The Fatal Effects of a False Perception

Is there still a perception that sex with another man is a smoldering gun or have we grown beyond that?  Today is world AIDS Days and being a gay man who has lived and loved his entire adult live throughout the epidemic, it has had the greatest impact on my sexual life.  I first came out and began exploring my sexuality before anyone ever heard the words HIV or AIDS.  We thought living in a rural area like Montana we were pretty much immune from it hitting us here and that we were safe.  But looking back over the years and seeing that most of the members of the community I first grew up in, were lost somehow during the course of it’s rampage.  People began to just disappear, into a seemingly shameful, unspoken oblivion, from which they never returned, no information or details available. I remember how sex suddenly become a danger zone that no one was talking about and something everyone just tip-toed around.  Much of the community was still having sex, yet denying there was much danger in it.  Heck, even the government wasn´t acknowledging that it was a national crisis until it got completely out of control.  The Regan Administration never uttered a word for months and months even with the fact that thousands of people were dying in the major metropolitan areas like New York or San Francisco.  It was not until Clinton’s Administration in the 90’s when a young kid named Ryan White who had been infected by a blood transfusion  went to the White House and the then passed the Ryan White Act, that it became a clear message that it was not just a gay virus and awareness and prevention needed to be supported.  I remember it was a very bitter time in our community and we became consumed with remorse and resentment.

Would we have heeded the warnings earlier if we had known?  Would it have changed our behaviors?  It’s still hard to tell, we as a culture had just gained our sexual liberation.  With all the awareness today do people still heed the warnings?  I am still not sure anymore.  It almost feels like the pervasive attitude, especially since the anti-viral drugs have came out to make the virus more manageable, that it doesn’t seem to still be a threat.  It seems the rates of infection are still rising.

I became an advocate early on and spent a great part of my life involved in the political shadow of its wake.  While I was a student at the University, I produced and directed a film for the University that became a campaign across campus.  I became a member of the Governor’s Advisory team, and a member of all the regional, state and community based groups and organizations to promote its awareness and several years ago was given a Governor’s Award in recognition for the work I had given over the years.  In the beginning I became consumed by my efforts and in the end it consumed me and I was bitten by the community accusing me of conflict of interest by having my hand in too many pieces of the pie.  And eventually I was back stabbed and ridiculed by the very community I was trying to support.  For my own sanity, I had to eventually walk away to regain my life, and now use my energy to reach out to those most in need or struggling.  Throughout my life AIDS has been a painful road to wander as a gay man.  There is still a lot of fear, doubt and anxiety that surrounds it.  After all these years it still remains hidden and unmentionable, at least in Montana.  Though the leaders of the past who remember the struggle are fading, who is present to still sound the alarm?  It remains one of the areas that still divides our community and I know the organization who receives the funding to support the community as leaders and who should be the ones looked to and trusted have been the ones through gossip and the release of supposedly confidential information to hurt the community the most, especially those infected.  There is no longer a trust or respect as dignity has been compromised and a devastating shock wave has rippled through our small peaceful community, creating more internalized discrimination and fear than education and or awareness.  People are even more afraid then every to be tested and a fear we all felt in the beginning still exists, maybe even more so, 20 years later.

I am an artist and I still support my community however I can but it is all still a painful reminder that haunts the very core of my existence.

7 thoughts on “The Fatal Effects of a False Perception

  1. Sam Maloney

    It’s hard to even know who to contribute money to, these days– I’m aware of a couple ‘AIDs educators’ who engage in very unsafe practices on a regular basis, and aren’t exactly ethical in their administration of donations.

    It’s like no one is taking the disease seriously anymore.

  2. abraca20

    I think that in order to make any progress at all we will need to set aside judgement. So what if someone knows someone who’s engaged in unsafe practices, so what if there’s been fear, ignorance, and backstabbing. As long as we continue to dwell in the emotional storms of the past or freeze in fear of the ones that might come in the future we get nowhere. Finger pointing IS fear mongering. The answer is compassion, and it is not reserved for just some, but everyone.

  3. Terry J Cyr Post author

    I too believe there is great truth in setting aside judgment, of becoming compassionate, but there is a line when compassion has been compromised by the petty “so what” of mindless gossip and petty revelation of other peoples personal matters, especially when they are at their most vulnerable. It is unpardonable when someone puts their trust in the hands of someone who they believe will protect their confidential information whom then willingly and knowingly broadcast it to others. It moves beyond petty “so what” when it devastates, harms or destroys others lives. It breeds an anxiety that threatens the very fiber of our culture as that compassion you speak of, that should unite us, becomes the very thing that erodes the very essence of our humanity. This is not something that should be shrugged off or dismissed so lightly. It is the gravest infraction of everyone’s trust. The so called “finger pointing” here only becomes fear mongering to those who know they are guilty of violating that sacred trust and knowingly harmed others.

  4. abraca20

    Terry, I don’t wish to upset you, only love. It pains me to see any person suffering and I hope for you as much love as this universe has to offer. In order to receive it we must all remain diligently open to it.

    What kind of compassion “draws lines”?
    When does compassion consider one’s actions “unpardonable”?

    True compassion can only be found when you give up the false notion that one person is any different, in essence, than another. We are all one. Those that you would say are “petty” and “destroyers” have probably never felt compassion. Fear mongering directed at even some is actually fear mongering for all, we are all connected.

    “Who provides the opportunity to cultivate patience? Not our friends. Our enemies give us the most crucial chances to grow.” -Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

  5. glennberglund

    The irony may elude abraca20, but it i not lost on me. For abraca20 to point a finger at Terry for pointing fingers is at the very least bizarre. And for abraca20 to pass judgement on Terry for making judgements is also a bit odd. And last but not least, abraca20 accusing Terry of “fear mongering” sounds a little like, well, fear mongering. Perhaps abraca20 can address Terry’s points instead of making personal attacks. Oops. What that out loud? Sounded like a personal attack.

    If I read Terry’s blogpost correctly, he knows of vulnerable people who are looking for help in a very troubling part of their life and are being betrayed by the very people they turn to. And no one is supposed to say anything about it? “Can’t we all just get along” comes the reply? If someone is really doing as Terry suggests, I want those people ratted out, replace, and their funding stripped. I’m sure there are capable, truly compassionate people out there who really want to help.

    I find it interesting that Terry gave up years ago for being ridiculed, and here comes abraca20 trying it again. Somehow I don’t think Terry can be so easily intimidated this time.

    I Also find it interesting that abraca20 throws stones from the dark. Terry’s life is here for all to see. My name is attached to my post. Sam Maloney put his name to his comment. But not abraca20. Hmmm.

  6. abraca20

    I did not wish for my comments to be understood as a personal attack, or ridicule. I will not deny that the original article and comments thereafter did stir up strong emotion in me however. I could have sent a personal email if I wished to more gently reach Terry, but I feel the nature of his blog is to invite public comment, an invitation to dig for deeper truths. I understand how the use of quotes in my responses could easily lead to the interpretation of a personal attack; but I wanted to draw attention to specific details. Implying corruption without concrete facts harbors fear. I have no idea what the scandals are Terry speaks of from the words in his blog (or in real life), only that they have hurt him in the past and are still here ruining the lives of the people in the present. What option am I given besides fear?

    What is the scandal exactly? What people does it involve? Who is the finger being pointed at?

    One of the most beautiful and terrifying things about the internet is anonymity, it can be used for good or bad. My use of it here is, you are correct, to protect my identity and thus my future. Backlash in the real world “really” hurts. I am certainly not wrong or outside my rights for protecting my identity. Truly one of the greatest things about permitted anonymity is that it allows and invites more objective evaluation. I admit to and sincerely apologize for the sometimes biting tone of my words, but the words themselves I believe direct, largely objective, and completely true.

    A large reason Terry initiated this blog was to come to a deeper understanding of himself. He invites and welcomes us to point the finger at him, with him. Am I a better friend to say nothing when I see what I view as fear being spread? I commend Terry for his bravery and hope for his resilience, few would have an enemy over for dinner. And if enemy is the name I would be given I would challenge you to understand that only you can assign it.

    “Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.” -The Buddha

  7. Terry J Cyr Post author

    Thank you and I respect your anonymity, you have just Illustrated my point brilliantly while others have not been afforded this same consideration or respect, without choice with whom they wish to share that private information! Your dialogue is greatly appreciated.

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