Today is a big day for me.
Many of you will know that I am the founder and co-editor of The International Journal For Direct Support Professionals, published in English, French and Spanish, which reaches a broad international audience. Out today is an article written by two miraculous people, Dr. Yona Lunsky and Dr. Anna Durbin, on the subject of supporting people with intellectual disabilities around issues related to HIV and AIDS. This matters to me. Really matters.
Several years ago, at home, at night, I received and phone call from a social worker who worked far to the north of Toronto. He was desperate. He was supporting three gay men with intellectual disabilities. All of them had been having unprotected sex in parks and public restrooms in the small town in which they lived. When he began supporting them they all told the same story. They couldn't have condoms because if they were caught with condoms, and caught they would be because of the intrusive nature of supports, then they would be in trouble for being sexual and they might be discovered for being gay as well. For them, safe sex, was without condoms as evidence and done in secretive places like behind a public restroom door. They lived in fear. Fear of the agency for finding out they were sexual and that they were gay. Fear that they may have been exposed to HIV.
I was asked if I could, as a person, not as a professional, they had no trust in professionals with affiliations, support him is supporting them to get tested. I agreed to help. After contact was made with an anonymous testing site an appointment was set. The men were readied for the reality of the test and the possibilities of the results of that test. They were good men, they were responsible men, the wanted to know and they wanted to figure out how to change their situation so that they could reduce their own risk.
I met them.
We all went to the appointments and then ... we were done.
On the way back to the car, we suggested that they might want to stop into a gay bar. None of them had been in a place that welcomed people who, like them, were LGBT. We went in and took a table and order beers for everyone but the driver. We sat and talked. As we did, the men talked about the test and their fears and what it was like to speak without whispering. They were awestruck at the place and at the easy way that people simply were who they were. The conversation was overheard by others at other tables. But there wasn't fear of the fact that others heard because the realization was that others knew exactly what they were feeling.
A couple minutes into their chat about their fears a gay man walked up to the table and dropped 5 condoms, one for each of us, on the table. He nodded, smiled and left. This started a parade of men coming by, dropping condoms, or wishing them well as they waited for their results.
These three things brought their anxiety down. They knew the wait would be hard but they knew that they could do it, and whatever the result they would support each other and that their was a community that would support them.
Now these years later, we are publishing this newsletter today on World AIDS Day, we are bringing the discussion into the dark corners of the sector serving people with disabilities ... corners that still repress sexuality, repress education and force men and women into a lifestyle of shame and secrecy. A dangerous lifestyle.
If you would like to receive the article or subscribe to the journal (both are free) email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if you want subscription or single article.
We are also going to do a webinar on the newsletter hosted by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals.
Go to this link to sign up (and yes it's free too)
Please register for Let's Talk with Dave
Hingsburger: December, 2017 on Dec 20, 2017 2:00 PM EST at:
After registering, you will receive a
confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
I am thrilled that this is happening, and thrilled that those men, who all tested negative are now living positive lives fully supported and accepted. I never saw that coming.
This is the third time I've come back to read this post, and now, finally, to share it with others. Even after a third reading, there's still a lump in my throat. So much to be angry about, but such a joyful story all the same. Thanks for continuing to tell how things were (and often still are). (Also: A little shocked that this post received no comments. Although, maybe I shouldn't be...)
In the work I do, I often come across young men labeled as sexual deviants because they dared to express their sexuality in a controlled (institutional) setting. I think the deviance is the institutional settings that are labeling them. I loathe this 'system of care' as it is more often a system of inflicting harm under the guise of good intentions. I have suffered under benevolent tyranny on occasion . . . and nothing has caused a more violent reaction from me. (Which of course led to further benevolent intervention . . . . )
Thank you for sharing this.
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