Q&A with Blogger Mark S. King about Awards, HIV Storytelling, and Finding Hope in a Pandemic

As the reigning GLAAD OUTstanding LGBTQ Blog from 2019, it has been my duty to to pass the title and tiara to the 2020 winner, Mark S. King from My Fabulous Disease. While he’s been getting a lot of mileage from his Susan Lucci status as ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ these past years, Mark’s recognition as the first HIV centered blog to win this category is an important moment in LGBTQ history. And he can never utter the name ‘Susan Lucci’ (or Randy Newman?) three times in a row again, because he won two other national awards this year!

You are the first HIV focused blog to take home the GLAAD award. Why is it so important to have that representation on a national level?  We are the veterans of our great tragedy. The story must be told. That said, I know younger queer people have their own challenges. We all have our shit. I just do my best to be the best storyteller I can, to help preserve and lift up that part of our history.

Mark has contributed to THIS blog since 2013 via other Q&A’s and sharing his own essays. So I reached out to him to talk about the award, Heather Hogan, Larry Kramer, blogging history, and so much more. Also, there is no tiara or sash. Just a (nifty) award that we had to pack away to protect it from the foster kittens – ah the lesbian life!) But I have my blog so I asked Mark to do our version of a tiara hand-off and answer some questions.

Mark S. King GLAAD Award
Photo courtesy of Mark S. King

Name: Mark S. King
Pronouns: He/Him

How do you describe your identity? I identify as a gay man.

So. Many. Awards. In one pandemic. Tell us what ya won in 2020 and who awarded you.  Yes, my Imposter Syndrome is in full bloom these days! Last month the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Assoc (NLGJA) named me ‘LGBTQ Journalist of the Year’ and my blog My Fabulous Disease was awarded their Outstanding Blog honors. And then a few weeks ago, the GLAAD Award for the blog happened. I have mixed feelings about winning GLAAD. I sure was getting a ;lot of mileage out of being nominated every year and never winning.

Is it simply a coincidence that this happened during the End-of-Times pandemic and during the Trump Administration?  If your award never has a ceremony, does it make a sound? Yes, it’s weird.

As everyone knows (ahem), I won the GLAAD award in 2019 for this very blog. I was watching a RBG documentary with my partner at home when the announcement was made. I jumped up and down repeating “OMG” She checked her own phone to confirm, jumped up and down with me for a minute, then we just returned to the documentary. Tell us about the moments when you were notified.  I’ll tell you a secret. They told me by email a couple weeks early.  Since the whole thing was going to be a virtual event, they wanted me to record a little video acceptance.  But I promised I jumped up and down and clapped anyway, when I opened the email.

You were a columnist/journalist before you began blogging at  . How do you smoothly move between those two identities?  I don’t have any idea what the difference is!  I used to be syndicated in the community rags, and now my content appears online. The label feels random. I’m a writer. All I know is that I like to make4 my point in about 800 words.

I began blogging in 2005, my background is social work. I was offered a bi-weekly newspaper column in 2018, lost it after 15 months when the publisher took issue with my attitude, and now I’m back to blogging. It’s hard to write a column! Do you remember your first one? I think it must have been about HIV. Probably a column called “When Opposites Attract,” about telling a guy I was seeing that I was positive. It appeared in various papers, and also on TheBody.com, an online HIV site.

Can you hook me up with an outlet for a column?  Not if you want to get paid.  LOL  You know what it’s like out there!

How are blogs relevant in 2020?  We are the first responders!  Bloggers often break news and dig deep. We react fast. We’re knee jerks!

What blogs do you read regularly? Why?  I live in a terribly fortified silo for my news; I subscribe to pages on facebook, like yours and political stuff and nerdy movie pages. My feed on social media are my news curators, and yes, I know how limited that is.

You fuse straight writing with video production for your content. How did you get started in video?  Waaay. My family is very theatrical, shall we say. You should see our home movies from the 60s. Anyway, I was playing with video and editing in the 1980s. I worked at an AIDS agency during the plague years, and every month or so we would close down the office and make a music video or go bowling.

Tell us about your family – your hub, your brothers, the whole clan. My folks had six kids, two of each. A boy and a girl and a gay son, then ten years later another boy, girl, and gay son. I’m the youngest. Since I’m turning 60, we are losing family members and I’m trying to accept. I’m very conscious of the passage of time. Tik tock. My older gay brother is my best friend.

You are the first HIV focused blog to take home the GLAAD award. Why is it so important to have that representation on a national level?  We are the veterans of our great tragedy. The story must be told. That said, I know younger queer people have their own challenges. We all have our shit. I just do my best to be the best storyteller I can, to help preserve and lift up that part of our history.

At the beginning of the pandemic in the US, you wrote a powerful essay decrying equating COVID-19 with HIV. Has your perspective changed since then? Definitely!  LOL  I reserve the right to change my mind. The fact is, tragedy is not a contest, but it is impossible to avoid comparisons. There are definite parallels, mostly around the great humanity and grace we witness during times of challenge and fear.

How is COVID-19 impacting the HIV+ community here and around the world? What is the typical person not reading about in pink media? There’s so much we don’t know. For now, we do not see greater COVID illness or mortality among people living with HIV. We thought for a minute that those of us on antiviral medications might actually fare better — wouldn’t it be a gas if people living with HIV were the last ones standing? — but that hasn’t yet proven to be true, either.

My partner began working from home on March 18, 2020. I was already home. While we are both grateful for the many privileges that buffer us, it’s been a lot of together time in a smallish space and that’s had an impact on our relationship. What advice do you have specifically for queer families struggling with this new normal?  I can’t imagine going through this with someone I didn’t truly love, and a lot of people are coming to that realization, one way or another. God help them! My husband Michael and I are usually on different floors of our townhouse here in Baltimore, so having your own workspace sure helps. Otherwise, try to indulge one another. I let him watch all the Marvel movies he wants, and he looks the other way when I have another piece of cake.

It’s been a year of tremendous loss to COVID-19 and the fallout of the pandemic. At least 26 trans folks murdered by early August. Pittsburgh lost two elders – Buzz Pusateri and Tom Sokolowski, among others. We’ve had six local young LGBTQ deaths here in Pittsburgh since Memorial Day, some died by suicide and others by overdose and others we don’t know. Our community is hurting deeply, already struggling with fewer resources, and under immense attacks from the Trump Administration rescinding so many things. How do we keep moving forward? I am so sorry for these losses, Sue. The fact we’re having murder and hatred in the midst of this pandemic is too much to bear, and yet here we are. Humans are driven to survive and most humans, I like to think, are driven toward justice, Anger and grief aren’t bad motivators, as emotions go. I’m working every day to learn how to be anti-racist and to move the dial for election day. Change starts with us, and those of us who consider ourselves progressive have a lot more to learn than we thought we did. Frankly, I’m putting all my emotional eggs into the election basket. We must prevail. If we do not, I honestly don’t know what the fuck I will do or feel.

Heather Hogan at Autostraddle recently wrote a haunting essay about her bout with COVID-19, the realities of being a newly-disabled long-hauler, and the impact on her self-perception as a soft butch lesbian. These are critical questions about potentially lifelong health conditions with a queer twist. What advice do you have?  I”m sitting here thinking what a great story that is. I’m going to go look it up and read it. We are the chroniclers of our own lives. I wish more people would lean into our queerness and write like that.  (Note: you will find Heather’s essay at Autostraddle.)

Where do queer folks find hope right now? Schitt’s Creek. Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Documentaries like Disclosure and Good Trouble.  There is beauty and hope in art, and in inspiring figures.

One of my blogging projects, a Q&A series called #AMPLIFY, introduced me to a generation of younger mostly gay men who self-identify as the “Nancy Reagan AIDS fear generation” – kids in the 80s, teens and young adults in the 90s who felt that a young death from AIDS specifically was inevitable.  Is that a phenomenon you’ve come across?  Are we heading for another round of “Mother Pence fear generations”?  I totally get that. I’m not sure we’ll see that surge again with HIV, but who knows what other damn thing will come along. I have to say that I am not easily alarmed by young people who are apathetic about HIV. The way I see it, I devoted my early life, worked and fought and cried, so that they could be a little apathetic. I’ll take it.

I’m personally concerned about the preservation of LGBTQ blogs. We have a whole slew who have made to 14, 15, even 17 years of publishing, a critical resource to understand the late 20th and early 21st century. Do you have a plan for your blog content to remain accessible in the future?  Yes. There are two universities that have expressed an interest in archiving My Fabulous Disease; most large institutions have an LGBTQ archival program of some sort. I need to get on that, actually. They could do it now. They just electronically mirror your blog and archive its pages, which are then cross referenced for use by students. It’s like leaving my body to science. My body of work, anyway.

Tell me about your dream interview for your blog.  Gosh, I don’t know! I’ve found that “famous” people don’t necessarily deliver, with the exception of Larry Kramer, who was a great interview. Otherwise, the everyday people doing extraordinary things get me every time. (Note – this essay is particular hilarious about Larry Kramer.)

Tell me whom you secretly wish read your blog regularly.  Elton John. His husband David reads it, and he swears he has read things to Elton over the breakfast table. I don’t dare wish for more.

What is your most popular blog post ever?  Your Mother Liked it Bareback” definitely broke records for a while, but the most consistent pages that keep getting read are “My Sad and Trivial Night with Rock Hudson.” Star fucking is a big draw, but it hurts that younger people don’t know who he was!

The fact we’re having murder and hatred in the midst of this pandemic is too much to bear, and yet here we are.

Beyond the awards, how can LGBTQ orgs, businesses, foundations, and the larger community support bloggers? Quote us. If they can’t become an advertiser, then at least quote us, share links to posts they liked.

I’d like to see the blog winner receive a brand new laptop and tablet courtesy of some tech firm or another and a year’s web hosting/domain registry covered. Or a sash and tiara! Oh lord, please.

Where can readers find you on social media? My home base is MyFabulousDisease.com, but my Twitter is @myfabdisease and my Instagram (mark.s.king)  has lots of great cat pictures. LOL

Thanks for answering this quick Q&A with Mx. OUTstanding Blog 2019. Are you kidding? Thank you for asking, and for being the biggest champion for queer bloggers that we have!

Congratulations to Mark and all the other honorees!

GLAAD Awards

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