Producer and Callen-Lorde Donor
I was comfortable with myself from an early age. My friends joke that at birth I turned to the doctor and gave him a wink. My childhood was far from easy though. My Mom died suddenly the day after my fifth birthday, leaving my Dad to raise three young boys, one of whom he didn’t know what to do with. He had very specific ideas of what a man should be. He made it clear he didn’t like “gays,” and didn’t want “gay” in his house. So, I went to school, did well, and got accepted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. I was confident, and ready to live my life in the theater.
This was in the early 1990s, at the height of the epidemic. I was scared of everything ─ especially sex. But then I fell in love. I was 21, and completely swept off my feet. He was exciting. He made me feel special. He was HIV positive.
Once during sex, the condom slipped. I was frightened. He took me to a clinic for testing. The staff was tender. All of my questions were answered, and not once did I feel judged or uncomfortable. This was my introduction to Callen-Lorde.
After I tested negative, he broke up with me. It was the turning point in our relationship. I was devastated, and confused. It would be years before I realized why.
One day, out of the blue, he called me and insisted I come to a dinner he was hosting. There would be “friends and family,” he said. When I arrived I realized it was a going away party. He wasn’t going away to another city, or another job, but leaving his life. He died a week later.
I think back to how important Callen-Lorde was to me when I was a young, scared gay man who would come to loose countless friends ─ and a love ─ to AIDS. In the midst of the chaos of those years, the support and hope that Callen-Lorde provided was constant. They took care of me and made me feel safe. They made a difference.
Recently a dear friend was diagnosed with HIV. He was terrified, and didn’t know where to go. I brought him to Callen-Lorde. He says Callen Lorde saved his life. And I say they saved mine.