I am a white, middle class, American male; raised in a white, middle class American home. I would not say that my upbringing included a lot of diversity.
I remember talking to my brother, Jimmy, just before he told my father he was gay. Jimmy told me about the inner struggle he wrestled with in first admitting to himself that he was homosexual. He said he thought it was wrong; it was sinful and something he must avoid being. Once he realized that being homosexual was not a fault but an innate sexual preference, he decided that he would not live a life of lies. He, therefore, decided to tell his family about his sexual inclination. It took a lot of courage to tell my ex-marine father.
Afi is a beautiful, strong, black African woman; raised in a black, African home. Afi will admit that she is not overly charitable and not likely to do volunteer work. When she first came to the U.S., however, she was appalled with how our society treated its AIDS victims. In Africa, Afi would tell us, AIDS patients were embraced and cared for, not shunned and outcaste like here in the U.S.
Jimmy was not a promiscuous man. He only knew a few sexual partners in his too short life. Jimmy was a very intelligent and artistically gifted man. He was doing post–doctorate research in Iraklion, Greece when he first started showing symptoms of having AIDS.
When Afi volunteered to be an AIDS Buddy she made it clear that she did not want to be paired with someone who had full-blown AIDS. The organization was so hard pressed to find someone with a profile to match Jimmy’s intellect and interests that they begged Afi to just meet him, just once.
Afi says that within an hour she was no longer on a volunteer mission; she and Jimmy
would be friends regardless of a commitment to the Buddy system. Jimmy and Afi
remained best of friends for the two remaining years we were blessed with his presence.
It has been 15 years since Jimmy passed away. I am still a white, middle class, American male; from a white, middle class American family – only now, we have a beautiful, strong, black, African sister in our family.