The Saga Continues…
Continual Survivor! Part I
By Nevin Jefferson
Over the years, I’ve been bestowed with titles that were landmarks in my spiritual journey. The first title that was deemed upon me was “Miss Congenitally” from the Chicago Softballers, a club that sponsored Gay Social Softball games with a cookout afterwards. At the time I was a shy, docile, naïve, GBM who didn’t have a clue about what was going on. (My Greenhorn Days!) At the end of summer, a banquet was held at The Baton (The one and only Popular Night Spot where the best in Female Impersonation could be found on stage.) where members enjoyed dinner and a show put on by fellow Softballer’s in Drag. Years and Titles later, I’m now being hailed as a “Aids Survivor” in write-ups about me in the gay news and by people whom I come into contact with. I refuse to play the role of Camille and plan on going out in a burst of flames. So, how do I feel about this title? I’m honored, flattered, and tickled more pink than the flamingos in my exclusive collection. How you handle the trails and attributions in life plays a big part in growing into the person who you are. You are what you do, so just be you in doing it to the fullest of your compass ability. We all need a role model to show us how to handle issues accordingly without being a pretentious, showoff Queen about it. Who better to show you from personal experience than Mr. Saga himself? I learned a lot in life after being burnt to a crisp then moving on wiser and understanding of the situations that became a life lesson. We all have life changing moments that bring us into the individual whom we’re meant to be and who we are. I was 3 for 3 for life changing moments in April of 1991. The first moment was when I tested positive for AIDS virus. The second moment was when my Mother was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer. The third moment was when my suspicions became a reality about the fact that my lover was screwing everyone but me. I was on a roll, wasn’t I? I practice celibacy when I’m not in a relationship. So going to bed with a man then going to sleep is nothing odd to me. In my poverty youth, I slept with two or more people in a bed. Which is why today, I’m able to go to bed with someone and sleep without becoming a lech during the night. We only had sex once during our relationship with his infecting me from this one time. Of course, he denied it. Of course, I forgave him then slammed dumped him so hard that he’s still bouncing in this present day. If there was ever a time for me to have a nervous breakdown, get a lobotomy, shock treatment, and stay heavily drugged this was the time. I chose to deal with this head on by making this a strength instead of a weakness. This way I could help others while helping myself conquer this disease that had no cure. I’ve always been dealt crappy hands in the card games of life and I always played them out and turned the cards dealt to me into a winning hand. I have a “Higher” power in my life and that “Higher” power is God! I got guidance and direction the minute my status changed. My best friend Bob worked as a Veterinarian and kept himself well informed about HIV/AIDS since it was a complete mystery at the time. It was a death sentence with people dying 8 months or 2 years later. Bob lost his home and business to a fire, lost his all of his savings, then lost his mind! He fell off of the wagon after 11 years of sobriety because life as he knew it was shot to crap without any signs of hope for a better tomorrow whatsoever. When Bob had his friends call me, I had the choice of Free Will or God’s Will. I chose God’s will which was to give comfort and care to those in need. The man was homeless, hungry, and only had the clothes that were on his back. What kind of friend would I have been if I had turned my back on him because it wasn’t my problem or responsiblity? What kind of christen would this had made me if I had refused to give help to someone in dire need of help? A false one! I would have got my membership card for the Un-Religious Wrong along with being a hypocrite and Pharisee. I went over to Bob’s friends home where I packed him up then bought him home with me where he stayed for 2 years before moving to Seattle. During this time, Bob ventured out to the rest stops and had sex with 38 men in one week. When he told me this, I flipped though Gay Chicago Magazine and clipped the coupon for a 2 for 1 HIV test at The Chicago House. Bob tested negative for the virus and I tested positive which was a shock to everyone since the folks at Chicago House knew that I didn’t screw around. They had Eighty-Sixth me from getting tested because AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease and I wasn’t have sex during the time frame that I was going to get tested. Bob took me out to dinner after the floor dropped from underneath me while I was standing center stage in the spotlight with the set falling behind me. It was like Wilde E. Coyote and the Acme Products that he orders. Bob flat out told me; “I know that you’re prone to depression but if think that you’re going to get depressed over this, think again. BITCH!” What a pal huh? Bob also knew that I suffer from delay reaction syndrome with all of the doozies that I been hit with not kicking in until later on in my life. Bob broke down the manner for me over dinner about starting a health regime. That included eating healthy balance meals, getting 8 hours or more sleep, going to the Doctor, starting a medicine schedule, stress management, and safe and safer sex. He strongly suggested that I sign up for a Survey Study at The Chicago House that he read about while waiting on me to get my test results. Part of the survey included a CD4 test that would clue me in on how active the virus was in my body. Once the results came back, I would find a Doctor to give the numbers to then start treatment. Which I did! I was prescribed AZT which was being used to treat those recently infected with HIV. I took 5 pills, 3 times a day. He also made an appointment for me at Positively Aware for their HIV 101 Orientation. He also took me to a Group Session for HIV+ men. God uses people as an instrument and vessel to do His work for you through someone else. Thank You God! Once the insurance company tipped off the Bank where I was working about my being infected with HIV and their raising my premium…All hell broke loose! They came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be able to do the great job that I was doing because of my illness. Bob and my Doctor suggested to me to get the heartless idiots involved to put this in writing. They did! My employer pushed the issue by letting my co-workers take vacations at the same time which meant that I had to work 2 shifts. They also blamed me for mistakes that my co-workers made on the sole purpose that I should have caught the problem. Even the ones made on my days off and on another shift mainly first and I worked 3rd shift. The lead on my shift was a racist who hated the fact that I was a intelligent Black man because he was raised to believe that Blacks were stupid. He wrote me up with the help of the equally bigoted Manager. On the morning that I was to get the Heave-Ho from Human Resources the Disability Act was passed. They couldn’t touch me. They did switch me to 2nd shift where I would work with the mindless blunders who screwed up left, right, and sideways. They reasoned that the stress would do me in. It didn’t! God got me through this one too! It was during this time that I put things into perspective and made assessments about the way that I saw things in my life. I made peace with myself and God which helped me love myself, God, and others. At the same time I began helping others and being there for those who were alone and had no one. I became more giving and caring of myself towards others. I joined ACT-UP Chicago, so I could be a voice for those who couldn’t speak up for themselves. I began volunteering at Chicago House and doing charity work. I wrote about all of things that I went through to help, inspire, and give encouragement to others. It wasn’t about me! For me, I was living proof of the adage that; “Only The Strong Survive. Which I found to be true of myself. Of course, this was only the beginning.
The Saga Continues next week with part II.