Devin is an Aquarius, and an HIV advocate who does a lot work to improve the lives of people with HIV.
Describing his pictures overall, Devon says:
They are very intersectional. Just like me and my experience of stigma, it’s not just one thing. I feel the same way when something is racially insensitive or when something is homophobic. I feel it all the same way.
I think living with intersectional identities means you experience more vulnerability. There is a lot to appreciate about that experience as well – about really getting to know yourself; and understand yourself in light of those identities. I feel like there is so much value in knowing the history of HIV and what people sacrificed, and also what they were willing to do. People always mention the Civil Rights Movement when it comes to activism, but people living with HIV were dumping their loved one’s ashes on the White House lawn. They were dumping HIV tainted blood on the steps of congress. It was a bunch of young people doing all of these great things. So, it’s an honor to be attached to that narrative. It helps me appreciate everything that I am and everything that it took for these many different racial/ethnic minorities and LGBT people to get me to this point. Those things just kind of excite me.
I voted today… In part to support the national HIV/ AIDS strategy. I am concerned for people living with HIV in general. And I know that [the new president] is getting ready to take action on the Affordable Care Act as soon as he gets into office. So I’m concerned about whether or not I’m going to have access to my pills in a matter of months, or case management, or anything else that I depend on, for that matter. So this is one example of a time that I fear for myself because of stigma.
The human rights element to illness… I was on this plane and there was a dog on there, and I’m extremely allergic to dogs. I was sneezing by the time I got on the second plane. This was around the time of the whole Ebola scare. This guy that was sitting next to me asked me if I’m carrying any bad diseases. I just sat there because I didn’t really know how to respond…I think there’s definitely a human rights element to illness, to health conditions, to health care. And I feel like that statement was definitely targeted at people living with certain illnesses, especially viral conditions, everyone feels defensive and acts ignorant.
This is a picture of a sunset from the plane. I was headed to Atlanta…Going back to reclaim my life…Atlanta’s where I received my HIV diagnosis and where I was exposed to HIV. And it’s also a community that I was very committed to as far as public health. It is where I started advocacy work. It’s like going back home, but it’s difficult. It’s difficult to be there for too long because I still feel like I’m vulnerable to a lot of things that take place in the city. On the other hand, I feel like that was a really important time in my life where I got to know myself, my racial identity, my sexual orientation. That’s where I learned a lot about my personal identity.
Being accepted as a complex person… I just happened to see the HRC equal sign on a poster, and that just reminded me that this is a safe space, at least for LGBT people. It’s Atlanta. For me as a young Black gay man and understanding that Black gay men have a one-in-two chance of becoming HIV positive over the course of a lifetime, I really consider race to be a serious issue. I feel like race is – blackness specifically – is constantly subject to economics. Economics dictate my opportunity as a Black person. I feel like the extent of my ability to be successful in this country depends on the extent of my ability to conform to White cultural standards. I feel like I’m not appreciated as a full person. I am constantly put into someone’s version of what a Black man should be, rather than being accepted as a complex person, a complex Black person.
A lot of people want to use their other identities as if they’re redeeming themselves from being Black or from being gay, and I’m embracing these things about myself because I truly accept myself. Other people struggle to accept themselves, but I feel like I’m entitled to love myself.
Activist… Hosea Williams is a civil rights activist. My best friend compared me to him one time. I think I can totally educate people. It’s just that some people don’t want to be educated.
The thing about newly diagnosed people is, they’re really confronting their own stigma against people living with HIV. So they really have to reassess everything that HIV has meant for them…and figure out what the biases were that they were holding against people living with HIV. So that’s a very powerful and insightful time of life. And if it’s difficult, I mean, you can learn that you are holding a lot of negative feelings. But I’m hopeful that they can change their perceptions just by being a little bit more exposed and a little bit more educated. I mean, it’s just a chronic condition.