As I share with you my decision to step down as the Executive Director of MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights, I am flooded with many emotions.
I feel grateful, privileged and proud to have served a global movement of gay and bisexual men working to promote their health and human rights. After over a decade since its founding, MPact remains as vitally important as ever! While we have achieved a great deal since our founding in 2006, not the least of which was to draw the world’s attention to disparities experienced by gay and bisexual men, there is still so much to do. Gay and bisexual men are 26 times more likely to acquire HIV than other adult men and in 2019 represented nearly 1 in 4 new HIV infections worldwide. Yet we still struggle to gain access to the HIV services we want and need. Heteronormativity and homophobia toxically pervade and distort the global HIV response both in blatant and subtle ways. LGBTQI people are denied opportunities to lead organizations, either by law or financial asphyxiation. We are hunted, humiliated, beaten, and killed daily. And sex and sexuality are wrongly kept at the margins of public health programs, if they are present at all.
But I am hopeful. Gay and bisexual men refuse to be silenced or rendered invisible in the global HIV response – it is simply not an option. We have rejected public health terms and acronyms that erase our experiences. Instead we favor more affirming labels of our choosing to describe ourselves. Gay and bisexual men are building communities amongst ourselves where we can find haven, love, support, safety, connection, and comradery. And we are working in coalition with other change makers to urgently promote and protect the cross-cutting human rights principles of bodily autonomy, integrity, self-determination, equality, and justice. These principles form the foundation upon which we build our collective work.
I am sad because saying goodbye is so terribly hard for me to do. There are so many things I will miss about my work with MPact. But what I will miss the most are the people with whom I have had the joy to meet along the way. Incredible, brave, trail blazers across movements from whom I have taken my most powerful life lessons. They of course include the long list of remarkable advocates who serve or served as members of MPact’s Board, International Steering Committee, and staff. I count my counterparts—my partners in crime—leading other constituency-led networks on that list of change-makers. And our fallen heroes – who were shining lights to me – gone but not forgotten. I celebrate and thank each and every one of you!!!
I am excited about MPact’s future. Like all great organizations, MPact is not and has never been about just one person. It very literally took a global village to build MPact. And it will take a global village to ensure its future success. With a strong Board of Directors, keenly astute International Steering Committee, hardworking committed staff, and trustworthy allies, MPact is poised to effectively meet the challenges that lie ahead. MPact has been an absolute highpoint in my personal and professional life, which is why I will remain a passionate supporter of its work.
Earlier in my career, I studied the ways my mentors honed their craft. I came to appreciate the value of leaving the hive to forage new fields for knowledge, ideas, and skills. I also learned why expanding ‘the tent’ is so vitally important to social change movements. My decision to leave was informed by a desire to pursue other professional opportunities and a personal commitment to making space for new leadership. I made my decision a year ago, in close consultation with MPact’s Board Chair, Don Baxter, to whom I owe a enormous debt of gratitude. Since then, the Board of Directors and I have worked methodically to plan a smooth transition. And although I am leaving my post at MPact, I also plan to stay connected to the global health and HIV spaces, which are also near and dear to my heart. My last day as MPact’s Executive Director will be Wednesday, September 30th.
Finally, I want to acknowledge my life partner Tri Do. Tri has been my rock and guardian angel. Through the years he has been a thought partner, cheerleader, and staunch MPact supporter in every way. I could not have done my job without Tri. I am looking forward to having more time with him at home, with our family and friends.
In loving solidarity,
Dr. Mohan Sundararaj will be acting as interim Executive Director until the Board has completed its search.