More necessary theater from Obama on Gay Marriage

More necessary theater to get where we need to go.

I just came back from the SOTU speech after the 2014 mid terms in the time machine:

“During my childhood and upbringing I had accepted the common societal social morals including the view that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. However, over the past few years I have been exposed to the lives of a great many people. As President, I have met more people over a wider spectrum of the population and as a result gained a more informed and deeper understanding of the perspective of those people.

Over the last few years, I have learned a great deal about the lives of Gay and Lesbian Americans. From meeting these wonderful people and getting to know their families, children and friends, I have seen for myself the true love and deep commitment that gay and lesbian couples share in their relationships. I have found that the children in these families share the ups and downs, pleasures and disappointments, and loving care from their parents and are blessed to have such great families.

I am grateful to these Americans for sharing this knowledge with me which has taught me many lessons. The fundamental truth that cannot be denied is that these couples and families deserve the same recognition and those of a man and a woman. Through the heartfelt conversations I have had with new friends, staffers, my own family, and especially my wife Michelle, who has helped me see my own sense of compassion and the parallels to previous civil rights issues, I have evolved my view of this issue to a higher level.

Based on these experiences, I can no longer view marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman. Gay and Lesbian couples and families deserve the same recognition, rights, and benefits as any other. I support the recognition of same sex couples across the nation and the repeal of DOMA.

I implore our elected representatives to look deep inside themselves and explore the issue as I have, and to move forward to take the appropriate steps to see that these relationships are recognized equally, to those of a man and a woman.

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Beyond Bullying: Suicide of a Friend

Some of you are probably wondering why I ended my life, some of you are probably angry at me, and some of you probably don’t care. I think it’s pretentious to write a suicide note, but it seems to be the thing to do.

— Ryan, ; September 2005

NOTE: ; This has been cross posted at Pam’s House Blend. ; There are comments there which you may find interesting.


I first met Ryan in 2001. We went on a few dates and then settled into a friendship. As fellow geeks, we had many common interests. We’d hang out, showing off our newest gadgets (remember the Nokia N-Gage?), debating the religious arguments like vi vs. Emacs, and tabs vs. spaces and watching Star Trek over Ezell’s Fried Chicken. We saw each other every so often, and we always had fun together. Ryan was sweet, smart, handsome, well read. Professionally, he was successful, having worked at prominent technology companies. ; He owned his own condo, had a very Seattle eco-friendly car. He was well liked by a lot of people.


In September 2005, I was driving home from work, just about ; to get onto the 520 bridge to Seattle, when my phone rang. I answered it without looking. ; A woman’s voice asked is this Josh Cohen? Yes, I replied. Not recognizing the number I figured she was some telemarketer, a call I should have just ignored.

This is Ryan’s mother. Ryan took his life last night…

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I honestly couldn’t tell you the exact words she said after that, but it seemed like she was reading from a script. Roughly, she said that Ryan had put my name on a list of people to call to let them know and to give information about services, as well as a site and letter he had left to be published on the internet. Always the geek.

Can you imagine being a parent who must go through a list of people, a list I suspect was not short, and call each one to tell them this grim news about your child? It had to be unbearable. ;

I hung up the phone. I couldn’t believe it. Ryan? Really? WTF?

Continue reading

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Video From the Cutting Room Floor: "Dan Savage: Protect Your Sex Life: Decline2sign71"

Here’s a little humor to get the new year started…

In 2009, Washington State voters faced Referendum 71, an attempt to repeal the state’s Domestic Partnership Equality law.  The attempt ultimately failed as the campaign, under the brilliant stewardship of campaign manager Josh Friedes with his assistant, Anne, won the day.   In Washington State, wherever the state law says “spouse”, “domestic partner” is legally equivalent.

In order to get Referendum 71′s on the ballot, its supporters needed to gather the required number of signatures on petitions.  To combat this, a “decline to sign” campaign was in place.  Regrettably, the referendum did qualify for the ballot, though the repeal attempt ultimately failed.   One of the challenges in this campaign was the fact that prior to being on the ballot, our position was in the negative “decline to sign” petitions while once on the ballot our position was in the affirmative “Approve 71.”

Our goal was to have people decline to sign the petitions so that Ref71 would not make the ballot.  Had it not made the ballot, the Domestic Partnership rights would have remained in effect without the need for a popular vote.

This ad was recently found on the cutting room floor.  Unfortunately Dan Savage couldn’t get the message right.  Despite being off-message, one must wonder if the decline2sign71 campaign might have been successful had it been released. Smile

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Dear President Obama: THANK YOU! Guys in the Coffee Shop: Get Off Your Asses

… and thank you to the activists, legislators and lobbyists who took action to make this happen. 

I recently moved to Manhattan in the Chelsea neighborhood.  Tonight I went out to a coffee shop to do some work.  The repeat of DADT has lifted my spirits in the struggle.  However,  I can’t help but overhear the conversation going on at the next table and it’s making my blood boil.  Two gay guys are discussing why they don’t go to rallies or other activist events.  They are explaining to each other why they don’t. 

“I don’t go because I just don’t run into discrimination or other problems.  I don’t get kicked out of places or called names…”

The two of them went on about it and how some of their friends go, but they don’t.  I couldn’t stand it. 

“You don’t run into it because you live in Chelsea, a gay Mecca situated in a very gay friendly metro area!” I thought to myself.

“I’ve even been to Georgetown DC, and I don’t even run into trouble there…”

“Georgetown DC?  That’s your example of a conservative place?  Try going to Provo UT and holding a guy’s hand.  See what kind of looks you get there, dickhead.”  I rambled to myself.

I just could. not. stand. it. 

I stood up and went over to their table.  I told this guy that the reason he doesn’t run into these issues is because he lives in a gay mecca, but more importantly because others who came before you stood up and marched so your life could be better. You need to start doing the same! 

This so infuriates me how many gay people aren’t taking action to help the cause.  They aren’t working hard to make sure that the future generation of gay folk will have it better than we do.  It’s like parents and the refrain of “Making a better world for our children”

Why aren’t we paying them back by doing so?

Well, I’ll tell you someone who is.  It’s that “Do Nothing Obama.”  The repeal of DADT was not singlehandedly won by him.  There were other legislators and many many tireless activists who helped make this happen.

However, President Obama stood up, addressed the country and the government and put a stake in the ground, pushing them to repeal DADT.  It happened.  It happened sooner than I thought it would.  This is HUGE.

There are many people with power, money and influence who did NOT want to see this happen.  Obama stood up to them.  He stood up to those who say:

“[The House of Representatives approval of a "hate crimes" provision within the defense authorization bill] also sets us on a slippery slope toward serious infringements of the freedom of speech and freedom of religion. ‘Hate crime’ legislation will lay the legal foundation and framework for investigating, prosecuting and persecuting pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions reflect their faith.”
~Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council

• “[F]reedoms are being lost.”
~Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in La Mesa, California

• “As has proved to be true in both Europe and Canada, this Orwellian piece of legislation is the direct precursor to freedom killing and speech chilling ‘hate speech’ laws.

“It represents a thinly veiled effort to ultimately silence – under penalty of law – morally, medically and biblically based opposition to the homosexual lifestyle.”
~Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel

• “This new federal law promotes two Orwellian concepts. It creates a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior. And it creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution.  

“Consequently, government officials are claiming the power to decide which thoughts are criminal under federal law and which are not.”
~Robert Muise, Senior Trial Counsel for the Thomas More Law Center

• “There are no ‘love crimes’ when it comes to violence. The reality is that so-called ‘hate crime’ laws are designed to punish people for what they think, feel, or believe.

“Violent crimes should be punished regardless of the characteristics of the victim. ‘Hate crime’ laws are an effort to enforce the orthodoxy of political correctness and to curtail freedom of speech.”
~Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund

• “But ‘hate crime’ laws are unnecessary. Criminal acts are already illegal. What’s more, ‘hate crime’ laws violate the constitutional right to equal protection, create the un-American offense of “thought crime,” and abridge the freedoms of speech, religion and association.”
~Robert Knight and Lindsey Douthit for the Concerned Women For America

There are lots of people who agree with these crazy statements.  Obama has made himself a target of these people.  I sure hope we have his back when he runs for reelection.

Furthermore, as far as the implementation of DADT Repeal, let’s not jump all over the administration for working out training and readiness schedules.  There are plenty of serving men and women who agree with Col. Bill Spencer and his wacky worries about repeal. 

Let’s not forget that there are more than a handful of homophobes running around with guns, grenades and other weapons.  I want to make sure that those people are identified, educated, or weeded out.  I want to make sure that our own people are educated on how to deal with homophobia in a way that does not escalate into a gunfight.  I don’t want to see LGBT men and women coming home in body bags due to homophobic fragging incidents.

There is a difference between “serving among gay people” as they have been and serving around out and proud gay people who will not be shy about who they are (and good for them!).  If there wasn’t then why was repeal so important?

Everyone needs to continue to do their part on our various battles.  This shit doesn’t happen by itself.  It happens because people like activists, legislators and presidents stand up and lead; they take action not just for themselves but for others.

Obama has kept his word.  Surely he has earned some trust on this issue, no?  I suggest we have some patience and let him continue to lead rather than jumping all over him because the law doesn’t go into effect when he signs the law.

Read up on the desegregation timeline and the fiction of “stroke of a pen”…

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NCIS: “As straight as they come” ummm. no.

I’m a huge fan of NCIS, which is a lot like CSI, but with the twist that the law enforcement organization is the Naval Criminal Investigation Service rather than civilian as in CSI.

You get all the gory autopsies, deep forensics, a light touch of military and “cutesy” interplay between the characters.

In this episode, the team is, as usual, investigating the death of a Naval officer.  The investigation uncovers the fact that the dead guy was impersonating another Naval officer who was impersonating him.  (They switched identities).  Siva David (pronounced [ˈziva daˈvid]), an Isreali Mossad agent on temporary assignment to NCIS, is talking to the (non-dead-guy who is a young menial supply clerk) to figure out why they were doing this.  Siva is true to her history in form, a gruff, tough girl, mangling American slang, cultural references, and colloquialisms

What caught my attention was a funny portrayal of the “Obviously gay guy in denial” situation.  The best part of it is Siva’s knowing looks and subdued giggles. 

Since I’ve been thinking so much about DADT lately, this tickled my funny bone.  It also made me wonder if this is in good humor or perhaps offensive.


What do you think?

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DADT Repeal vs Desegregation Timeline

With the new proposed amendment regarding DADT Repeal, many folks are unhappy because it is Not Enough, Not Soon Enough.  However, it’s worth comparing the path forward, since Obama put the country on a course toward repeal, to the timeline for desegregation in the military.  From the first initial forward step in September 1945, it took over 8 years.  From the executive order signed by Truman, it was 5 years until desegregation was actually finished.  I say “finished” meaning 95% of all African Americans serving in integrated units.

The lesson I got from this is that the military will manage itself.  Implementing changes to it’s system takes time, whether the constraints are physical ones or “soft” people issues.  Perhaps by letting the military study group determine the plan for adopting repeal first, they will be more eager to follow “their own” plan.  By contrast, with segregation, Truman acted first with a specific executive order, demanded implementation plans from the military and then fought with them over the details.  Obama and others will still have to sign off, but letting the military take ownership is smart management.

While I have listed selected milestones in the process below, there’s much more in the full timeline.

September 1945: Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson appoints a board of three general officers to investigate the Army’s policy with respect to African-Americans and to prepare a new policy that would provide for the efficient use of African-Americans in the Army. This board is called the Gillem Board, after its chairman, General Alvan C. Gillem, Jr.

January 1948: President Truman decides to end segregation in the armed forces and the civil service through administrative action (executive order) rather than through legislation

July 26, 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, which states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order also establishes the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.

July 6, 1950: President Truman informs the Fahy Committee that, against the wishes of most of its members, it is being discontinued. "The necessary programs [to integrate the armed forces] having been adopted," Truman wrote the committee, "I feel that the Armed Services should now have an opportunity to work out in detail the procedures which will complete the steps so carefully initiated by the Committee."

October 1953: The Army announces that 95% of African-American soldiers are serving in integrated units..

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Family Guy #fail on Transgender episode

Check out the recent Family Guy episode "Quagmire’s Dad". You can watch the episode here:

In it, Quagmire’s dad, who’s a decorated war hero, get’s a sex change.

image image

I was expecting the usual funny episode:  a bunch of funny moments that push the limit, followed by an ending which teaches the right lesson.  The setup of Quagmire’s dad, of all people was great.   I watched this episode and was surprised.  I’m a fan of family guy.  I am usually pretty flexible in appreciating their humor even when some of the jokes (if taken by themselves) are homophobic, racist or otherwise discriminatory.  Often they are funny representations of how people react in the real world to these situations.  However, what was different about this episode is that it was missing the usual part where they come around on the issue and show those responses to be unenlightened.  Instead the episode ends on a negative note, with Brian frantically washing himself in the shower to "wipe off" his experience of having sex with the transgendered person (Quagmire’s dad is now Ida).  The closing scene is him getting his ass kicked by Quagmire. 

Brian is usually the character most likely to see through phobia and see people and accept them for who they are.  That he didn’t makes me wonder where the heads of the creators of Family Guy.  I had to rewind and re-watch the end to check that there was no finale that I missed or at least a "to be continued".

The Other Side of the Rainbow writes:

I am making a complaint and setting up a facebook page to boycott Family Guy. The series used to be ok but over the last year or so has been getting more and more intolerant of all marginalized people.

The creators of Family Guy should be called on the carpet to be address this.  The boycott is our natural response to these kinds of offenses.  However, I hope that we can add some demands that can turn this into a positive experience.  Perhaps have the petition demand that the creators do something that helps the community.  Pulling the episode is one option.  Making a follow up episode where Brian comes around is another.  At the least, they should publicly help educate people in transgender issues, assuming they are teachable. 

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Xbox Live allows LGBT Identity expression

Today, March 5th, Microsoft’s Xbox Live team announced a change in their terms of service.  This new change allows, among other things, LGBT members to express their "relationship recognition" in their Xbox Live profile information.  A set of approved words has been set for each language the service operates in.

From today’s release:

With that in mind, I’d like to announce an update to the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct which will allow our members to more freely express their race, nationality, religion and sexual orientation in Gamertags and profiles. Under our previous policy, some of these expressions of self-identification were not allowed in Gamertags or profiles to prevent the use of these terms as insults or slurs. However we have since heard feedback from our customers that while the spirit of this approach was genuine, it inadvertently excluded a part of our Xbox LIVE community

From the new Terms of Use for the English service:

You may use the following terms to express your relationship orientation in your profile or Gamertag:

    • Lesbian
    • Gay
    • Bi
    • Transgender
    • Straight

Other terms regarding relationship orientation are not allowed. In addition you may not use these terms or any other terms regarding relationship orientation to insult, harass, or any other pejorative use against other users.

It’s great to see Microsoft moving forward on this and honoring their promise to address this.  Initially, there was discussion around the best way to solve this problem.  The key requirement was how to minimize the potential use of words like these, or the expression of them, to increase harassment.   Various options were explored over time, including changes to the service.  However, as is often the case, the simplest solution wins out.  KISS principle at work.

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Michael Holder, STI Disclosure, and Avoiding The Gulag of Silence

This is a follow-up post in a dialog with Todd Heywood.  Todd had originally covered the case of Michael Holder who was convicted of failing to disclose his HIV status to his girlfriend. My initial post, Dishonesty in health disclosure: Michael Holder got Justice,  supported a legal deterrent against such behavior,  with a focus on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), using the Michael Holder case as an example.  Todd Heywood responded in Do HIV-positive people have more responsibility in HIV prevention?

Todd wraps up his post with a broad description of my post and who I am says:

But I posit that there is more at work here than simple ignorance. Cohen is operating on a level I suspect even he is unaware of. There is a kind of blame the HIV-positives for their condition mentality involved. Thus, a public flaying, such as having to disclose HIV status, is warranted. It is a scarlet letter of the modern world, and Cohen, who is presumably negative since he has not hint at understanding HIV stigma, discrimination and the subsequent violence that attaches itself to such disclosures, wants us to continue to wear the scarlet letter.

According to Todd, because I agree with the majority opinion from the appeals court, I’m racially insensitive.  Because I find the defendant, a convicted burglar who met and infected the plaintiff while cheating on his wife, less credible than the plaintiff, I’m demonizing HIV positive people.   Because this is my first post on STI transmission, and that in an unrelated post about how the lack of democratic leadership in our movement starves non-big-ticket battles, I did not list HIV in a short list of examples, I’m HIV Phobic.

I don’t doubt that there are people that actually think and do what Todd is alleging. I suppose if all you know about me is from my blog, you might find what I have written on this topic to appear similar  enough to what those kind of folks would and assume that’s where I’m coming from.  It isn’t.  As Todd has expanded on his point, and related his person experience, so will I.

I’m not HIV positive, so I can’t truly claim to understand Todd’s perspective from a first hand point of view like he can. True, the dialog with Todd has caused me to learn more about the plight of HIV positive people.  However, HIV positive friends and lovers are not new to me.  As long as someone is open about it, honest, and is agreeable to precautions which minimize the risk of transmission, it’s not something I would necessarily discriminate by.   If there’s any discrimination I’m doing, its against deceptive and unethical behavior, especially when it puts me at risk.

However, as someone who’s been in a relationship situation where there was not appropriate disclosure of an STI (and that was not HIV), and some questionably deceptive and unethical behavior regarding it, I see the issue from a different perspective.  Just because I am not HIV positive, doesn’t mean I have to remain confined to a gulag of silence.

I’ll expand further on my opinions shortly. However, I’m not pushing all the responsibility to the other side, not am I focusing on HIV in particular.  To me, the holder case is just an example of the STI disclosure issue.  In truth, from our dialog and his other public statements, I don’t think we are really that far apart.  Is it unreasonable to expect a person who I am dating who has an STI to disclose that to me before we have sexual contact?

As evidence that we have some common ground:

in 2009, speaking at the Michigan Equality Rally at the capitol, Todd says

For those of us who are HIV positive, we help the gulag [of silence] . We are our own oppressors; we have to stand up and admit that we are HIV positive  each and every time we meet somebody.  We have to be honest if we expect honesty in return.  It’s that simple, and if we’re not, we’re killing ourselves and our brothers and our sisters.  It’s time to end the silence.

Perhaps he’s speaking in a broader context than just sexual relations.  However, if you advocate coming out as HIV positive to help the community and HIV people collectively, isn’t it kind of a contradiction that you wouldn’t also advocate telling those who you will have sex with?

I didn’t quote this solely to support my point about disclosure.  There’s a broader point in Todd’s words that I want to amplify.   There is a lot of ignorance and discomfort in the LGBT community about STIs like HSV, HPV, HEP, HIV and others.  People are being discriminated against because of this, when they needn’t be.  As long as people are honest with each other, there are reliable ways to mitigate the risks of transmission.  Just because one of these is present in a partner does not mean you can’t have a safe, loving and long term relationship.

We must combat the ignorance and discomfort society feels about LGBT people, we must come out.  We need society to experience us, to see us as human beings alongside them.  People often say that their opinions of LGBT changed significantly in a positive direction once a person they knew or family member came out.

I think Todd’s point is that by retreating into the closet, people with these kinds of health conditions are missing a critical opportunity to remedy this ignorance and discomfort.  Todd is one of the few who is taking the risk of outing himself as a leading example. I think that’s extremely brave.  I’ve only included an excerpt of his speech, but think watching the full version is worth your time.

The Holder Case

Just because I agree with the majority opinion from the appeals court, doesn’t mean I’m racially insensitive.

As proof of the fact that this is a clear case of racial bias, He states  that because Judge Karen Nelson Moore says so, that establishes that that this is a clear instance of racial bias and that I am just racially insensitive.  However, Moore wrote her position as part of the Appeal’s minority opinion on Holder’s appeal.   Turns out that the majority did not agree.  The fact that this was a split decision among intelligent people, means that exactly that: reasonable people can disagree without being called names.

When I read through the judgment on the appeal, I examined the court transcripts in question.  I will agree that some things were said that merit additional examination.  In my post, I expressed support for the appeal.  However those transcripts show leading questions that I feel could walk a reasonable person into saying unreasonable things.  There’s also testimony from the potential jurors (who are accused of racial bias) stating that they found the original questionnaire’s wording slanted and confusing.  Normal people who get tapped for jury duty very rarely, can easily be confused by legalistically worded questions.  A few of them specifically called out clever use and placement of pejorative words, along with some fast reading on their part, caused them to answer in a way that did not represent how they really felt, given the further clarification.

Just because I find the defendant, a convicted burglar who met and infected the plaintiff while cheating on his wife, less credible than the plaintiff, doesn’t mean I’m demonizing HIV positive people.

Todd writes:

In fact, the records and Holder’s own statements show that the victim was aware of this marriage and allowed Holder to move in with her anyway.

So much for the innocent victim of the cheating husband meme.

Hardly.   Much of this case, like many others, comes down to “he said, she said” and who’s the more believable witness.  It’s not that she’s a victim because he’s cheating on his wife.  The victim of that is his wife.   It’s the fact that he is cheating on his wife that makes him less credible to me.  It’s purely about him and his behavior that affects his credibility.   It’s just like the burglary conviction. According to Kosecki, who I believe, Holder not only failed to disclose, but lied and denied that he was HIV positive.

Just because this is my first post on contagious disease transmission, and that in an unrelated post about where I argued that the lack of democratic leadership in our movement focuses our resources on marquee issues like “Marriage” and starves others and did not list HIV in a short list of examples, doesn’t mean I’m HIV Phobic.

In an unrelated post where I was arguing (among other things) that perhaps because of less than democratic governance in our movement, we are so focused on the 100% solution of marriage in huge expensive battles, that we are starving other efforts like in smaller states for things like Employment Non-Discrimination or even basic forms of relationship recognition such as hospital visitation rights and smaller communities like Transgendered.  I suppose because I did not specifically list HIV, or forgot to include the words “including but not limited to”, I am HIV phobic.

Reciprocally, if you watch Todd’s speech, it’s focused entirely on HIV, even though many of the same issues arise with other contagious diseases.  Would I like to see him include those other diseases in his public speeches?  Yes.  Because he didn’t include the others, does that mean he’s HSV-Phobic?  No, of course not.

It’s not just about HIV

We talked and emailed a lot before we had the opportunity to have any sexual contact. I did notice there was something visible going on in a place on him that it would not be possible to have sexual contact without significant exposure to myself.  It looked a lot like acne and that was my initial assumption.  During the conversation phase, i did what I thought was right.  At a point where the conversation turned to sex, we shared our sexual histories.  When sharing my sexual history I  brought up the topic of STIs and made it clear that there was nothing going on that he needed to worry about.  I delicately prodded him to reciprocate.  He didn’t disclose anything.   At that point I went with my assumption that what i saw was acne on his face in the chin area.  I felt it would have been offensive to push it further. Eventually, we found ourselves in the right situation, and sexual contact happened.  After that, I felt uneasy looking at it more closely  and specifically asked exactly what that was.  His response was that it was a warts outbreak. I was kind of stunned and insisted on talking about it right then.  I was persuaded with assurances of commitment. I asked for a simple thing to protect me such as wearing a band-aid, but was and scolded for complaining about such a superficial thing.  Essentially I was bullied into continuing to expose myself.  I allowed this exposure to continue .   I’m embarrassed to admit that I allowed myself to end up in such a physically and emotionally risky position.

Those assurances didn’t amount to much.  For months after it ended, I was afraid that the HPV was going to show up.  In my mind, I was sure I was going to get it.   I would scrutinize any  ingrown hair follicle, shaving bump, or odd bump.  I went to the doctor a few times to have things examined.   HPV can take a while to show up, and there’s no simple test for males, like a HEP, HSV, or HIV test to tell if you get it.  The uncertainty was the worst part.  I certainly read up on and learned about HPV alot.  It turns out that there are many different types of warts, and usually ones that show up on the face aren’t the typically known “genital warts”.

[update] It’s been argued that since these types of warts are a different strain of HPV than “genital warts”, and they are not actually on the genitals, that it’s not actually an STI.   To me, that’s a pretty fine distinction.  If it was on an arm or leg, I could more easily agree.  But when it’s in a place that you need to touch to make out, it seems like an unimportant distinction.  Still, its the trust issue that bugs me the most.

It made me think a lot about what I would do if it turned out that i got it.   When i get the occasional cold sore on my lip, it’s not always very visible.  However, I’m strict about not letting someone kiss me when its present.  I’ve stopped people from kissing me and always first disclose.  I do think it’s my responsibility.

Even though in most cases your immune system eventually rids your body of the virus, someone else’s well being comes before my sexual urges.

With HIV, one can (and should) use a condom; it’s a very reliable way to inhibit transmission of HIV.  However with HSV, HEP and HPV, there just isn’t an equivalent think that the potential recipient can do to protect themselves.  They are dependent on the transparency and honesty of the person who has it.

I also felt that because of pressure not to offend or reinforce a stigma or phobia, there is hesitation to be too direct or pushy.  The gulag of silence also has a side effect of discouraging a level of directness which may be appropriate.

In the end, enough time passed without it showing up that I felt that I’d dodged the bullet.  This is now a few years ago.  Though I’d been lucky, many are not, and who knows, down the road, one of those people could be me, you or any of us.

I also own the fact that I made some questionable decisions at the time. I could have refused to continue once it was apparent what was going on. I could have resisted the persuasions.   If I had ultimately gotten it, I would share responsibility.  However, the experience has definitely affected my view of the issue here, and as a result I have a strong position in support of disclosure obligations, and legal deterrent with respect to failing to disclose.  That is why I chose to speak out on my blog.

Legal deterrents can be part of the solution

The person I was involved with should have known better and been more transparent at an earlier time, like prior to first exposure.  Probably above all else, this experience is what drives me to empathize with Maria Kosecki’s position and my support for the conviction.

Todd writes:

Is there a moral obligation to disclose one’s HIV status to one’s partner(s)? Absolutely. That same moral obligation stands with diseases such as herpes, (now linked to Alzheimer’s Disease), HPV (linked to anal, penile and cervical cancers), Hep B and C (linked to liver cancers) and more. Yet, in Michigan, none of those viruses carries a criminal sanction– only HIV carries such a criminal sanction.

Rhetoric and name-calling aside, I don’t think our positions are all that different.     We agree on the moral obligation to disclose.   Todd point’s out that the other STIs are not covered by Michigan’s law.  I agree that is a problem. He doesn’t take a position on whether criminal sanctions are truly necessary, which we may not be totally aligned on.  My opinion is that, some people are not sufficiently motivated to follow trough on the moral obligation Todd does state agreement with.

if you steal my MP3 player, you can be criminally prosecuted.  Aside from being out some money, and maybe feeling violated, I’m fine.  If one person slaps another, they can be charged criminally with assault and or battery.    Aside from perhaps temporary pain and embarrassment, there’s little if any long term effect on the victim’s quality of life.   It’s much less than having to manage HSV, HEP, HPV or HIV or others over the course of a lifetime..  Not only is the physical side harsh, the emotional effects of having this is a visible place or one that is “in the line of fire”, so to speak, in a sexual situation are non-trivial.  So if someone can be charged criminally for slapping, I don’t see why they can’t be charged for this.  That’s why I support a legal deterrent against this.   It isn’t the ideal, or entire solution to maintaining the health of our community, it’s just a part.

Another HUGE part of this solution is honesty.

If one person is entering into a romantic relationship with another, they have the right to know about any health risks.   i I’ll admit that a casual sex situation has lower expectations and things lean more towards “watch out for yourself”.   In either case, there are multiple perspectives and things to take into account when deciding what is appropriate behavior.   Merely saying “wear a condom” is not sufficient protection and implies that it’s all the recipient’s responsibility and that its effective against all STIs.  Similarly, saying “if you have something, you must disclose” without getting more specific about what’s supposed to be said and when .  Everyone has some responsibility and it’s not a simple answer.

The biggest problem I see is that the discussion on this topic out doesn’t happen.  Throwing recriminations about intent back and forth serves no one.  Avoiding the topic because it might offend someone is equally unhelpful.  The result of not being able to have conversations like this contributes to the spread of contagious diseases and damages the overall health of our community.

This gulag of silence hurts everybody, STI Positive or not.

“From now on treat each other with compassion, treat each other with honesty, and talk about [STIs]. demand it of your community, demand it of yourself”, Todd Heywood,  June 2009.

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