I should really begin all my writings with this quote from Santideva, the 8th century Indian Buddhist monk, as a small way of reigning in my ego before putting pen to paper. I do though enjoy perfuming my own mind.
My first task in tackling this topic was to decide whom “we” is referring to. I suspect there was some group in mind by the person who suggested this phrase. I am going to take a bit of a leap here and define “we” as the LBGTQI etc. community.
I know it makes some folks skin crawl to here the word ‘Queer” and I want to acknowledge that sensitivity but when it comes to ‘perfuming’ my mind I am quite lazy. The reclaiming of the word Queer, I think in the late 1980’s, in part by a group of often-younger AIDS activists was never perceived by me to be particularly offensive. It was an easy way to inclusively describe the many-headed beast that the community had evolved into particularly over the latter part of the 20th century.
And in this age of assimilation with major energy expended on marriage and military service, I find a bit of solace in the use of such a loaded reclaimed word. You really need to be member of the club to use it and get away with it even if it stirs a bit of dust especially if there are straight folks within earshot.
A significant part of queer-awakening at least since the mid-1800’s has been to define who “we” are and to come up with a suitable name for ourselves. This has been challenging and at times painful. Remember when The Center was started in the mid-1970’s the name was The Gay Community Center with ‘lesbian’ added a few years later and the B’s and T’s followed. Rather than add any more letters officially I vote for changing the name to The Queer Community Center of Colorado. I am not holding my breath for this change however.
Despite what seems like the mad rush toward respectability in the form of marriage equality and unfettered access to military service I am holding out hope that our intrinsic “otherness” will win out in the long run. Even for those who have opted for the marriage route after a couple of tours of duty in one of America’s many war fronts I think their queerness will bring unique and perhaps even evolutionary aspects to these petrified institutions. Our innate differences as queer people will win out. I doubt that many constructionist-leaning Queer Theorists are reading this but if they are I am sure their heads are exploding or perhaps more likely they are just dismissing my essentialist views with a snarky sarcastic sneer.
Since I am all about “perfuming” my own mind here I am inclined to approach this topic as more “where do I go from here”, since at the end of the day it seems to be all about me anyway. I have and am spending significant cushion time to overcome this ego driven view but there is still much work to do.
I will now make a pathetic attempt to cut myself some slack around my egocentric approach to life. I am a week away from turning sixty-seven years old and I have most likely been HIV positive since 1981, over half my life. I am here writing this in no small part due to the four different HIV meds I am on and that I take three of these antivirals twice a day. And then there are four other meds addressing the effects of the HIV meds and the fact that I have indulged in the standard toxic American diet for much of my 67 years.
Even though I feel quite well and for most of my waking hours having HIV is never on my mind I am forced to look it in the face twice every day when I take my meds. I am struck often by the fact that I am absolutely tethered to these pills and if I quit them I will succumb to my HIV. But then many folks in our society today are on meds that are required to keep them going. Certainly in part the answer to ‘where am I going’ absolutely involves getting older. And that has inevitable consequences.
So in an attempt to stay off my own pity-pot I really try to focus on the following bit of advice that was recently posted on that endless source of pop-cultural wisdom, Facebook: “Don’t regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Author Unknown.