Building a case for our (sexual) stories

This piece originally appeared in Annals of Gay Sexuality, co-written with Marcus Greatheart and Pan.” See sidebar for titles of posts.

Such narratives invite empathy and imagination. As we learn to tell our gloriously messy stories our way, perhaps we’ll see enough versions of ourselves to experience greater relief from our present day stressors and recognize that we’re not as isolated as our silent grief and fear would tell us. To evolve we must be witnessed for coming through vulnerable and painful times of change. HIV epidemiology has been brilliant at laying out the groundwork for our understanding of how gay men have been impacted by HIV. However, we cannot expect clinical research to tell the whole of our story for us. Our

HIV statistics are certainly not as stimulating as some of the tell-alls gathered in this journal. A colleague recently said, “If I was to live my life by statistics alone, I wouldn’t ever do much of anything.” We argue that our stories will inspire needed (re)action more than HIV statistics can alone. Re-storying ourselves will flesh out these numbers. We’re counting on it.

Since the advent of AIDS we’ve heard gay men accuse researchers of following the agenda of the pharmaceutical gravy train in pursuit of their own careers and at the cost of community programming; that we’ve been left to fend for ourselves as they work on their mathematical models and abstracts no one really reads. The truth is that great work has been done and translating these findings to our diverse communities has been tepid at best. It’s seems to have taken a full generation of prevention workers to get their Master’s degree to understand and begin to act on these findings. Our stories augment decades of HIV/AIDS statistics and the significant body of work by MSM researchers. Our lives have been described by MSM theories

in terms of minority stress, resiliency and syndemics.9 We encourage people new to these concepts to learn about them and spread them into the queer commons. We have many fierce researchers and allies working on our behalf.

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