The Power of Speaking Out

Who says reality television can’t provide some inspiration? Take last week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked!, where contestant (and Atlanta resident) Trinity K. Bonet made a surprising confession:

“I am HIV-positive. I was diagnosed in August 2012, and I have so much to live for. I have so many goals and aspirations that I want to conquer in my life, so I’m not going to let an obstacle get in the way. I wanted to come on this show, and I wanted to be that voice for people who are scared to speak out about that.”

As a community, we’re still far too quick to stigmatize those who are HIV-positive. I don’t mean to imply that we shun those who are HIV-positive altogether. Just in our local community, organizations that work to help those with HIV/AIDS are among our biggest charitable organizations. It’s something that’s become engrained into our collective conscious, thanks to our historic connection to HIV.

At the same time, though, when it comes to the way HIV is actually transmitted, there are still many members of our community who are too quick to judge those with HIV without a thought. Just go to your favorite dating app and see the number of people who will put something along the lines of “Neg here, looking for same.” Or worse. The thought process that those with HIV somehow were asking for it, or got what they deserved, is something that still exists in our community as well.

Of course, stigmatizing people with HIV leads to other problems. As studies from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health have indicated, there may be a connection between HIV-related stigma and a reduction in testing interest. It’s unfortunate, but given the way people with HIV can be treated by others, it’s also understandable in some ways.

It’s a strange twist for our community. As members of the LGBT community, the vast majority of us have experienced coming out in some form. We should be making it easier for people to come out in a different way – as HIV-positive, in this case – without feeling the stigmas that many of us have faced coming out as gay, bisexual, or trans.

That’s what makes Trinity’s admission so admirable. In the context of the show, it’s an empowering moment. Outside of the show, Trinity’s desire to be a voice for others living with HIV has already come true just by speaking out. It’s a tremendous move she’s made, and one that will hopefully make it easier for others living with HIV.

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