About Cyd Nova
This is the story my generation has been waiting to see.
I started getting involved in AIDS activism and work in 2002 at the age of 17 – ten years ago, but still long after ACT UP was the force of intensity I later came to obsessively study. When I first became aware of the group, I felt a sense of loss about not having been there, even as I was grateful to not live in an era when the AIDS crisis was decimating my community with that same degree of brutality.
ACT UP: the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power described itself as a “diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.” United in Anger illuminates how ACT UP exemplified an era in which queer politics were community driven, inclusive, sexy, unrepentant, and brilliantly dangerous. The energy of the film replicates that of the movement.
United in Anger, produced by Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman, is composed of footage from a wide range of video artists, activists, and collectives, including DIVA TV (Damned Interfering Video Activists) and Testing the Limits, combined with contemporary interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project.
AIDS activists have historically been a cohesive movement: able to work together on similar goals, through a variety of tactics, despite varying socio-economic, sexuality, race and gender backgrounds. Granted, there have been some explosive differences; particularly in San Francisco. One of the more volatile situations that comes to mind involves ACT UP SF throwing the contents of a cat litter box at Larry Kramer. However; when it comes down to it, we have been supportive of each other because we need to be. Being HIV+ is still criminalized and vilified, and poz people are still outlaws in our society.
I never thought I would be that girl, you know the one – crying on the train alone. Holding my bike unsteadily while a blond hipster, who had already perched next to me hesitantly, now in West Oakland is scanning nearby seats trying to figure out how to slide into one unnoticed.
I was not crying because my ipod shuffled onto a break up song, or because someone I knew had recently died. The reason tears were dripping off my face and onto my fanny pack was because of an old man sitting on the other side of the train door. He looked mid 70’s. He was wearing a Wranglers shirt. Clean, worn jeans over shined up riding boots. A Cowboy hat on his head. His stomach was soft in the middle, less of a beer belly than a hammock. Jowls that quivered as he dozed off, his hands politely resting in his lap. I imagined that he looked how my dad would have looked to a stranger, if he came to visit. An old ranch hand, lost in the bay area amongst punk kids with studs sticking out of their jackets, teenage boys wearing pants slouching around their thighs.
I am finding my ideals located in awkward places during this odd, Saturn’s Return-esque moment of my life. Specifically, I’m finding myself doing activism around or advocating ideas that directly counter what I would have done in my early 20’s.
This came up for me while reading Sadie’s very smart piece Un-Money Shots: The Top 5 Porn Moments You Don’t See. She wrote about those pesky mundanities of porn life that the viewer is shielded from, one of which is the condom application scene.
Talking about the ‘moral responsibilities of the porn industry’ comes dangerously close to another issue currently tearing up the porno landscape — the banning of condomless porn production in California.
Now, I totally agree that in porn where protected sex is displayed, the inclusion of a ‘putting on the condom’ scene would be fantastic. The ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ esque eyelid blink appearance of a condom is childish. Sex workers, with our glamour and grace, do have the skills to eroticize acts previously thought unappealing — from a dick check to double penetration. Putting on a condom should be one of those acts. However, talking about the ‘moral responsibilities of the porn industry’ comes dangerously close to another issue currently tearing up the porno landscape — the banning of condomless porn production in California.
I’m an HIV educator and an AIDS activist, as well as being a sex worker who has done porn as both a cis-woman and a trans man. I am not unaware that my preaching against condom usage seems suspect, considering my background. But bear with me while I tell you the sordid tale of AIDS Healthcare Foundation VS The LA Porn industry and why it is this side of the fence that I stand on.
Today, on the 30th anniversary of the now famous/infamous New York Times article, “Rare Cancer Seen In 41 Homosexuals”, announcing the beginning of what would become the AIDS crisis, I offer you a list of my most favorite and my least favorite translations of this disease into narrative form.
AIDS is like the best plot device ever for the lazy screen writer. The conflict for the protagonist is at once external (discrimination) and internal (disease) which makes it easy for a lazy writer to lean on. For the audience, it is exciting, and implies at least one salacious sex scene. Straight audiences can watch with a sense of lurid pity and feel like they are really educating themselves, while gay people are mandated by Paragraph 498, section B of the homo code to watch all AIDS films. In tribute to the style of Diseased Pariah News, I made myself watch, and review, 10 AIDS movies in 10 days. Here are the results – 5 good, 5 bad, bad ones first cuz I love to hate. Please note: I would have watched RENT just to trash it – after reading Stagestruck by Sarah Schulman – but honestly, I watched a trailer and it was like AIDS Glee and I couldn’t deal.
I have just returned from my annual trip to New York, where I make it my job to get laid. Last year’s visit had been kind of a shit show. I’d arrived direct from IDA, where I’d been fucked fairly unhygenically in the woods, resulting in a two week bout of hypochondria-inspired celibacy.
This year, free from infection and sexual anxiety, I was ready to let loose. I fantasized about setting up shop in the Christopher Street Piers bathroom, giving blowjobs on piss-covered toilets, but I would have settled for finding myself in bed next to someone who would grind against my leg while we each pretend to be sleeping.
Earlier in the evening I was certain that I had eliminated all hope of adult companionship when I accidentally-on-purpose smacked the boyfriend of an old hook-up in the face, all the while hoping for an invite home for a threesome.
With all of this focus and energy, I got what I was looking for.
My entire visit rolled by with nary a nibble from the local population of perverts and homosexuals until my final night in town, in the final moments of the Original Plumbing party. Earlier in the evening I was certain that I had eliminated all hope of adult companionship when I accidentally-on-purpose smacked the boyfriend of an old hook-up in the face, all the while hoping for an invite home for a threesome. As the night drew to a close, my host, Tuck, kept clicking his fingernail on the face of his watch, reminding me that his dog was at home, and likely suffering from heat stroke. He wanted to go home but I couldn’t give up hope just yet.