Monday, September 18, 2006

AIDS Walk

We always start out charity walks as a speed governor for the good folks behind us. Eventually, they all trickle around our wagons and strollers until our group is left far behind. About the time we’re unable to see another walker (witness ;-)), the kids have had enough and we cut off the loop in the route to cross the finish a good 10 minuets ahead of the rest. This year’s AIDS walk was no different. Mia culpa.

AIDS may not be a “gay disease,” but it sure does hover about gay culture; it’s certainly on the mind of most gay men.

At one point in my life I was near sure I had contracted it… from a kiss. I was as ignorant and paranoid about the disease as most in my cloistered LDS neighborhood. Embarrassingly, I even went in to get tested.

My sexual history could’ve made a puritan pilgrim look like Caligula, but the nurse kindly explained my ignorance without making me feel it. I took the test anyway, and sat in the waiting room feeling like the most desperate creature on earth (what would I tell my parents?). I felt an enormous relief when I was told the obvious. Mia culpa.

I eventually learned better, found my husband, and I, still a virgin on all accounts, was tested again, this time as more of a gift we gave each other than a real concern. We felt no anxiety when we went in for the results. It was just something we thought (and think) couples should do before physical intimacy.

Another admission, then? Regrettably, my take on AIDS in the gay community took a turn for the worse here. I had my falling out with the old culture over a couple things, one of them being sex. Of course, the man of my above mentioned kiss set the tone, and my anger at him certainly spilled over into the lives of others. But that, of course, was not the only sad example I came across of gay kids, gay men damaging themselves for a reckless and quick bit of sex.

I don’t remember when, but at some point, many years ago, I found I had only a frail sympathy for such men (it “helped” that I knew none as friends). I chose a life that made me far less likely to contract any STD than your average heterosexual. Yet, I was told by vitriolic opponents that I spread diseases and should have a “warning label”. Our family dentist, a seemingly kind LDS man and oblivious to my orientation, told my mom the government should cart gays off “to some island and let them die” (not to mention the typical treatment of doctors). I was told I shouldn’t be a parent because my imagined promiscuity would leave orphans.

Just because one group of men and I had one thing in common, I was judged by their actions, and I felt raw about it. My sympathy could easily snap at one wrong word, at any hint, even imagined, at entitlement to help.

I now certainly regret it.

So many things, so many people came together, just right, to keep me from the common harms experienced by gays. But we do all have that common foe, though one that’s been relatively easy on me. I never, say, lost the love of my family, and watched it turn to cruelty. What it does to a person can make sad mistakes all too understandable.

Anyway, I apologize; I was rightly angry but that anger was misplaced by a good long ways. Today, I am honored to attend the various events with so many determined, kindhearted people and I always feel better off for it.

At the very least, I got to answer “Papa, what’s charity?”, yesterday (after a round of questioning aimed to figure out why we were walking with all these strangers). You never know how much sinks in, but, when I summed up and asked if they understood, our boys gave a convincing “yes”.

I got my money’s worth.

I just hope my (what’s a good euphemism for them both?)… “oversimplification of paths” is forgiven.

3 comments:

-L- said...

Cancer walks, diabetes walks, AIDS walks,... it's wonderful to see the ways people do what they can for a cure.

Congrats on teaching your boys an important lesson in civic responsibility. AIDS has an amazing history in this country, but thankfully a lot of progress has been made thanks to the collective efforts of folks like you.

Scot said...

L, I fear I didn’t sufficiently emphasize my rocky past in this area. It would be a sham for me to accept any thanks for gains made for AIDS patients. Today, we give what we feel appropriate in light of all the other charities in our lives, but we’ve only attended AIDS charitable events for the last 5 years.

But, yeah. I was happy to at least give our kids an idea that we were doing something for someone else, for a stranger… before we hurried off to their soccer game. I'm glad they’re too young to have understood the map :-).

-L- said...

You didn't know then what we know now about AIDS. It's just a part of life to learn and move on. Don't beat yourself up about it, I think it's great that you're involved in that small way now and that you are teaching your kids the same.