Queerty contributor Mark S. King has curated a Pride Month art exhibit, Proud to be Positive.
Living with HIV is nothing to be ashamed of. Most of us know that by now. But why is it something to be proud of?
After more than thirty years living with HIV, I know the answer. I am proud of what it represents to me: the empathy for others my diagnosis heightened, the constant attention to my physical health and emotional well-being, and the decades spent taking part in a movement of ferocious and committed advocates for a cause.
Proud to be Positive explores the identity of those of us with HIV, and asks if we might feel pride about this fundamental trait.
Here are selected works of art from the gallery…
Untitled , c. 1993-96, Nelson Rodriguez
silver gelatin print, 8×10, (Courtesy of the Estate of Nelson Edwin Rodriguez)
The subject of Greg Mitchell’s Self-Enforced Disclosure has branded himself with his POZ status. It feels unlikely he did so to degrade himself. His in-your-face disclosure might be simple provocation… or it might be pride. Can we not only come to terms with our status but embody it fully, seeing our lives as worthy of admiration, deserving of dignity?
We must reject the stigma that labels people with HIV as predatory, irresponsible, and lacking in self-respect. Being proud of all that we are is hardly the same as wishing it on others.
There is joy to be found in our lives with HIV, as several artists have documented, and the whimsical nature of Jonathan Leiter’s AbPoz (Homage to JG) goes even further, reducing the weighty “+” symbol to a harmless watercolor design suitable for papering a child’s nursery.
So, joy is allowed us, as are labels like “courageous” and “heroic.” HIV positive activists have long been admired for our fortitude, or for just having survived. (Peter Staley – 5 Color Print, 2007, George Towne)
We have even been sexualized – the greatest social cache available to gay men. But feeling pride, not in our response to HIV but in our very being with HIV, crosses into threatening territory. (Vinnie, 2002, Peter Wyman)
The reason is in the blood, of course. How can people with HIV, biohazards that we are, be trusted to keep it to ourselves? (MasterEmbrace, by Charles Hopkinson)
This is Pride Month, a time when the LGBT community will claim and honor a fundamental part of ourselves about which we once felt ashamed. It is worth considering whether or not people with HIV feel worthy, or are even allowed, to do the same.
Visit Visual AIDS to view the entire gallery.