Wednesday, April 29, 2009

AIDS: the family secret with a heavy cost

I just found out my cousin has died of AIDS.

It was just a few years ago when he decided not only to come out to my sister and me but to also tell us that he was HIV positive. I'm not sure if I can accurately convey how brave he was to tell us.

He lived in a very rural area of Mexico. He was gay and knew it and the only people he confided in were his Chicana cousins. He reasoned that homosexuality was more accepted in the US so, of course, his family across the border would understand.

I did understand. I urged him to come to me if he needed anything, even if he just needed someone to talk to. It's what I tell all of my clients. Except he wasn't a client. He was my family.

He never did tell anyone about himself and he never did tell his family about the HIV. You just don't talk about those kinds of things in his small pueblo. If you did, you were banished from home and disowned by your family. My cousin had two options: he could either tell everyone and suffer alone or tell no one and live in shame.

AIDS took his life because he never sought treatment. If he had, the whole town would've known.

I am really hating myself right now. For chrissakes I help complete strangers with HIV! I should've done more for my cousin. Why didn't I do more?

I hate his home town. I hate the community he was in, the people he lived with. I hate the family members that lived in denial. HE WAS GAY! How could they not have known? If only my cousin had had the courage to come out. If only the community weren't so narrow minded. If only his family would've supported him had he come out.

He would probably be in treatment right now. He would probably still be alive. But instead he kept quiet.

His silence cost him his life.


I just don't get it. I can't make any sense of it.

Oh Perico. I wish you knew that there are people who love you and accepted you unconditionally. Where you are now, there is no such thing as shame or pain. There is only love and acceptance, much more than what you had here on earth.

I'm sorry our family failed you.

5 comments:

Æsop said...

Liz,

I'm very sorry for your loss.

Fight On.

Generation Next said...

OH, OC girl, I am so sorry. I felt how hard this was for you, especially because you work in this field.

It is so unfair and unfortunate that people can't accept others for who they are, even today. Hearing things like this make me sad that it seems the gay rights movement has made so little progress.

You just keep fighting the good fight and talking about issues and bringing education to people and it WILL get better. I'm with you.

instatick said...

Oh Lizzie, I'm so sorry.

Keep fighting on know that I'm with you as well.

Zipcode said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Keep on fighting the good fight.

Juliet said...

I'm so sorry about your cousin. I know it must be hard for you not to be able to do for your cousin what you do for your clients, but you listened to him and accepted him, which in itself is no small thing. It sucks that he died unnecessarily because of all kinds of crappy circumstances beyond his control.