Kalvin describes himself as someone who “took the power out of HIV. I have control now, not the other way around.”
I dealt with a lot more self-imposed stigma than anything else. I don’t know why. I think it – because I was a preacher’s kid growing up and … All of a sudden, I felt like a deviant, less than. I was bad. And it sucker-punched me. This is what comes from growing up in a religious household. I was beating myself up. And I felt like a deviant. And we had gone actually – after we met with you, we had gone straight to Nelson…And the museum has always been this source of hope and a safe place for me. And so even going through any of it, the day I got pills, everything, I went straight to the museum. It was always my safe place. I felt ugly. And it’s a building full of beautiful things. It was a space that nothing – my phone doesn’t work in the museum either. And so none of it existed outside of there. So it was the place that this is just pretty…And being in the beauty industry, feeling ugly is like the worst thing.
It’s a sink, and it’s full of just junk. We were cleaning out the garage. And I just looked at it, and I was like, that’s kind of how I felt there for a while. That’s how I feel about my friends now. Discarded. And I feel discarded. And we don’t get invited to half the events that happen. We got invited to an engagement party a couple weeks ago. I was ecstatic…But it’s been five months of being on the blacklist. So I felt like a whole bunch of discarded pieces and a whole bunch of junk. I felt like I couldn’t fit in, in an island of misfit toys. I’ve tried to talk to [friends]. I feel compelled to talk to other people. I feel more compelled to talk to young people. I’m talking about volunteering at the youth center or the gay/lesbian center here. I feel motivated to talk to other people and help other people. The ones that I feel I can reach. In our own community, it is still so stigmatized. And I think I had a complete blind side to that.
No one at work has treated me any different. The ones who know don’t treat me any differently. But this, I took the picture, and the sun was coming through the window like it was. And it was the first time I think I really felt hope. [The doctor] gives you this book. They gave me this book. I read through it going, “Oh, I’m never going to feel like that.” I looked at the book not too long ago because I just found it. And I was like, “Well, I went through all of it.” And I think it was where I felt hope because I think I felt hopeless for a while. Life would be so much easier if I had a back button. But there is no back button.
This is my safe place. This is the museum, the tree outside. I’ve always loved the tree. It’s metal and it just stands out from everything. But at the same time it stands alone. Even though my partner and I were both going through [HIV], in my head I was alone. But going through something, finding out you have anything in life that’s not the status quo, you start to feel mentally just locked up. The tree is by itself, but at the same time it’s very strong. It’s made of metal. I felt alone and I felt weak, because I put that on myself. But at the same time, I find that the more I talk to my friends who do have HIV, I realize that they are tough people. One of my friends said, “You’re just going to whoop this.” But I didn’t feel tough.
This is something that actually happened at the bar. I had walked away from my drink, and my friend was watching it. And he went to take a sip out of my drink. And someone said, “You shouldn’t do that. Don’t you know he’s got HIV?” And I came back, and my friend told me, and asked me if I wanted to leave. I was like, “F— no, I’m not leaving.”And I just felt all of a sudden like, wow, how uneducated – and it was a young person. You’re uneducated. You don’t know. And that’s dangerous.
I feel a certain level of responsibility to educate. [My mom] said, you found this whole resolve in life – because she kept going – she kept being my mom and being awesome. And I kept telling her, and my mom was like – my mom got teary-eyed, she cried, which that woman’s made of steel. But she goes, “How can you be so happy, with everything? You look like death.” And I said, “Because I have to be. Something good will come of this. It has to for my own sake, for other people’s sake. It has to. I feel responsible. I feel responsible for educating other people. I think it is a global problem. People need to be educated. We’ve ignored it since the ‘80s. Or at least it’s been shoved in the corner just like racism.”