready to jump on the bandwagon to spout words of hate against the LGBT community; some are destructive, while others are just plain ridiculous. Who can forget the right wing views of Reverend Jerry Falwell who suggested that Tinky-Winky, (an animated foam form) from the children’s TV programme the Tellytubbes, was gay.

 “He is purple – the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol.”  Rev. J. Falwell. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, Zhoosh 6 Comments