Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Failing to Advocate

The Advocate is striking out, and not in bold new directions. No, the magazine is striking out in the recreational sense. I'm tired of it; I quit subscribing to it a few years ago because I felt like it had lost touch with its mission and its audience. (Hopefully I'm right about the latter half, although I fear I'm wrong and that The Advocate actually is properly addressing its audience.)

In the previous issue, the editor came out strongly against criminal penalties for people who have HIV, know they have HIV and fail to disclose this to sexual partners. I find this wholly unresponsible and as an example of political correctness gone awry. I don't blame people who are HIV positive for their condition, and I recognize the difficulties that such a law could pose for people living with HIV, both knowingly and unknowingly. However, failure to disclose HIV status to a sexual partner is, without question, morally wrong. It's a sin of the greatest magnitude, just slightly under lying about your HIV status.

I agree that some people may advocate for such laws out of ignorance, irrational fear, or even hate. That doesn't make it an unreasonable law intrinsically, however. I don't advocate for doctors or other medical personnel having to disclose their HIV status; that's an entirely different matter. But somebody just trying to get laid who purposefully hides his/her status in order to have sex (or worse to knowingly try to transmit) should be punished. It's irresponsible and selfish. This doesn't absolve people from asking - dammit, there's a level of responsibility on both sides, but one party's failure to ask is not sufficient reason to subject that person to a debilitating, expensive, even deadly disease.

Now, once that status has been disclosed, it's no longer that person's responsibility to protect you. If you, at that point, chose to engage in high-risk behavior, then that's your choice. You had full information and chose to participate. This is one potential problem with such a law: people who claim they weren't informed but actually were. I think the optimal solution is to have that disclosure in writing. Being able to prove that on the date you encountered the person, they had awareness of your status is crucial to protect yourself. This, I think, is easy enough with an e-mail or even a signed statement. Yes, I know, it takes all of the romance or lust or perversion out of the encounter, whatever you're asking for, but some people into risky or adventurous sex advocate using contracts just so that everybody is clear on the expectations. Contracts aren't sexy, but they are probably worth it.

If you want to argue against this point, that's understandable and I'm willing to listen to counter arguments, but The Advocate seems to make its stance with no thoughtfullness at all. It comes off as what they believe is the popular opinion, or at least the "cool" opinion, so that's the one it goes with.

The most recent issue, you know, the one with the Gwen Stephanie cover, has an editorial that's nearly as frustrating. (No, Gwen's not gay, by the way.) Although it deals with a much less weighty topic, The Advocate's editor decided to go after Born Different, the campaign with the cute dog who "moos." The Advocate, the magazine with the numerous celebrities on its covers (many who aren't gay, but sure like us queers a lot) complains that too much money was spent on what it characterizes as an ineffectual campaign, exclaiming that the money could have been spent on telling the story of real individuals. The Advocate, the one with the sexy and provacative cover just three issues ago (their summer sex issue), berates the campaign for being too easily discredited by Focus on the Family and its ilk ("dogs aren't born mooing and people aren't born gay").

I have no idea how impactful, if at all, the Born Different campaign has been. I'm a huge fan of exposing people to gay and lesbian families that they can relate to (although I'm also a huge proponent of making sure that we don't lose the radicalness of queer identity). I also firmly believe that the good word (that us queers aren't out to steal your kids and husbands) needs to be delivered in a variety of ways. Different people respond to different messages. I can tell you one thing over and over and you may never understand it until somebody else tells you the exact same thing, except in a different way that you respond to. So, without any hard facts to prove that the BD campaign hasn't been useful, this magazine that once was the premiere publication of our community but now is obsessed with interviewing straight celebrities, has the audacity to attack an organization actually promoting not just civic acceptance, but societal acceptance. This campaign, trying to change peoples' hearts and attitudes, not just their vote, is belittled by a magazine that has lost its way and does almost nothing to truly advocate for our community any longer. The Advocate needs to change its name to The Hypocrite.

If I didn't already get the magazine for free, I'd cancel my subscription.

1 comment:

Kalvin said...

I think a lot of the concern as well would be the enforcement behind such a statute that deals with criminal prosecution of those who fail to disclose their HIV status. And you know what, it might just be unconstitutional as well. I can imagine a lot of scorned lovers trying to use this to get back at people. It's just not easily enforceable and once again casts HIV men and once again gay men in particular as predatory and deleterious.