I’m just trying to kill stereotypes and change the world, one photo at a time.
In D.C., I’m what I call an “advocate socialite.” I take on HIV. I take on women’s rights, homelessness, LGBT youth issues, and then just troubled youth in general. I’m trying to make sure everybody feels equal and that we don’t feel like we have to be segregated.
When I came out of the closet at 16, it was hurtful to my family. They’re devout Baptists, in North Carolina, and to be gay—and then to be black, and then to be in a small town—was kind of embarrassing. When I turned 18, I moved out and I became homeless. I was living in my car and going to school in Fairview, North Carolina. I didn’t have anybody to connect with. So one day I just called my mom and I talked to her. This was before I was diagnosed. And we started bonding then.
I think my story’s different from others. I contracted HIV through a rape situation when I was 18, with somebody who I was dating at the time. I just wasn’t ready and I guess he was. And it seems weird to say this but, after the rape, we were still friends. Later on I found out I was positive and that was a dramatic moment, because where I’m from they don’t talk about this stuff.
Soon after I was diagnosed my mom told me she and my stepdad had been diagnosed positive three months before. And she just didn’t know how to tell anybody. We became really good friends. And we just went through it together, until she passed. I wish we had bonded earlier in life, so I could have that family relationship, but it was so good to have it at that time.
Now I am 31 years old with grandkids and three stepchildren. My husband is 42. He is HIV-negative. I never knew that someone could love me as much as he does. And I never thought that I would love someone as much as I love him.
I can’t say that my life hasn’t been adventurous and I can’t say that it’s been bad. I can just say it’s been a learning process. But now I have the one thing that I’ve always wanted. I always wanted kids and I’ve always wanted family. And my husband has been able to give me both of those things.