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

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It’s Christmas Time, There’s No Need To Be Afraid…(Scrap that, Be Afraid, be Very Afraid).

On the television ads, there are hordes of people who still manage not to bump into each other as they find just what they want for Christmas; and if not, there is always a handsome/beautiful/pretty/homely (delete as you wish) sales person who acts as if they were modelled on the film set of the Stepford Wives. As many of you will by this time will know, this is the world of the ad-(wo)man’s fantasy. In fact, a trip to the shops has been compared more like that to a 1990’s club nights at Trade,as you tried to push past all those sweaty bulked up men who were too butch (or stoned on steroids) to move out of your way as you squeeze along “Muscle Alley.”

The savvier shopper of course does all their shopping on-line, ticks the optional “Would you like your purchase gift wrapped” and has the presents delivered to their work, making their colleges, all the more envious as you cry out “Another present? I never knew I was so popular.” This may have the effect of getting you laid at the Christmas party, or totally ignored for being too smug. Of course the way out of the latter situation is once everybody is plied with booze, is to take them to the nearest gay club and pull out a bottle of poppers. As the advert (the one I made up in my head anyway) goes “You’re never alone with a bottle poppers.” There will be the cry of “Ohh, it smells of old socks” but once they get past the first hit and Y.M.C.A booms from the speakers, everyone, including that stuffy woman from accounts and that miserable bloke who no one knows quite what he does at the office, will be begging for a second, third, fourth and fifth sniff. Who knew that for £5.99 you could bond the whole staff group in one night, that a week in North Wales trying to create a raft from a thousand plastic straws and twenty-eight empty yogurt pots never could.

The next day you will wake up with a taste resembling dog deodorant (imagine) in your mouth and images crawling around the peripheral of your soggy, aching mind from the night before. Believe me, you want to bury all those images in that dark part of your head and throw away the key, because if you don’t you’ll end up by the nearest seashore, stripping off Reggie Perrin style and just keep on walking into the sea

With one nightmare out of the way, you then have Christmas Day to face, with Little Mix from  X-factor being at the number one spot, but at least that will stop Cliff Richard trying to compete. There are those who use the day to keep the world at bay, wrap up in loads of blankets, have a truck of chocolates, mince pies and er…more chocolate by their side, happy to have full control of the remote control and sit back and enjoy THEIR day as THEY see fit….they are the lucky ones. For others there is the trip to the in-laws. All year it has been ringed round the calendar, a promise sealed from the year before when you dared to have the special day together on your own, only to be pounded with guilt when your partner spent four hours on the phone persuading his mother not to overdose on Emva Cream.

So, you’ve packed enough outfits for every event, knowing full well there will never be an occasion in Ipswich to wear those hot pants and matching vest, but hey, it’s good to be an optimist. Once settled in, you may be under the illusion that your help in the kitchen is needed; but only the brave would offer to cook the Christmas dinner for the in-laws. For many mother’s this is the one time they can remind their offspring that no one cooks like them, and only the insane would try to prove otherwise. keep reminding yourself, you may think a sprinkling of edible glitter on the roast potatoes and sprouts, would be the best thing ever, but the reality is this could well be the proverbial straw that sends your mother in law marching towards WW3. In most cases it’s always best to offer to either peel the mountain of spuds, sprouts and carrots needed the night before or better still, say you’ll do the washing up, particularly if all you need do is load the dishwasher.

Parlour games can be fun, but stay away from anything competitive, particularly if that ‘must-win-at-all-cost’ gene is hardwired into you. No one likes to see you punching the air when you have beaten your partner’s eight year old niece at Tennis Wii, and no one will forgive you for frying grandad’s pacemaker just because you thought wiring Operation to the mains would make things a little more interesting.

In the words of Aretha Franklin, r.e.s.p.e.c.t is the name of the game, so when it comes to bed time, leave the full on kinky sex for when you get back home, no one wants to have to take a hockey stick to the sheets to get them in the washing machine.

And so you come to the end of the holiday, and hopefully you’ll look back on it more like the last few pages of a Charles Dickens novel and less like the middle bit of a Christmas episode of East Enders. Either way, congratulate yourself for surviving this once a year celebration, safe in the knowledge that you have the next twelve months before you have to do it all againMerry Christmas Everyone!

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Zhoosh 1 Comment

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

“The Need to Renew the HIV+ Message.

30 years ago when the realisation that sexual intercourse was a dangerous pastime, everyone was bombarded by the Conservative’s safe sex television and leaflet campaigns. Images of icebergs and tombstones filled our consciousness along with the tag line, “Don’t die of ignorance.” From then on in the safer sex message cropped up in stage plays, (The normal Heart), films (Longtime Companion) and soap opera storylines, (Eastenders) reminding all of us almost on a daily bases that HIV existed and that as a LGBT community we had to take responsibility in looking after ourselves and each other, and we did. From the terror of what this virus was doing to people we loved, support groups sprung up in the backs of bars and people’s homes making sure the message of safer sex was out there, loud and proud and that anyone who needed
care and support received it. As the years have rolled by, the subject of HIV has slowly dwindled away from the wider public domain, with the issue given an airing to the masses once a year on December the 1st, World Aids Day. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Positive Nation, THT 5 Comments

Speak Out Against Homophobia.

Here in the UK, the LGBT community can celebrate the many rights we have all fought for and won over the last few decades, from having homosexuality abolished as a criminal offence, the equal age of consent and most recently the right for same sex couples to have their union together acknowledged in the form of civil partnerships. Looking at such ground breaking achievements it would be easy to think that we can sit back and relax because all the big battles have been won; but this really is not the case.

For every outdated piece of legislation that has been overturned there are still those who see homosexuality as second class to their straight counterparts and this is passed down to the next generation through a variety of ways. Last week it immerged that Google had rolled out a new app giving mums the opportunity to answer twenty cliché questions to determine if their son is gay.

Some of the ridiculous questions that the makers claimed would determine the outcome of their son’s sexuality included,

  • Is he a fan of divas (Madonna, Britney Spears)?
  • Does he spend time getting ready before being seen in public?
  • Does he like musical comedies?

So what if someone, gay or straight, takes a while to get dressed up to see Madonna in a musical comedy, but the way these questions are backed up by,

  • Does he like football?
  • Does he read the sports page in the newspaper?
  • Has he ever been in a fight?

It become perfectly clear that the people who put the app together are suggesting that if someone’s son doesn’t conform to the outdated gender norms, they are less of a man and as such are seen as inferior to others in society. Of course the people behind the app would say that such questions should not be taken so seriously and they are just a bit of fun; but it is these same outdated views that bullies use to undermine their peers from the playground to the workplace and keep many people from declaring proudly that they are gay.

A prime example can be seen in football. At present there is a campaign DVD due to be launched, titled; Homophobia: Let’s Tackle It! with the makers hoping to follow the success of, ‘Show Racism the Red Card’. The makers had wanted a gay footballer to front the DVD, but have been greeted by a brick wall. Not since Justin Fashanu, (who committed suicide in1998) has there been another professional footballer ‘come out’ as gay. They also found it impossible to get a straight footballer to speak out against homophobia, for fear of a backlash from the terraces and in the press.

It is without doubt that the main reason for such an absence of ‘out’ footballers speaking out on the issue isn’t down to gay men, as the app questions would suggest, not being any good at sport but more to do with homophobia still being rive within the ‘beautiful game’.

In the same week there was a conference for the Orlando Republican presidential debate. During the session Stephen Hill, a US soldier serving in Iraq, spoke via video link saying he was pleased he was able to be open about his homosexuality now President Obama had abolished the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that had meant gay and lesbian service men and women would be fired from their post if their sexuality was exposed. The response from the chair came that should the Republican Party take office again, the ban on homosexuals in the forces would be put firmly back in place. The people behind such thinking are fully aware that there are hundreds of gay and lesbian people working in the arm forces, but to show that gay men and women are working in environments outside the clichéd stereotypes would show that the only thing different between sexualities is the gender we decided to sleep with.

These are just a few examples of how a part of society believes that to be gay is something that must be ridiculed, hated and stamped out. We may have won some big battles, but we must keep our voices heard loud, expose gay hate in all its forms, and stamp out the hatred so the next generation will only find homophobia in the history books.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Human Rights, Leisure, Zhoosh 1 Comment

Homophobic Hate Contiunes…

When I wrote about Jamie Rodemeyer taking his own life after years of being bullied at school for being bisexual, in the back of my head I really believed that the children who had targeted him would wake up to their words of hate and realise that they had been the cause of a 14 year old boy taking his life. Astonishingly this has not been the case. Instead the bullies have started a new campaign of hate and are now picking on Jamie’s sister, yelling at her that they are pleased her brother took his own life. I believe that it is up to all of us to stand up against bullying in all its forms and to make people of all ages face up to their actions and understand the full consequences. Please take a moment to follow the link to Jamie’s school and ask the adults to help stamp out bullying in their school.http://www.williamsvillek12.org/contact.cfm Let’s hope the message gets through to other schools that just because someone shouts out words of hate they can still kill. https://www.facebook.com/RIPJameyslaw
http://youtu.be/vTu9XBt6SPI

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

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

THT Super Hero Fund Raising and Beyond!

THT Super Heros: Photo by Vincent lcq

As part of their ongoing strategy to keep the message of safer sex and HIV in the public’s mind, the team at Terrence Higgins Trust have embarked on a range of fun fundraising activities. On the 15th May THT joined the event “Brighton’s Hero’s Run”, organised by the charity “Passing It On”, a charity that helps help build funds for Schools in Africa, along with host of other fundraising groups dressed in an array of costumes. Amoug the many Supermen, super women were Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble complete with their stone-age car and even Super Gran. As well as being a lot of fun, THT raised an impressive £2000 on the day. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, Human Rights, Leisure, LGBT, THT, Zhoosh Leave a comment

Brighton Gay Pride & Money

Pride & Money

For the last few years Brighton Pride seems to be remembered for all the wrong reasons; the most worrying being the huge debt that it has acuminated, preventing any of the LGBT charities receiving a single penny after the event.

As fond as my memories are of the first Brighton Pride, which consisted of us all meeting in the park and sharing a few cans of beer and a sandwich, I much preferred the later Gay Prides in Preston Park, along with all the entertainment that was provided. I’d join in with the other line-dancing bears, grrr, amble around the collective stalls that sold everything from strap-on dilldos to “no one knows I’m gay” t-shirts; then I’d sit myself down by the main stage. Okay, from midday till 2 pm, the acts would be people or groups I’d never heard of and most likely never hear of again; but from thereon in things would get fabulously queer. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Gscene, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Leisure, LGBT, THT Leave a comment

Update on Terrence Higgins Trust HIV Brighton Services.

THT (South)

Update on THT Servicers.

June 2011 marks the 30th Anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. So much has change from those early days when volunteers like Father Marcus opening up his kitchen for those affected by HIV. Thankfully to the continued success of medical breakthroughs in the shape of combination therapies people are living longer, but there is still a need for emotional support for those newly diagnosed, to others living with HIV for a number of years.

For those living in Brighton and the surrounding areas they have the benefit of accessing a number of groups run by the excellent team of paid staff and volunteers at Terrence Higgins Trust in Brighton’s Ship Street and South Street, in Eastbourne.  Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, THT, Zhoosh Leave a comment

Moscow Gay Pride Attacked Again.

With all the in-fighting and back biting we have seen over the last few years in the name of Brighton Gay Pride, it is all too easy to forget that there are people living in countries that crack down on the very idea that there is a LGBT community out there. Last Saturday Pride Marchers where once again attacked by a bunch of bullies, mainly neo-Nazis and right wing extremists. The Mayor of Moscow, (Mr. Sergey Sobyanin) stood by and witnessed the police arrest the peaceful pride participants. Read more

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