Washington, DC – “Each year, on October 11, the LGBT community marks the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, by celebrating National Coming Out Day. As a black gay man, I know how difficult coming out can be. I also know how important it is to be open and honest about who you are and who you love. For much of our history, the LGBT community was relegated to the proverbial closet, unable or unwilling to live in the open. That all changed when a group of drag queens fought back against police brutality one summer night in New York City. Gays and lesbians across the country realized that no one was going to hand them equality, they’d have to demand it. And the best way to fight hate was to live and love openly.
“I came out for the first time in 1997. But, like so many gay men, I’ve had to come out on twice. In 2003, I was diagnosed with HIV. Coming out to my friends and family about my HIV status was just as difficult, and no less important, as telling them that I am gay, especially after promising my parents that I would keep myself safe and healthy. I am lucky to have family and friends that continue to love me unconditionally. It is very difficult to manage this disease without the support of your loved ones. But I took that risk and came out both times, because just as living as an openly gay man is the best way to combat homophobia, being open about my HIV status is critical to combating the stigma that surrounds this disease.
“The stigma surrounding homosexuality and HIV go hand in hand. Fear of being “outed” about either too often prevents individuals from being tested or seeking care and treatment. The irony is that much of the current gay rights movement owes its existence to HIV/AIDS. As the epidemic ravaged gay men in the 1980s, with little to no response from the government, the LGBT community stood up and demanded action. Gay men came out in droves, and the lesbian and transgender communities were by their sides. The government may not have been concerned with a disease that mainly affected gay men, but because these brave individuals came out, the public saw the face of AIDS, and it looked like their brothers and their sons.
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