Posts Tagged "HIV/AIDS"
For those of you new to my writing, a quick catch-up. My 21-year-old son is transgender. He identifies as “queer” and is in what I guess you’d call a “heterosexual” relationship as he is male and his girlfriend is female- though both identify as queer. My son came out as trans* when he was about 19. Prior to that, he was a female-identified lesbian. All that is important to make sense of what I’m about to talk about. Please note that I always refer to my son as “he/son” even when talking about when he was female-identified and I considered him my daughter. It makes sentences like: “when my son was a lesbian” make a little more sense if you understand all that.
When my son was in high school, he was a lesbian. [got it? ;)] They had “sex-ed” but besides being mostly abstinence-based, it was 100% heteronormative. If one DID have sex, SOMEDAY like after you’d been married awhile…it would be strictly hetero-sex. Well as a parent, that obviously wouldn’t pass as sex-ed regardless of your kid’s sexual orientation. The person who led most of his main sex-ed class was a (former) local tv anchor who told them how she kissed her husband for the first time at their wedding. While that is just fine for her, it isn’t exactly representative of typical adolescent sexuality. It wasn’t a big deal for us because my son already knew about the “birds and the bees” and “safer sex” from us talking about it at home. Luckily, he was very aware of what was going on in his school and saw the ridiculous curriculum being passed off as “sex-ed” for what it was. It was also lucky for him that he came from a family that was open about discussing real-world sexuality and life-saving, safe behaviors.
BUT. Hold on a minute. I am a straight cis-gender female mom. How on earth was I to teach my lesbian child about safer-sex and such things? I had no idea. There is google but try using some of the common search terms on this topic and see what you get! Not exactly what I needed to talk to my 14 yr old. As a feminist who has read general books like Our Bodies Ourselves (okay kids sit down: I have the FIRST edition copy of that one!) I had a notion of what to talk about.
As my kid got a bit older, 15, 16, 17, it was totally out of my league time. I talked to my son and told him “look, you need to keep yourself safe, be respectful of your partner, and know all the things that relate to the sexual activity you - well - do. (okay so it was a tad awkward). I asked him if he was getting the info he needed. He was. While he wanted to the conversation to end there, he didn’t get out of it that easily. I reviewed the most important points that I know from a heterosexual POV and asked if he knew those same things from a queer POV. He did.I do recall that was about where the talk ended- something about him having to wash his hair or hide under the bed to avoid talking more about this with him mom.
So here is my PFLAGmom advice to you not-yet-adults: you are going to have to get this information yourselves as you can’t count on your schools to help, and your parents may not know that you are queer and need different info, or may not know how to talk to you about it if they do know. It doesn’t make this one iota less important for you than for your straight peers. You know how important this is.
You’ll be able to handle the potential results of search terms such as “safe gay sex” better than I so I’m not worried about what you may run across. Just close your eyes if it is too mature for you (ha). But seriously, take charge of your own education in this area because the life you save may be your own- and/or someone you love.
A review: you have to go out and learn what your rights as a queer citizen are and, most likely, sex-ed for queers. Got it? Good.
P.S., my favorite memory on this topic was when my son was 14 and they told the kids that you have to wait till you’re married to have sex…But same-sex marriage wasn’t legal…so, he asked me, what did that mean for him? I SO wanted him to ask the teacher that but something about being 14 and not wanting to ask that in front of his peers made him ignore my suggestion.
A long time ago, before many of you were born, we didn’t know what caused HIV/AIDS. We didn’t know the term “HIV”. I was in college around that time and remember saying to a friend who used to always have a paper clip in his mouth: “what if we find out that AIDS is spread on paper clips!” During my senior year of college (psych major) I did a study on the connection between “poppers” (alkyl nitrites) and AIDS. I had the records from a Free Clinic in San Francisco to look for correlations, which were positive: among gay men, the greater the use of poppers, the higher the rate of being diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma (then thought to be the “gay cancer” or AIDS). We still didn’t know exactly HOW it was transmitted or that women, children, and people other MSM were at risk. The government didn’t seem all that interested in finding out- people seemed content (it seemed anyway) to call it the “gay plague” or “gay cancer” and leave it at that.
I recall, right before the HIV was discovered, an office building went up in the city (San Diego) and there was a huge sign on it: HIV. It was the company’s initials. It was less than a year before they took that down and changed their name.
I met my first husband in 1974 and my current husband in 1986. I was never out “dating” during the time of HIV/AIDS. We never used condoms or even said that word out loud. They were for “hookers” or someone else, but not nice, middle-class, white, straight, suburbanites.
The world is so different now. Unfortunately there is still much ignorance about who is at risk for HIV, how it is spread, and why early detection is so important. So get educated, get tested, and be safe.
Early HIV diagnosis is critical, so people who are infected can fully benefit from available life-saving treatments. Currently, almost 40 percent of people with HIV are not diagnosed until they already have developed AIDS. That can be up to 10 years after they first became infected with HIV
HIV 101: here
Fast facts about HIV from the UN: here
Why get tested: here
CDC recommendations for who should get tested: here.