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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Catching Up

I have been busy ! Or that's what it feels like anyway with two part-time jobs on the go - I  keep trying to find time to write stuff in here, keep trying to catch the ideas as they appear, but then something else comes up and I lose the thread and well, you know ...

But hey, it's my blog and if I write it every day or once a month is really up to me - though I do get little feelings of guilt at times when I leave it too long, like a pot-plant I've neglected to water.

I gave my annual guest lecture on AIDS and me a few weeks, called "Living My Death" - I do it in for a paper here at the University of Auckland called "The Sociology of Death & Dying", taught by the wonderful Dr Tracey Mcintosh.

I get to weave my own life story through an academic exploration of theories of death, gay social history and AIDS - it is something I really enjoy, but also find quite tiring, and it's also very revealing in many ways - personal narratives have to be to work I guess. And I get to talk about sex and death a lot. But it was good. And I enjoy getting a solid round of applause at the end of a lecture - that doesn't happen all that often.

I try to situate the lecture in the context of gay history of the last 50 years or so, because I think you need to know aspects of our culture to understand what happened, anyway, after the lecture was over, a young gay guy, mid 20s or so, came up to me and we had a conversation something like this.

"I don't understand - you mean the police used to come into gay bars and be able to arrest people just because they were gay?"
 "Sometimes, or if they didn't arrest people they could drag us all out on the street and ask to check ID but yeah, the cops could and did just walk in and hassle gay bars and the people in them."
"But I just don't understand why they'd do it?"
"We were illegal, it was easy work for lazy cops, and no-one really cared that much."
"Arresting people just because they're queer? It makes no sense!"

He was right - it makes no sense, not today - back then it did.

Shame permeated our world in those days - I'm lucky enough to have only caught the tail end of it, I was able to come out in a time of change, when Gay Liberation and Gay Pride were working to being about the changes young queers like this student now thankfully are able to take for granted.

But he was born in 1986 he told me, the year that we became legal in New Zealand. I felt kinda old when he told me that ...

I got to meet the people running the new Pride Festival here in Auckland, hearing their side of the "One Community" idea. Now I gather it's going to be "One community, many cultures" an improvement I guess.

It was good to hear their point of view. In my last blog I talked about how I just can't see us as being "One Community", which they'd put up as one of their central themes, for the parade at least. Now they've moved on to "One Community, Many Cultures" which is much better. I'd argue it's still not all that accurate and sounds more like PR puffery than anything else but hey, I'm a sociologist by training, I've written and taught about "Gay Auckland" so yeah, I have an opinion. In fact I did my other standing guest lecture on "Gay Auckland" a few weeks ago. But I appreciated the chance to talk with them, and I'm really glad they've taken all the hard work on.

My fears that it will be a nice family-friendly-don't-upset-the-straights parade remain, but hey, I'm very open to being proved wrong.

Part of my new job involves updating and creating resources for services that might have queer clients. I've been updating an old contact list, counselling services, community support etc. It gives an interesting little snapshot of where things were in 2001.

We had a Pride Centre back then - based in where Rainbow Youth is today. I think that was the second Pride Centre we've had, wasn't there on before that in town, around Federal Street? Maybe this third attempt will last longer. Perhaps not signing a lease might help - just rent space as and when.

There were two specific community support services linked to  the AIDS Foundation, one for Maori, and one  for Pasifika people. Both gone now.

And we had Gayline/Lesbianline instead of OUTline. Given all the rumours of crisis (  a clusterfuck of idiocy and poor Board leadership or just "normal organisational change"seem to be the two main stories, depending who you talk to) flying around about OUTline at the moment  you have to wonder if that will be on the list in 10 years time too. I hope so, it's a service we really need. I really hope their Board can keep it all going.

And it's election time for the NZAF Board of Trustees. Ah, happy memories. I did enjoy my term on that Board a lot. I met some great people and it was really fascinating seeing how an NGO like that operates. Great to see such a talented group of people applying.

And I'm another year older - 51! Seeing I was told by a Dr in London in 1988 that I'd most likely be dead in 2 years, I'm quite happy about that.


Mike said...

This reminds me - especially the "but ... they what?" conversation - almost verbatim of conversations I've had recently here. So many people seem floored by the idea that at one point X happened. I'm often left thinking... "Well, it's not about whether or not it makes sense to you it's about whether or not it happened..." Which seems to be a harder lesson sometimes.

Because none of it made sense then, but we accepted a lot of it as written. Which, awesome to see the change.

As usual, awesome entry. ;)

stormandphoenix said...

Hi Mike, I have been following your blog for a long time and this is the first time I am leaving a comment after reading an article. Mike, I don't know anyone who is HIV+ outside of the internet world and I am really needing some support. One of my best friends has just found out that he is HIV+ and is going through a very hard time right right. How can I do my best to support him? What negative effects can he expect? How did you manage to live such a healthy life when a doctor told you that you only had 2 years to live? I have just realised how uneducated I am in terms of HIV, is there a support group that I can contact for more information? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Michael Stevens said...

Hi Storm - I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Are you in NZ? Because Body Positive exists here and can give your friend support

It is run by HIV+ people for HIV+ people.

You could also try the NZ AIDS Foundation - they have support and free counselling for anyone infected or affected, so they can offer you support as well.

Otherwise I think it's just a matter of being a good friend, listening, being there.

I didn't lead a particularly heathy life, I was just very lucky that I was able to hang on till the new medications came around - they make all the difference. Without western medicine I'd be dead. So I hope you're friend is getting good medical support.
Happy to talk more about this whenevever you want.

stormandphoenix said...

Thanks Mike, I will contact Body Positive. Only a few of us know his HIV status and we intend to keep this information between us. It is going to be a whole new different world for all of us but I am sure he will make it through.

Thanks again for your advice.

Michael Stevens said...

Don't forget the AIDS Foundation offers free counselling to people like you, who are friends and family, so that could be useful if you want some support yourself.

Living with hiv really is nothing like what it used to be. The physical and medical side of it is really well managed now, but dealing with the guilt and stigma that typically happens when you are diagnosed is the hard thing I think.

I think he's wise not telling people at the moment.

But it's not a death sentence, it's not the end for him, I hope he will be able to see that.