Monday, March 27, 2017

Fuck You & Your HIV Stigma

"For a long time I hid my HIV status unless I knew that I will be sexually active and had always felt that it was no one's business. I walked right out of that closet, but I did not come out for me alone. I came for everyone who has been ostracized and made to feel nasty. We are not fucking nasty! We are not contagious! I realized I hid this part of myself for YOUR comfort, for the random sessions of pseudo-intimacy or even for the goal of true romance. I can no longer sacrifice my sanity and unapologetic nature for the sake of being able to date, for sex or even true intimacy..." - APW

Fuck You & Your HIV Stigma

Fuck you and I mean it, we have had decades to understand that HIV the virus that causes AIDS has been under control for some time now. YET, we still find a way to be willfully ignorant and inhumane towards those living with HIV and AIDS. I write this wondering if the stigma a lot of you push was institutional and systemic, or if yall are just naturally assholes.  It was in 1991 at 7 years old, that I first heard about HIV when Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive.

Before I continue, when I say institutional and systemic, I am speaking of government and community organizations like churches. I am sure that many Black folks were affected by the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. But, it wasn't until Magic Johnson held that press conference on November 7, 1991 and made a public announcement that he would retire immediately, HIV/AIDS was a very white and gay thing. The stigma that HIV/AIDS was a gay white disease completely overshadowed the catastrophic effects on the heterosexual community and the Black community as a whole.  At that time, it was said that a small percentage of HIV positive men had contracted it from heterosexual sex. With that percentage being so low (probably inaccurate reporting) Johnson was accused of being gay or bisexual, stigma...

"why do you even tell people?" - Random Idiot

It seems like people knew more about it back then as opposed to now. why is that? Even with all of this science, all of these organizations and educational materials out there it seems that we have come to a very dangerous pause. I am not referring to PrEP or raw sex, I am talking about the lack of outreach in the Black community. There are literally college students who are taking basic biology as a required course and cannot grasp HIV and how it works.  Does this make me an outlier? Or was it because I had better access? One thing is for sure, ONE THING...shit like this should not even be a thing, stigma...

"I see how dangerous you are when I read posts on social media and hear conversations that are centered on the subject of HIV, the stigma you all perpetuate is so fucking blatant. When you say shit like, "they are out sleeping with everyone and not disclosing their status" in such a general way, it stigmatizes us all." - APW

The first time I fully understood what HIV was, it was the fall of 1993.  I was around 8 or 9 years old and one day I caught a bug and I had to stay home from school. There was a soap opera on that I had been watching and It cut to a scene that made me ask a lot of questions to myself. It was a scene of a Straight white man laying in bed with family beside him as he spoke his last words. The cause of death was complications from AIDS, that weren't fully explored. Around this same time there was a Back girl group on the rise that went by the name of TLC, they wore condoms on their outfits in their music videos and it didn't hurt that they made some good ass music. Yes, the concept of safe sex existed back then. So what the hell happened?!

The whole idea that safe sex was as thing back then baffles the hell out of me now. It baffles me because depictions of Black folks dying from AIDS or living with HIV was kept to minimum. It baffles me because one of my favorite rappers Eazy E was diagnosed with AIDS. He announced his illness in a public statement on March 16, 1995 and 10 days later on March 26 died from complications of AIDS. Eazy was 30 years old at the time and not long after his death, that summer of 1995, TLC released a song and music video called Waterfalls that tackled violence and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While the storyline with the Black man resonated with me, the scene with the white, straight couple spoke to me more. The woman convinced her partner not to use a condom and the next scene is him staring into the mirror and sees that he has an early symptom of AIDS visible on his face, in the form of Kaposi's Sarcoma. What frightened me is the small photo frame on the dresser showing or flashing images of all the people she had sex with. In the final scene with the couple, the man's face eerily faded from the picture as the woman was sitting alone on the bed. Then finally,  she fades away, inferring that they both died from AIDS...

The lyrics have always haunted me like an omen, my 10 year old self was scared shitless:

Don't go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to
I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you're moving too fast
[Verse 2]
Little precious has a natural obsession for temptation
But he just can't see
She gives him loving that his body can't handle
But all he can say is, "Baby it's good to me"
One day he goes and take a glimpse in the mirror
But he doesn't recognize his own face
His health is fading and he doesn't know why
Three letters took him to his final resting place
Y'all, don't hear me
Don't go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to
I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you're moving too fast

While I accept the message that TLC put out there, in hindsight the representation of the Black man selling drugs and the depiction that promiscuity among women (and men) may have sent the wrong message to some. Looking at how people react to HIV in the present day, we have work to do! Because of stigma and misinformation we have lost great and talented people. Instead of lifting each other up, we have sought to demolish each other with slander, rumors, and even exposure. Take for example, a group that recently popped up for Black gay men on facebook. In a matter of days the group had over 20k members and in that short time it was full of HIV stigma until the admins removed the posts. I quietly joined the group and got some screenshots as this took place (here are a couple of the nice ones):

"I REFUSE to be your secret, whether you are POZ or not, we are in the eye of a storm and I am an activist with a very public life. we need to address this fear, this stigma about HIV that YOU, my fellow black gay men have. We need to have a real conversation about how this really works and how we hurt each other in the process."

To be honest, when dealing with HIV outside and within the Black community, stigma has a stronghold. The lack of HIV 101 plays a large part in why stigma is such a huge issue, it is saddening. It is one of the reasons that came out of the HIV closet, which was for everyone who has been ostracized and made to feel nasty.  While many of us who have HIV are healthier than most out in the general population, Black gay men die at a higher rate from HIV than those who are in the group where HIV infection is actually the highest. Now think about how the Black heterosexual community is affected, especially Black women. People living with HIV are not nasty people, we are not contagious, we are doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers! Yes, we are HIV positive and we live a healthy life, We are human beings and we exist. The data showing how HIV affects the Black community is staggering. So fuck you and your stigma.

HIV - stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

AIDS - HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS.

TRANSMISSION - Only certain fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur. Mucous membranes can be found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by

Having sex with someone who has HIV. In general:
- Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex (bottoming) is riskier than insertive anal sex (topping).
- Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
- Having multiple sex partners or having other sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of infection through sex.
Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.


- Seroconversion is the period of time during which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable.
- Seroconversion generally takes place within a few weeks of initial infection.
- It is often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are not a reliable way to identify seroconversion or to diagnose HIV infection.

My name is Ashton P. Woods
I am HIV positive.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#CABQ: Why Have We Turned Our Backs On Our Trans Family?

The Chronicles Of An Angry Black Queer

It should be noted that I am writing from my perspective, which is that of a Black, masculine presenting gay man who happens to be an Atheist. I will be writing about my thoughts and experiences as an activist, human and life in general. These posts will not be academic or even properly written in some of your opinions.

Transgender - An umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate). Not all people who consider themselves (or who may be considered by others as) transgender will undergo a gender transition.

Entry #9: Why Have We Turned Our Backs On Our Trans Family?

"If you want to learn about trans women and our lives, how about doing the simple thing of actually talking to a trans person, reading our books, inviting us to speak (and paying us fairly to do so) on college campuses and having us do the media interviews to talk about our lives." - TransGriot

First, let me start by stating that I honor the memories of Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, Jaquarrius Holland and so many other Trans siblings who have fallen to violence. Their lives were taken within days of each other and while these tragedies occurred, states like Texas are looking to institutionalize Transphobia. The women mentioned earlier are Black and it should be alarming to all of you that the state and the community are working hand in hand to sanction violence toward people who only wish to be respected in their existence. The fight for Trans lives is and should be included on every level of activism, the Black Lives Matter movement, feminist and other movements in an intersectional way. In wake of all that has happened, a popular feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie demonstrated how Trans exclusionary we can be in the activist and Black community at large...

Then she released a problematic statement in response to the backlash:


Because I have been the subject of much hostility for standing up for LGBTQ rights in Nigeria, I found myself being very defensive at being labeled 'transphobic.' My first thought was – how could anyone think that?

I didn't like that version of myself. It felt like a white person saying 'I'm not racist, I supported civil rights.'

Because the truth is that I do think one can be trans phobic while generally supporting LGBTQ rights.

And so I want to put my defensiveness aside and clarify my thoughts. To make sure that I am fully understood.

I said, in an interview, that trans women are trans women, that they are people who, having been born male, benefited from the privileges that the world affords men, and that we should not say that the experience of women born female is the same as the experience of trans women.

This upset many people, and I consider their concerns to be valid. I realize that I occupy this strange position of being a ‘voice’ for gender rights and so there is an automatic import to my words.

I think the impulse to say that trans women are women just like women born female are women comes from a need to make trans issues mainstream. Because by making them mainstream, we might reduce the many oppressions they experience.

But it feels disingenuous to me. The intent is a good one but the strategy feels untrue. Diversity does not have to mean division.

Because we can oppose violence against trans women while also acknowledging differences. Because we should be able to acknowledge differences while also being supportive. Because we do not have to insist, in the name of being supportive, that everything is the same. Because we run the risk of reducing gender to a single, essentialist thing.

Perhaps I should have said trans women are trans women and cis women are cis women and all are women. Except that 'cis' is not an organic part of my vocabulary. And would probably not be understood by a majority of people. Because saying ‘trans’ and ‘cis’ acknowledges that there is a distinction between women born female and women who transition, without elevating one or the other, which was my point.

I have and will continue to stand up for the rights of transgender people. Not merely because of the violence they experience but because they are equal human beings deserving to be what they are.

I see how my saying that we should not conflate the gender experiences of trans women with that of women born female could appear as if I was suggesting that one experience is more important than the other. Or that the experiences of trans women are less valid than those of women born female. I do not think so at all – I know that trans women can be vulnerable in ways that women born female are not. This, again, is a reason to not deny the differences.

Why does this even matter?

Because at issue is gender.

Gender is a problem not because of how we look or how we identify or how we feel but because of how the world treats us.

Girls are socialized in ways that are harmful to their sense of self – to reduce themselves, to cater to the egos of men, to think of their bodies as repositories of shame. As adult women, many struggle to overcome, to unlearn, much of that social conditioning.

A trans woman is a person born male and a person who, before transitioning, was treated as male by the world. Which means that they experienced the privileges that the world accords men. This does not dismiss the pain of gender confusion or the difficult complexities of how they felt living in bodies not their own.

Because the truth about societal privilege is that it isn't about how you feel. (Anti-racist white people still benefit from race privilege in the United States). It is about how the world treats you, about the subtle and not so subtle things that you internalize and absorb.

This is not to say that trans women did not undergo difficulties as boys. But they did not undergo those particular difficulties specific to being born female, and this matters because those experiences shape how adult women born female interact with the world.

And because to be human is to be a complex amalgam of your experiences, it is disingenuous to say that their being born male has no effect on their experience of gender as trans women.

Of course there are individual differences. But there are always individual differences. We speak of ‘women’s issues’ knowing that while there are individual differences, the truth of human history is that women as a group have been treated as subordinate to men. And we speak of male privilege acknowledging that individual men differ but that men as a group are nevertheless accorded privileges by the world.

I think of feminism as Feminisms. Race and class shape our experience of gender. Sexuality shapes our experience of gender. And so when I say that I think trans women are trans women, it is not to diminish or exclude trans women but to say that we cannot insist – no matter how good our intentions – that they are the same as women born female.

Nor do I think that we need to insist that both are the same.

To acknowledge different experiences is to start to move towards more fluid – and therefore more honest and true to the real world – conceptions of gender."
 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

These comments were misinformed, ignorant and bigoted in my my opinion. YOU do not have to agree with a person transitioning their Gender Identity, but please stop mixing SEX and GENDER!

Refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs.
Describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine.
Gender identity:
A person's private sense and subjective experience of their own gender. This is generally described as one's private sense of being a man or a woman, consisting primarily of the acceptance of membership into a category of people: male or female.
Gender expression

I would advise many of you without a clue to get one and fast, you may think your opinions are from a good place, but this shit is endangering our Trans family. Especially Black Trans folks who just want to live and be themselves, who have to hear and read this vitriol, and get killed by people who are emboldened by this vile anti Trans language.

"We pull back, bind down and put on this persona, only to be knocked down. We are used for our talents and bright personality, but overlooked for promotions. Any transgender woman who wants to make an honest living, wakes up every morning and is forced to transition back into a male presentation. For years, I believed I was doing the right thing by tying my natural hair back, and binding my chest down. Believing that hard work and a great personality would open doors to advancements, and let me just say that I’ve seen my share of people cutting me in line and/or doors slammed in my face when it comes to opportunities. Recently, I was told the only way I would receive any type of promotion would be if I cut all of my hair off, appear more masculine and traditional. Assuming something and finally hearing it are two different things and I  don’t care how strong of a person you are, you’re never prepared for discrimination. It made me second guess my transition and even allowed thoughts of giving up my happiness, but I remember there will be another woman like me and it’s my duty to help pave the way for her just like it was done for me. This is only the beginning of my fight to end discrimination against Trans women in the workplace so that the next generation will be one step closer." - Lola Mo'na

Please stop misgendering folks in a jacked up attempt to perpetuate the lie that Trans folks are out to deceive Cisgender men and women and get into relationships based on lies. While many of you want to believe that bullshit, please know that Trans men and women don't do shady things like that and its just a few bad apples. Learn to think for yourselves and use non anecdotal sources to read up on people who are different and don't fit into what your socially constructed norms are. Trans folks can speak for themselves...

Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting some great people who just so happened to be Transgender. Chyna was one of them, I came out early and during that period in my life Chyna was one of the many people I crossed paths with and now she's gone. During part of that time, I was homeless and witness the hate first hand that Trans women would encounter on the street. Many did not trick themselves out for money as you would assume, while some did, it was about surviving. So when people say things like what Chimamanda said, and others spout hate about people who experience misogyny, patriarchy and etc it fucks with me. Again Trans folks can speak for themselves, Get em Raquel (one of my favorite people)...

It is the Black Trans folk who come to our aid, my aid. There was a that time I was nearly raped on the first of many nights having to sleep out in the streets. A man held a knife to me in order to force me into having sex with him until I saw this tall statuesque woman come up from behind to take the man down. She told him "Don't mess with this baby..." and she literally took the knife out of his hand and sent him away bloody. Honestly, it was all a blur, but she saved my life and I never knew her name, she saved my life. She was in transition and she let it be known during a short conversation over food that she bought me after convincing me to go and eat at Clover Grill. Life has a way of putting people in your presence in order for you to truly understand the nature of being human and what comes with it. I guess, I never tried to understand what it meant to be Trans-Masculine or Trans-Feminine, only that people are people, PERIOD.

When will we stop being so Transphobic and disrespectful to our Brothers and sisters?

The first thing that we must understand is not how and why a person decided to transition, but how we can help our brothers and sisters in that transition and respecting it. We can't continue to sexualize Trans persons out of curiosity of what their genitalia may or may not look like!

Can we come to agreement that we should try to respect and understand others' choices to transition without stereotyping, demeaning and attack our Trans brothers and Sisters?

For those of you SGL/LGB Cis folks in the community negating, demeaning and attacking Trans folks, just remember that Marsha P Johnson, a BLACK TRANSWOMAN kicked of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. So no, it isn't a Trans supremacy movement...

It is a movement that includes all of us and now is the time for us to use our privilege to help the "T" in SGL-BT/LGBT and understand that it doesn't take away from our main struggles and only serves to benefit all.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jeff Sessions Takes Pro - Police Stance & Targets Black Lives Matter Movement

“We’ve also heard from law enforcement leaders, including the FBI Director and many police chiefs, that something is changing in policing. They tell us that in this age of viral videos and targeted killings of police, many of our men and women in law enforcement are becoming more cautious. They’re more reluctant to get out of their squad cars and do the hard but necessary work of up-close policing that builds trust and prevents violent crime.”

- Jeff Sessions (DOJ)

Police Brutality, Accountability & Crime Rates

"I've done that as united states attorney to prosecute police officers who do wrong, but we need so far as we can in my view, helpful police departments. Get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I'm afraid we've done some of that."

On Tuesday Attorney General Jeff Session made clear that he wants less police accountability and wishes return to the days of law enforcement that decimated the Black community. He talked about how our actions to get justice those who have fallen prey to the violent hand of racist, rogue cops. He makes his feels that "we undermine the respect for our police. And made often times their job more difficult and it's not been well received by them."

When In the hell did holding pigs accountable undermine policing???

Sessions is taking a different direction from that of Lynch and Holder, "We're going to try to pull back on this and I don't think it's wrong or mean or insensitive to civil rights or human rights." He honestly thinks the concern should be "to make the lives of people in the the four minority communities to live a happier and safer life." But, he said this while him and the Trump administration has vowed to attack minority communities. How can we be able to have children outside and in safety when children like Tamir Rice are gunned down for being a child while Black? His concern about being able to "go to the grocery store in safety and not accosted by drug dealer" are laughable. Try shopping while Black in any venue that practices the exchange of good and services. The only "gangs and cross fires" we need to worried about are the police and white men like Sessions.

While taking his pro police stance he spoke of a time when "People never locked their doors before." Invoking the 1950s which was before things like civil rights legislation, Voting Rights, interracial marriage and desegregation were commonplace. A time where we were still openly called niggers, hung, raped, violated and forced to live in shacks. A time when overt racism was the norm and police brutality was a standard expectation for Black folks. That period when women and especially Black women worked in conditions and live under societal standards that today is illegal in some cases.

He means these 1950s:

In his nostalgia for the 1950s he rambled on an on about how there was a period of time where things got bad as it pertains to crime. One could guess that he was referring to the era when the Civil Rights movement kicked into high gear and slowed down during tenures of presidents from Nixon to Bush 43. It was during that era that drugs and the war on drugs was used to attack the Black and activist communities which created crime. This led to the incarceration of Black men at an exponential rate and Black women (while the rates are smaller, must be inclusive. The 1980s and 90s saw the highest spikes of mass incarceration, which heavily affected the Black community. Sessions framed that period like this:

"...and so this was a big change. We began to focus on how to improve law enforcement. Something I've just kind of watched. I've had an interest in over the years. And it took some time, maybe 20he years, but the murder rate was half in America than what it had been. Drug use was down among kids. We had prevention programs in every community and many of you and I spent a lot of my time working, try to create a message of the danger of the illegal drugs and the crime does tend to follow drug use, anybody observed history, they know that's true. So we made progress.

And then we got better policing techniques. You know, new york still incredibly effective reversal of the crime rate in new york city. Community policing, broken windows, all the new techniques that came along that put police in the streets out there doing the things that are necessary. But now we are at a time, it seems to me, crime is going back up again. Overall crime rate increased 3.5%. One of the bigger increases since 1991. Murder rate up 10.8% Nationwide and if you've seen in the papers, "the wall street journal" had a big article about it. Major cities see dramatic, I mean really dramatic increases in murder rates. Chicago, Baltimore. New Orleans. It's lots of this out there that's driving a sense that we're in danger. I say we need to return to the ideas that got us here, the ideas that reduce crime and stay on it. Maybe we got too confident. You've been part of the movement that's made our communities and counties safer and we save how many thousands of lives have not been lost."

The Broken Windows Theory:

A criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking, and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.

Racial Profiling:

The use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense.

Implicit Bias:

Is the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes (e.g., implicit attitudes and implicit stereotypes) that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control.

"How many thousands of people have not been injured? How many people have not seen their financial situation damaged severely by crime? We've done a lot of good. We need to not give up on that progress. That is the thing that's concerning me the most. I do not believe, maybe I'm wrong, but I do not believe that this pop in crime, this increase in crime is necessarily an aberration, a one time blip. I'm afraid it represents the beginning of a trend and I think what really concerns me in the bottom of all that is also the increase in drugs in America. So they tend to follow one another. That's what happened in the '60s and '70s. And I think it could happen now. I think while we all have a charge to do better, President Trump issued an order. He doesn't issue modest orders. He said to the attorney general, he said, the policy of this executive branch is to reduce crime in America. That's a pretty good goal. I like that."

"Dubious About Marijuana"

Dubious: hesitating or doubting.

"I am dubious about marijuana. States can pass whatever laws they choose but I'm not sure we'll be a better healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store. I just don't think that's going to be good for us and we'll have to work our way through that." That's what sessions had to say about Cannabis this guy missed the bus for continuing education, findings, research and common sense in general. Never mind the existence of substantial evidence that cannabis can be used in treatments for HIV, chronic pain, prevent nausea in cancer patients under chemotherapy, and etc. Instead Sessions' "... best view is we don't need to be legalizing marijuana and we need to crack down for effectively on marijuana and fentanyl and other drugs and part of the federal leadership will be drug distribution networks, cartels that threaten the very government of nations to our south and less money they extract out of American, less danger they present to their governments and their people and fewer people that are addicted."

The Drug Thing & Xenophobia

I will just sit his problematic words right here:

"The drug thing, the president also given me a direct order to take charge and lead an effort against drug cartels, international drug cartels and they are growing in strength. And we got so much of it coming right across the Texas border and all across the Mexican border and we can do better there...We can do better attacking the the distribution networks and we have to start generally from my experience as a federal prosecutor, with state and local cases, where someone catches a person and turns out, they identify them as a major part of an organization and the federal government, DEA, and other agencies have subpoenas and follow up on leads at the local sheriff or police chief can't do and we work together to achieve progress. I am fully aware that, what, 85% of law enforcement in America is state and local. We're not going to fight effectively just from Washington, DC. That is obvious to anybody who can see that the sun is shining. So this is a big deal for us to work together. We have had tremendous partnerships over the years. It started, actually, excuse me, when I became united states attorney in 1981, Rudy Giuliani was the associate who had supervision over U.S. Attorneys in those days..."

"I believe there's nothing wrong legally, morally, or intellectually with a lawful system of immigration. It serves the national interest. What's wrong with that? Why shouldn't we aspire to that good goal and the president made clear his view on it and it's been mine for some time and we're going to make progress about that and then in particular, people who come here unlawfully who commit crimes are going to be out of here...The law says they have to be deported and we're going to insist that that happens and some of these countries that are refusing to take them back, we have the ability and the power and the legal requirement to confront them and take action against them if they don't take them back, we're housing a lot of people who committed serious crimes who entered the country unlawfully and long since due to be deported. We're told we're holding them because these countries won't take them back. There's a lot of things we can do in that regard."

The Conclusion...

We have a fight on our hands in Black (& Brown) community and it will require an "all the above" strategy to defeat this resurgence of white male fuckery. Part of that fight is with the Department of Justice and its new Confederate Attorney General...