LGBTQ&A: Mark King Stands Up to HIV Stigma

An occasional series where we pose some questions to local LGBTQ folks (and Allies) to learn more about their personal experiences with LGBTQ culture. Click here for a complete list of all LGBTQ&A profiles.  During Pride 2013, we are trying to feature someone each day.

Mark is another person that I met online – we are part of an email list and I’ve read his blog. He’s not from Pittsburgh, but I took a shot that he has a Pgh connection – he shot the video for Jerome Bettis’ PSA on asthma – and voila! I really like Mark’s sense of humor and find his writing an approachable way to learn about HIV, AIDS and the social and political issues impacting LGBTQ folks. Approachable in the sense that he’s a strong writer, but he doesn’t pull punches because – after all – peoples’ lives are on the line. (His response about the 1970’s television show “Family” pretty much cemented his place in my heart!)

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Name: Mark S. King

Affiliation: Blogger, MyFabulousDisease.com

Tell us about the very first LGBTQ person you met and what that meant for you. When I was in my early teens I got involved in community theater, mostly to seek out the company of men I identified as gay, whatever that was. They fascinated me because they were outgoing and fearless and I certainly was not. I was so afraid of my blossoming sexuality.

How do you stay informed on LGBTQ issues? Mostly from social media, and following bloggers that I trust and enjoy.

What is the most important issue facing the LGBTQ community today? I am particularly concerned with HIV stigma and what it is doing to our gay male community, separating everyone into factions — poz and neg, longtime survivors and newly infected, etc., and the blame game that often accompanies it. HIV criminalization — people being prosecuted for not disclosing even if they used protection and did not infect anyone — is the most severe form of stigma. What happened to personal responsibility?

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? Our reliance on bars to find community, when there are so many great organizations and social groups to join. The sad fact that alcoholism and addiction are so prevelant among us.

Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, film or literature? I remember watching an episode of Family, a show that was on 40 years ago maybe, and there was a gay character on it an my parents and I just sat there, frozen, as we watched it. We didn’t know how to respond. But thank God for that episode because it told me I wasn’t alone.

What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community? Come out. Speak your truth. Don’t allow HIV to creep back into the closet. Talk about HIV testing. Get tested.

Check out Mark’s blog – My Fabulous Disease and follow him on Twitter @MyFabDisease

 

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