Tracy Morgan’s Dad Had HIV

June 15, 2011

Usually when someone apologizes for a public/personal misstep, the only thing that comes across is that they are sorry they got caught. On Monday I blogged about Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant at one of his stand-up gigs earlier this month. In the last couple of weeks the story got major legs- he was chastised by his 30 Rock co-star Tina Fey and the rant was retweeted and reposted ad nauseam…

Shortly afterward I received a comment that my linking his story with HIV was a stretch.  When I posted the blog entry, I had no idea just how close HIV hit the Morgan home.  Here is Tracy’s statement:

“I know how bad bullying can hurt,” he said. “I was bullied when I was a kid. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone. My family knew what it was like to feel different. My brother was disabled, and I lost my father to AIDS in 1987. My dad wasn’t gay but I also learned about homophobia then because of how people treated people who were sick with that.

“Parents should support and love their kids no matter what. Gay people deserve the same right to be happy in this country as everyone else. Our laws should support that. I hope that my fans gay, straight, whatever forgive, and I hope my family forgives me for this.”

————–

Since the rant, it’s come out that Tracy’s had a history of anti-gay remarks. Now, he’s talking to GLAAD and will be working with them on ads targeted at the entire issue of bullying as it pertains to the gay community.  Is it a wise career move?  Undoubtedly.  But I’m glad he opened up about his personal connection to HIV, and revisited how his own family was made to feel less than human as a result.

Either way, here’s to hoping his homophobic history is, well, history.

Positively Yours,

Shawn

Tracy Morgan’s “Scare Tactics” and HIV

June 13, 2011

In early June, during one of his stand-up comedy routines in Nashville, Tracy Morgan made some anti-gay remarks that didn’t come across as a laughing matter.  During what has been described as a rant, Morgan said he would kill his son if he learned he was gay.  The punchline, I guess, involves the visual of Tracy repeatedly punching his son to death with his fists.

I’m not surprised to learn that a funnyman is uncomfortable with gay people.  I’m not surprised when any famous, rich or connected person does something stupid.  Morgan has apologized, and he is still feeling the backlash of his night in Nashville.  My perspective of the whole thing is that Tracy, as a black comedian, let loose some deep feelings on homophobia that has ravaged the black community.  Homophobia puts people at risk for HIV infection.

Think about it.  Some young black kid hears violent remarks from friends and family for years.  When he comes out to himself, privately, and then begins to have sexual relationships, that homophobia that keeps him closeted tinges each sexual encounter with shame.  A sexual encounter that is shameful is more likely to be one that is unprotected- how can you ask a partner to put on a condom if, in the back of your mind, you’re worried that if your dad found out you were even gay, he might kill your ass?

Is Tracy Morgan is spokesperson for the black community?  Absolutely not.  Did some of the sentiments behind his words shed some light on why HIV/AIDS has been such a terror in the black community?

Absolutely.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Eloquent with Rage, ONE Condoms and Will.I.Am.A.Moron

May 7, 2011

My good buddy Bob Geise noticed a prompt from ONE Condoms over on Facebook to write a poem about condoms.  Being the good poet and writer that he is, Bob channeled his frustration over a recent interview that Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas conducted with Elle Magazine. Here’s the interesting part:

Elle: If you walked into a woman’s house, what one item would convince you that you weren’t compatible?

W: If she had condoms in her house, that would just f[---]in’ throw me off. That’s just tacky.

Elle: Well, okay, I could see if she had a
candy bowl full of them on the coffee table. But if she’s got a few in
a drawer, wouldn’t that simply suggest she’s health-conscious?

W: I just think, like, if you’re into someone
and you guys get to that level, then that’s something you should
converse about together and say, “Hey, maybe we should get some.”

———–

I thought that his awful music would be Will.I.Am’s worst contribution to society. But just when you think you have all the answers, someone changes the questions.  And the question that prompted this whole thing was a softball of epic proportions.  He should have said a sawed-off shotgun.  Or a body in the closet.  But he said what he felt, and now I’ll never feel guilty again for bashing his band for being awful musicians.

Back to Bob.  Here’s the poem that won him a ONE Condoms prize! (Be sure to like both ONE Condoms and Bob’s page, Eloquent with Rage, on Facebook)

will.i.am-a.dick.jpgONE
by Bob Geise

i‘d like to say to will.i.am

what planet are you from again?

if you ain’t got ONE*, hit the road

god knows what bugs are in your load
the condom I keep in my purse

could save my life–it’s not perverse

you want to feel my velvet love?

you best put that thing in a glove!

Bob also wrote the following Note on Facebook about why he entered the contest, and why he supports ONE Condoms.  I was moved by his kind words, wanted to share them here.

Bob wrote: Yesterday, the ONE Condoms page here on Facebook had a small poetry contest, the winner
receiving a ONE party pack. I wrote a trifle of a poem (short and
sweet) and submitted it; there were about fifteen other poets who
offered some rhymes (and even a haiku!). Turns out that I won! Said
Storm Tussey, ONE’s Digital Brand Manager: “Terrific job, the entire
office thought yours was the best.” Yay!

I admire ONE Condom for a very specific reason. When my friend Shawn Decker was
looking for a condom sponsor for his band Synthetic Division’s tour
last year, ONE helped him out with free condoms and swag, including
some very cool metal condom holders, which they actually branded for
the band! None of the other major condom companies would even talk to
Shawn. Why? Shawn has AIDS, and he and Gwenn, his “wife partner,” tour
the country educating young people about safer sex in relationships and
the issues that arise in serodiscordant couples (in which one partner
is positive and one is negative, as Gwenn is). Also, themes related to
HIV and AIDS pervade much of Synthetic Division’s music. The bottom
line is that condom companies do not want their product associated in
any way with disease, let alone HIV. I assume there is some perceived
liability issue. All the same, while those corporations may quietly
disclaim in small print that the proper use of their condoms can be
effective in stopping the spread of disease including HIV, they surely
haven’t minded the bazillion dollars they’ve made since HIV and AIDS
arrived exactly thirty years ago. ONE Condoms has not distanced itself
from the fact that people use condoms to prevent disease as well as
pregnancy.

I wholeheartedly approve!

—————–

One of the most frustrating aspects of educating for me, for well over a decade, was the cold response Gwenn and I received from condom companies in regard to supporting our message of safe sex.  These same companies sponsor Snooki’s birthday party, and would willing throw mounds of cash at Will.I.Am if given the slightest opportunity.  Speaking of Will.I.Am.Stoopid, it’s strange that someone who writes party down songs like he does would be so conservative when it comes to a female having a proactive stance regarding safer sex.

You’d expect more from a guy who looks like a human condom when he performs on stage.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Video Reviews, Depeche Mode Covers, Cobain Remembered

April 8, 2011

Got lots swirling around in the ol’ nugget today, but I want to lead out with yet another remembrance of Kurt Cobain.  I know many think he’s overrated and overmentioned, but this week marked 17 years since he took his own life… time flies, doesn’t it?

Near the end of high school, I really got into Nirvana.  The first time I heard them was just before Teen Spirit blew up. It was a random group of guys, hanging out in someone’s basement.  A cassette tape was pulled out and played, and despite the different musical tastes of everyone in the room (from Primus, to Depeche Mode, to Phish fans) we all agreed: Nirvana was awesome.

One thing I loved about Cobain was his understanding and empathy of the underdog.  Back before the modern era of Lady Gaga- a strong advocate for the gay community- Cobain rose to fame on the strength of a catchy guitar riff and an intense music video that MTV played with the feverish excitement that is now solely reserved for reality TV shows.  At the height of his fame Cobain did an interview with The Advocate Magazine, appearing on the cover to talk about how he appreciates the gay community.  Since we all know his music, I thought it would be more interesting to share this.

At the time, I probably appreciated his stance of gay issues because I’d taken a small amount of shit for in junior high and high school for having Depeche Mode as my favorite band. They were European and played keyboards, in Waynesboro, Virginia that somehow qualified as being gay. I don’t know how many times I was told my favorite band was gay- so many times that I figured it didn’t matter if they were or not.  It’s funny, but even the thought that a band was gay, a band that had influenced me and helped guide me through the somewhat treacherous experience of puberty, probably had a lot to do with my opinion that sexual orientation is not something that matters in the slightest.

Speaking of Depeche Mode- I had the great experience of helping my friend, Andy Deane of Bella Morte, with a cover of one of Depeche Mode’s classic songs. It sounds great- I’ll reveal the song when Andy does. It’s being done as part of Bella Morte’s Kickstarter campaign to help fund their new record, After the Flood.  The Depeche Mode cover is an exclusive giveaway to anyone who donates to their campaign, which ends of April 16. So if you want the tune, and want to help a very gay-friendly group of musicians in their own right, you have a week to donate.

It was a lot of fun singing back-up vocals on a song that I’d drive circles around Waynesboro singing in my car back in the day. Glad I could put the harmonies I worked out twenty years ago to good use!

Lastly, I’m humbled by the kind response that the Synthetic Division music video has received.  If you want to hear me talk about music more, then check out an interview I did for Horrorshow Radio this week, The Life and Times of Shawn DeckerGeek Crafts also featured the “Out of Time” video, and called me a “geek chic trifecta” due to my involvement in music and writing, as well as the fact that I named my band after math… Speaking of the music video, if you look closely you’ll see a Depeche Mode music video within the Synthetic Division music video. (It’s not a clue as to which song Bella Morte covered, btw!)

Hope you have a great weekend.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Watch, Friend and Follow me on:
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Website: ShawnandGwenn.com Also check out the lovely Gwenn’s Fashion/Coffee Blog
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Stephen Colbert Talks AIDS

March 31, 2011

Poz blogger Oriol has some great insights on this week’s discussion about AIDS on the Colbert Report, when Anthony Fauci appeared as a guest.  I love Colbert, and think he did a great job of conveying the mass misunderstanding of HIV through his on-air character. “I thought it was done!”

The Colbert Report
Tags: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,Video Archive

My favorite part is when Colbert says that being a white guy = HIV vaccine, after a discussion with Fauci about how HIV affects communities of color at a higher rate. Funny stuff on a deadly serious topic, I honestly think this is one of the best ways to reach the complacent masses, and I hope that Colbert has Fauci back on to talk about other aspects of the epidemic.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Watch, Friend and Follow me on:
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Website: ShawnandGwenn.com  Also check out
the lovely Gwenn’s
Fashion/Coffee Blog

My CD, Synthetic Division, A Symptom of Life, is on iTunes!

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Meet Dirk Roth, Watch His Cool Video

March 30, 2011

I love music videos. The only time I see them is when TiVo picks up 120 Minutes on VH1 Classic, which I highly recommend watching if you haven’t seen it. They show the best. I know, I know, you can YouTube videos anytime… but 120 Minutes really sorts out the quality stuff, and there’s always a Depeche Mode video on the 2 hour program.

A video you won’t see on VH1 Classic is one that I came across when a friend of mine, Mike Johnson of the band Ego Likeness, shared it on Facebook.  It’s a video for the band Joy Division, created using Playmobil toys and stop-motion. The creator, Dirk Roth, basically took a live TV performance and recreated it, making something even better than the original.

Compare the two… the real band:

Now check out Dirk’s version…

Pretty awesome, huh? What’s equally awesome is that Dirk agreed to make a music video for Synthetic Division last month… and it debuts soon! More information in a couple of days- stay tuned.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

WWE Wrestles With Gay Issue

March 28, 2011

I am an unapologetic pro wrestling fan. Oh, wait, sports entertainment fan. WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) takes great pains in correcting journalists who label their product “professional wrestling”, as that is far too limiting in scope when you consider the long line of products (from movies to merch) that the family-friendly company offers.

But I’m not a journalist, I’m just a longtime fan since I was kid. Old habits are hard to break, so I’ll just call it “pro wrestling”. In fact, one of my dreams is to write for the company down the road, one this little HIV thing is cured.  It’s nice to keep up with the happenings by continuing to tune, so my transition from talking and writing about AIDS can be as seamless as possible.

Recently my beloved sport has run into a long-running issue: homophobia.  A couple of weeks ago, their biggest hero to children, John Cena, raised the ire of GLAAD when he delivered a speech aimed at the Rock. While rapping about his nemesis and his movie career, Cena joked that everyone knows that the Rock is more Brokeback Mountain than Witch Mountain.  See what he’s doing? He’s suggesting that the Rock isn’t a real man by insinuating that he is gay.

Aside from trying to diminish the value of a fellow fan-favorite by gay-baiting, Cena also targeted the company’s current champion and my 2008 Person of the Year, the purposefully arrogant Mike The Miz.  As the Miz stood in the ring with his lackey, Alex Riley, Cena smirked whilst wearing jorts and a trucker hat, telling a live crowd and TV audience of millions that Miz and Riley were partners in more ways than one.  Wink wink, nudge nudge.  That they shopped together at Bed, Bath & Beyond… I’d estimate that Cena’s biggest fans are between the ages of 8-12, what good does this kind of tactic do for them?

WWE issued an apology on Cena’s behalf, although the top star himself remained silent.  They said they value their gay fans and will work with GLAAD to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  See, in wrestling stars like Cena get a little more free reign on the mic, so it was a good move for GLAAD to explain to their heroes (and villains) why targeting gay people might make life for gay youth a living hell… because all gay teenagers need are classmates in jorts targeting them.

I was quite happy to see the immediate response from WWE about partnering with GLAAD. Whether they took a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond is unknown.

The honeymoon phase of the new partnership got off to a rocky start.  Via Twitter, the company’s top villain/announcer, Michael Cole, struck.  In a public message to a fellow broadcaster, he tweeted one word: “faggot”.  When TMZ helped to expose the situation, he posted a lame apology and the following, “I was not ordered to apologize I said I am sorry because I am. Now can I get back to being a character again please?”  He deleted this, along with the original post of “faggot”.  It seems to be his way of saying he tweets as his on-air persona, but he’d never dare to utter the word “faggot” on national television, so it’s a flimsy, thinly veiled excuse.

It’s not known whether or not he would have been forced to apologize.  I personally believe that WWE would have made him, as they can’t be pleased with the embarrassing behavior one week out from their biggest event of the year, Wrestlemania.  What is known is that, over the course of three weeks, the company’s top hero and heel found common ground when it came to stepping on not only their gay wrestling fans, but fans who are straight and get how damaging this kind of language and psychology can be.

Is it grown men pretending to kill each other?  Yes.  But with most of the onscreen time these days being dedicated to talking instead of wrestling, it’s just as important for the wrestlers and company to choose their words wisely.  One mistake in a match injures one or two people, but one mistake on the mic could prove physically harmful to many outside of the ring.

I’m hoping they get this all cleaned up by the time the cure rolls around and I start writing pro wrestling storylines for a living.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Watch, Friend and Follow me on:
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Website: ShawnandGwenn.com Also check out the lovely Gwenn’s Fashion/Coffee Blog
My CD, Synthetic Division, A Symptom of Life, is on iTunes!

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Elizabeth Taylor: A Moving Star to the AIDS Community

March 24, 2011

liz-poz.jpgElizabeth Taylor is a legend for a far more important reason than pretending to be someone else while being filmed.

In the 1980′s, when this country and her own inner-circle of friends were beginning to see the harsh realities of AIDS and it’s unbearable stigma, she spoke out.  Also, she never stopped caring about people whose lives had been shaken by HIV, even as others in Hollywood moved on to more fashionable causes in the late 1990′s.

No, Liz stuck by us.

As her own health was failing, she would attend fundraisers and give moving speeches about the issues of HIV/AIDS, such as discrimination and homophobia.  If AIDS were a physical entity- and I think it’s helpful to think of it as such since HIV’s power is living in the silence of shadows- then it certainly picked a fight with the wrong person when it targeted Liz’s friend, Rock Hudson.

Ultimately, it was her honest and moving reaction to the moral backlash associated with a sexually transmitted infection such as HIV that made Liz a friend to all of us who are living with HIV.  And we’re surely going to miss our beloved friend.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Click the image above to read her 1997 interview with Poz magazine. Check out Sean Strub’s memories of how that interview came to be.

Watch, Friend and Follow me on:
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter
Website: ShawnandGwenn.com Also check out the lovely Gwenn’s Fashion/Coffee Blog
My CD, Synthetic Division, A Symptom of Life, is on iTunes!

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