I spent most of my life being an advocate for social justice. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, during the movement for racial equality that centered in that city. In college, I was part of a group that fought Georgetown University for the right of gay students to organize a formal campus social group. I started an HIV prevention program that does outreach to Black men in Denver and I was a senior staff member of the (now-defunct) National Association of People With AIDS. I was the litigant in a Lambda Legal lawsuit against the U.S. State Department that resulted in a change of policy to allow HIV positive people to serve in the U.S. Foreign Service and other international organizations.
I was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, and told that it was incurable and that I probably had six months to live, as gay friends were dying all around me. As a 29-year-old, I was told to do whatever I wanted to do while I was still healthy. I have lived my life that way for the past thirty-five years and, fortunately, remained healthy with great access to therapies and good genes. I continued to work a full-time career with the federal government until retiring to Palm Springs in 2018. Much of my career was as a project officer for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, overseeing grants to clinics, hospitals and AIDS service organizations. I was also able to travel to over 35 countries for business or as a tourist, including going several times on the Poz Cruise.
Retirement and the pandemic have brought out my creative side — writing poetry, fiction and (most recently) a play that will be staged locally [see the April To Do List below for details]. My gay romance novel Rain After the Fire was published in 2020 (under my pen name Lorenz Qatava). It deals with a husband coming out as gay at same the time that the couple’s home was destroyed by a massive wildfire. I participated in poetry slams and was asked to recite my poem, “Take A Breath, Amerika,” at several Black Lives Matter protests last summer. I volunteer with several local gay organizations including Brothers of the Desert, California Men’s Gathering, Cinema Diverse and the LGBT Center. I’m happy and fortunate to enjoy a relaxed life appreciating nature and cultural activities in Palm Springs and (in summers) in Ashland, Oregon.
Sharing our stories helps all of us feel less alone. In our “Knowing Me, Knowing You” feature, we’ll get to know one of our fellow members. We encourage you to email us at news@LKAPS.org to contribute your story.