When I entered public school I began learning that boys are to do "boy things" and girls are to do "girl things". My parents, as accepting as they were, began to secretly buy me barbies, or say I could only dress up in the house. I know that they were only trying to help me and something felt totally shamed and wrong. I could no longer freely play in the yard wearing girls clothes.
As the the years passed, I grew and evolved tremendously into the confidently gay man I am today. Cut to last year when I found what I had learned as a child about HIV/AIDS, and my fears of DRAG -- appeared in my adult life.
I think it was the movie Philadelphia, with Tom Hanks, that introduced me to the HIV/AIDS virus. It was 1993, I was young, and didn't know what my sexuality was. Sure, I had done what most adolescent school boys have done with other boys, but I didn't know what any of that really meant. After seeing this movie, I remember a huge fear and stigma around the disease forming.
"People who are gay will get this and die."
I got to know him a little during the party and exchanged numbers. After the few casual texts, and phone calls we set up the first date. I felt a very powerful spiritual connection with him. We had deep conversations and felt comfortable with one another from the start.
Then... WHAM! He shares with me that he's HIV+.
I immediately felt like a bomb was dropped on the spiritual temple that I had already built.
- "I can never physically be with him."
- "Can I even kiss him?"
- "Is he going to live?"
So many thoughts ran through my head. But I remembered something I'd heard -- that life is about choices. I clearly felt and knew that this man was brought to me for a reason. I had a choice: Do I run from him, or do I love him unconditionally?
I chose love. I chose education over ignorance. I began researching, talking to doctors, talking to the new man in my life. We did a lot of spiritual development together. He was the one who introduced me to Marianne Williamson and "A Course in Miracles." He also attended my life-coaching seminar completion evening to support me. We encouraged one another to grow, to get out into the community, and to get a deeper sense of self. This relationship formed into a beautiful friendship, that I am happy with. I will always have a spiritual connection with him and will be grateful for what I learned because of this relationship.
It was through this relationship that I began to desire more community service work. My soul was craving to do outreach in the community. I wanted to give back to the HIV/AIDS community, and work on ending the stigma around it by promoting awareness and education. I soon discovered a non-profit organization called The West Hollywood Cheerleaders.
Founded in 1986, the organization has volunteers (cheerleaders) dedicated to addressing social stereotypes and ending the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS. In 1998 the group was given an official commendation from the City of West Hollywood as the “Ambassadors of Goodwill and Friendship.”
Every dollar donated to the West Hollywood Cheerleader’s CHEER FOR LIFE FUND will be used to educate, empower and amplify HIV/AIDS awareness in our LGBT community.
There are still times when I am challenged with doing drag. I fear that a man will not accept me, fear that my mother won't accept me, but in the end it's about standing for a purpose bigger than myself. I am a stand for the community, putting a smile on people's faces, and I know that I am doing just what the universe wants me to be doing. Making a difference in the lives of others.