I can’t find too much going on to commemorate World AIDS Day in Toronto this year but it just so happens to be the day my Beyond Surviving group meets, so I guess that’s something.
With ACT’s shift away from surviving AIDS to living with HIV, and the promise of preventing it entirely with an AIDS med, I find myself communing with friends who have had AIDS, or been HIV-positive at least, for a generation or so – no longer affiliated with formal service organizations.
I miss some of the urgency we once felt. But on the occasion of World AIDS Day I especially miss many friends, too many to list.
It’s October 11. In the United States, at least, it’s National Coming Out Day. I know of no such celebration in Canada but we’ve been ahead of the pack in most ways having to do with lgbtq-2 liberation.
For me, Coming Out Day was sometime in February of 1981. I had come crashing out to protest the police raids on Toronto bath houses, so I thought it best to come out to my parents, lest they see me on TV from one of the many protest marches.
I wrote them a letter. I wish I had saved a copy because, if I may say so, it was a model of a coming out letter!
Mom and Dad called me once they had received it, reassuring me that their love had not changed, and thanking me for my honesty. They also revealed that my brother, Craig, had come out to them a few years earlier but he had not disclosed to me, for good reason, ,as I had been involved with an evangelical church while at college.
AIDS was already doing its preliminary work, silently infecting people oblivious to its eventual horror. I was just sowing my oats, wild oats at that.
So most of my gay life has been lived in the shadow of HIV/AIDS, first other people’s, then my own. This has defined my activism and much of my life.
But I was just gay first.
I’m feeling some anticipatory trauma, if there is such a thing, as we approach the tenth anniversary of the mishap which would, soon thereafter, take the life of my brother Craig. Maybe it’s a heightened sense of awareness that this sad anniversary is upon us.
It was April 24, 2007, his partner Claude’s birthday, when Craig fell to the sidewalk,alone, outside their condo in Montreal’s Le Plateau neighbourhood. The extensive damage to his brain immediately apparent, Craig would never fully regain consciousness. He clung to life on a respirator, while his near-zero brain function was evaluated, until one last attempt to see if he could breathe on his own failed on the ninth of May while Claude and my sister Lynn stepped out for a break.
Mom dreads the month of May. (I’m just glad it is as pretty as it is.) It was May 4, five years earlier in 2002, when Dad collapsed and died in his beloved garden, so all the attending rituals were in May. Oh and Craig’s birthday. And Mother’s Day. So it was that on May 13, 2007 – Craig’s birthday AND Mother’s Day that year – that we (my sister Janice, husband Randy and their young family) drove Mom down from Perth to Montreal for her eldest son’s funeral the next day. Followed by his burial in Perth the next evening.
While the rest of us admire her strength and still try to acknowledge Mother’s Day,we understand why she would just rather have May slip by quickly. I’ll never think of May again without remembering Mom’s journey through it.
I once met Stuart McLean, the legendary Canadian broadcaster who died yesterday. It was both my brush with fame and utter modesty.
The occasion was the aftermath of a very tragic time, in the 1980s, in St. Catharines, Ontario where I worked in private radio. Several men had been arrested for sexual encounters in a local mall washroom, one of whom committing suicide when he set himself on fire in his car.
Stuart stopped by the radio station one evening, hoping to use our facilities to process some tape for the CBC. I was pleased to let him do so. I didn’t meet Stuart the comedian that night. He seemed quite devastated by all that had transpired in town, including the public naming of all those who had been charged, the St. Catharines Standard newspaper the lone exception in the media storm.
It was an ugly story to be covering, which he did for Peter Gzowski’s “Morningside”. I can recall “driveway moments” of my own with Stuart, listening to him while idling the car in the radio station parking lot.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes appeared tonight on CBC Power and Politics with host Rosemary Barton. She was there to discuss her experiences with depression, before and since becoming MP for Whitby and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Parliamentary Secretary.
Rosemary’s thorough, careful questions brought out responses I could relate to in my own experience – and even in present circumstances.
Sitting around in my “lounge pants” and t-shirt, unwashed.
Recognizing the signs of depression in these and other ways. Maybe I’ll do something about it, rather than wait for my scheduled psychiatric appointment.
It doesn’t seem like it’s enough to know what’s going on.
I do not feel like I am a danger to myself or anyone else. That’s probably important to note.
I really want to thank Rosemary and Celina. In this approaching season of “Let’s Talk.”
I don’t know who you all are, but the blog machine tells me there are 1,013 of you following me here. You can also find me, Kenn Chaplin, on Facebook.
You’ll know that I haven’t been writing much lately so, might I ask, if you have any questions for me?