Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sceptical or cynical?

By now, everyone online, and most people reading any old media outlet, would have come across the story of the gay teenager's dad writing him an understanding and supportive note about his plans to come out.

As far as I can see, this  first surfaced on FCKH8's Facebook last Friday and since then has been posted, reposted, shared and talked about absolutely every-fucking-where.

Heart-warming as it is, I have my doubts about the veracity of this story.  Lots of things don't really add up.

Primarily, if it were true, given that this picture has gone round the world several times and made it to every single old media outlet, the people involved would have been identified by now and put on a pedestal.  I really, truly, want to know how this got online, who posted it,and WHY?

Is it cynical of me to have that as a first thought? I love stories of human courage, compassion and love as much as the next person, and I REALLY TRULY wish this were true, but I prefer to focus on genuine ones, and this stinks of being manufactured to me so I refuse to share it any more than I do well constructed heart warming short stories or novels. 

After two days of intensive searching, I've still not discovered anything approaching an original source - all provenance claims are just going round in circles. And that is a truly bad sign of a manufactured meme designed to go viral rather than a genuine story. 

This story has sent FCKH8's profile stratospheric, and that is probably a good thing. However, the question I ask is, is fabrication of a morally "upright" parable that is being presented as a true story and plays on public gullibility, valid as a method of engendering public interest, attention and action?

There are enough truly great coming out stories with real identifiable people at their core, why is this one, that stinks of fakeness, the one that everyone has latched on to? 

Am I the only one who thinks this isn't real? And am I the only one who is concerned that every single professional media outlet is repeating it non-critically?  Why have the media, who are so good at dragging up every little tidbit of scandal and can identify people in the news on the flimsiest of basic information, not bothered to try to discover all the ins and outs of this story but just repeat it parrot-fashion?

Thursday, 21 February 2013


In the last couple of weeks I have become aware of five guys I know either online or in the real world who've been diagnosed with HIV, every one of them under 30 (and only one over 25).

This brings on several, perhaps contradictory, reflections.So here's a bit of a stream of consciousness of the thoughts going through my mind.

It's daft for anyone to contemplate unsafe sex. The original discovery of HIV/AIDS in the early 80s coincided with my own sexual awakening and I remember being shit scared every time I went close to a gay venue. Every single one of my age peers, gay, straight or otherwise, knows someone who died of HIV/AIDS, in the most ghastly circumstances. 

DON'T DIE OF IGNORANCE intoned the doom-laden government campaign, and many of us took that to heart. But it seems that like in most areas of life, the younger generation has forgotten the lessons learned by their forebears, and whilst HIV is no longer an immediate death sentence, it remains seriously unpleasant and IS a sentence to take a cocktail of drugs every remaining day of the infected person's life, and forces them to sacrifice many things.

To paraphrase a tweet from one of those guys, I knew the risks but I engaged in unsafe sex anyway. Hang on, you fucking moron, maybe YOU knew the risks, but was every one of the invariably VERY young and impressionable  guys you fucked and allowed to fuck you without protection aware of the risks? I don't expect you to give them a health lecture before jumping in the sack with them but behaving like a slag is NOT the behaviour of a responsible adult who is aware of the dangers of his actions to himself and others.

At least he made his status public as soon as he found out. But one of the others didn't admit to it for several weeks, all the while sleeping around and being very active on gay dating apps and websites. There is precedent for such behaviour to be considered criminal activity.

Nothwithstanding the above, these people have learned a hard lesson a very hard way and moral lecturing aside, they deserve our support. Shouting them down in public and avoiding them is not the right thing to do, and more often than not, they are victims of difficult circumstances. HIV positive people are not immediately contagious outside of intimate direct contact with their bodily fluids, and stupid as they may have been, they deserve our support as people. They need help and hugs and need to be allowed to continue their lives.

They certainly don't deserve to be ostracised, unless perhaps they have been proven to be wantonly and deliberately spreading a barely-treatable but incurable disease, but even so, the rest of us also need to educate ourselves about the dangers and frankly, there's no reason for us to behave any differently towards them.

I admit I find it difficult to be a true friend to someone I know has behaved recklessly and stupidly, but they are going to get plenty of shit from everyone else so the very least I can do is support them and educate myself and others.

I'm still coming to terms with what this news means to me and some of my personal relationships so I'd welcome any input from well meaning people to help me work out a position in which I can be true to my friends while also being true to my own conscience, and being able to condemn their stupidity while at the same time unstintingly supporting the in their time of most need of true friends.