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I feel that it’s my duty to use my experience to create a better world for queer and trans youth.

[TW: discussions about abuse and drug and alcohol usage] This December marks an important achievement in my transition! After 17 years of waiting, I’ll be undergoing my orchiectomy. This surgery, the first and potentially only genital surgery I’ll have, is something I’ve wanted since I was a scrawny little brown boy. In honor of something this big, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences in my childhood and teenage years. Specifically, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to have been a queer and trans person in a Latinx family. Growing up in a Latin household, simply being sexually attracted to men (something that I’ve known since kindergarten) was not something that was even entertained as a thought, let alone being a boy who know she’s really a girl. Latinx culture strongly emphasizes masculinity and heterosexuality as being the most important qualities that a person assigned male at birth should have. This often comes in the form of toxic masculinity and abuse for people who don’t appear to comply with this picture of manhood. This strangles the life out of trans women and queer boys, emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes literally. In my family, there was such a strong emphasis on heterosexuality and masculinity. Uncles and cousins emphasized and tried to drill into my head their macho ideas of manhood. I had to act like a boy but being around mostly women — in their eyes — had made me soft. So what they did was send me to be with men in my family to toughen me up and make me a man. Needless to say, they didn’t make a man out of me and I wasn’t comfortable or happy with these attempts to make me one at all. I had to perform masculinity for them, because the idea of me being feminine, enjoying feminine things, and rejecting masculinity were so unconscionable that they weren’t options for me. The emphasis that was placed on me to look (sexually) at women, even as a child, was symbolic of how unconscionable it was to be any sort of queer. I’d known, by kindergarten, that I was sexually attracted to men. Simply to look at a man made my heart flutter and my body tingle, but I could never describe these feelings to anyone.

For World AIDS Day, let’s remember those we’ve lost to the virus but also remember that we all have an opportunity to fight it.

Today is World AIDS Day, a day that we use to remember those lost to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It’s also used to remember that many more people are currently living with HIV and AIDS. For queer people, this day is especially important because it’s a reminder of what we’ve lost: an entire generation of artists, musicians, lovers, activists, and elders who had so much to give queer life and the world at large. Tens of thousands of queer people were lost to us. Every year, we end up uncovering or rediscovering art, writing, or music created by this “lost generation”, ever reminding us of the thousands of potentials that were so cruelly and violently lost to us. With that said, it’s important to not only mourn for those lost or lament the talents stolen from us. We also need to remember two vital things: one, the tenacity and ferocity with which queer people — both those with HIV and AIDS and those who don’t have it — fought and continue to fight against HIV and AIDS. We also need to remember that their work to get the US government to listen to their demands has been saving all of our lives, and will continue to as we discover new ways to treat and prevent the disease. One more contribution they gave, not just to people with HIV or AIDS or people at risk to it, but to all of us, was the development of the “right to try” principle. This principle essentially states that those who have an incurable chronic or terminal illness — such as cancer or multiple sclerosis — should have the right to try anything that can potentially extend their lives, treat their suffering, or even cure their ailments.

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