Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Harder Coming Out: After Activist Brandon Lacy Campos Tested Positive for HIV, He Didn't Exactly Become a Champion of the Red Ribbon Brigade

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Harder Coming Out: After Activist Brandon Lacy Campos Tested Positive for HIV, He Didn't Exactly Become a Champion of the Red Ribbon Brigade

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I AM FAIRLY CERTAIN that I became an activist and community organizer sometime shortly after leaving the womb. In fifth grade I organized the students in my classroom at the Longfellow International School of Fine Arts in Minneapolis to boycott McDonald's until it stopped using ozone-depleting Styrofoam containers. At 17, while a senior in high school, I cofounded the Minneapolis district-wide safe schools program Out4Good. By the time I was in college, I was working the national organizing circuit with other radical queer youth. I came out of the closet with a roar and a high kick and adopted my new queer identity with fearlessness.

I tested positive for HIV when I was barely out of college, and, based on my life as an organizer, one would think that I would have pinned on a red ribbon, adopted this new identity, and added HIV rights to my roster of causes. Not even close.

HIV took me by surprise. I was terrified that I would now face the rejection that I hadn't experienced when I came out as gay. I was already queer and a man of color; I'd grown up poor in the Midwest; I didn't want or need another "difference" in my life. HIV, for the first time, shut me down, closed me off, and forced me to find a new way to deal with something life had thrown in my path.

I had always been a writer of scathing opinion, but it was spoken word poetry that took me from pain to celebration in relationship to my HIV status. I have written exactly one poem about being HIV-positive. It wasn't writing about HIV that helped me come to peace with my HIV status. It was performing pieces that dissected and reexamined love, life, politics, sex, race, and beauty as an openly HIV-positive performance artist that lifted me out of shame and fear and into acceptance and living. There is a permission on the stage to be brave, to put on and pull off masks, and to reveal the hidden. …

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