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Positive Voices

EPISODE #202 - Disclosure and Family

#202

“I Don’t Care What You Have, You’re My Family.” Discussions on Disclosure

December 18, 2023. 37:23

You might want to get tissues for this one. Don’t worry, though, it’s for happy tears. We're speaking with our first guests of the season, Derrick “Strawberry” Cox and his mother Trina, and getting into detail about disclosing your HIV-positive status to your loved ones. Self-love, the power of a supportive family, and everything in between are on the table as our hosts and guests discuss how to disclose and move forward with the ones you love.

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This program contains language and subject matter that some audiences may find triggering or sensitive. Our purpose is to encourage engagement in care and treatment; however, please consider your well-being before continuing.

Transcript

Speaker 1: He got HIV. Never thought it would happen to my child.
Speaker 2: Welcome to everybody from the DMV and Beyond. Welcome to another episode of Positive Voices and I'm Alaki Stewart.
Speaker 1: I'm Tei Pearson Hall.
Speaker 2: Thank you for being here Tei And listen, we're here to talk about something that I found very interesting as a person living with HIV. We're going to talk about how family and HIV connect. A lot of times we have focused on the person living with HIV, but we don't always take time to think about how that impacts their family and the people they're living with. So we have two special guests here, a mom and son combo here to talk about their experiences. Introduce yourself to our audience.
Speaker 3: Hi y'all doing My name is Derrick Strawberry Cox, better known as Strawberry. Hey
Speaker 1: Strawberry. Hey Strawberry. My name is Katrina Williams. Hi
Speaker 3: Katrina. Hey
Speaker 1: Miss Katrina. Thank you for being here. Thank you. Call me Trina. We'll
Speaker 2: Call you Katrina. Thank, we'll call you Katrina
Speaker 1: Today. We appreciate it.
Speaker 2: So to start off, many of us know your story. I have to say, coming to the DMV as a transplant from Philly, you were one of the first people that I saw. It was good to see another black gay man, another butch queen if you will. But you were very heavily advertised, right? If you saw the Whitman Walker posters, you were one of the first people I saw openly talking about your story living with HIV. I don't think there's a person here who lives in the DMV even who doesn't know your story. But for people who may not know, tell 'em a little bit about your story, how you connect with HIV.
Speaker 3: So I connect with HIV in a funny way. So I took my best friend, her name's Sha Dalton. She thought she had a little situation going on and she was scared, especially when it come to her health. So we went to the doctor to gather to go get her checked and then I ended up getting checked with her, but then it came back that she just had a urinary tract infection, something so slight and easy to get rid of course. And I asked the doctor that treated her, I was asked the doctor, I said, well what about mines? And she just waved me off. She's like, oh well you got HIV. Just wave me off. Just some random white lady just wave me off. She expected me to know that I already had HIV and she walked out the room. Wow. So it was immediately my best friend, she started busting out crying and everything. I was like, how are you crying? And she was like, because you're such a nice person. I was like, well, me being nice ain't got nothing to do with me. My status on
Speaker 2: HIV doesn't
Speaker 3: Discriminate. It does not discriminate because I'm afraid nice person, but instead of me going off and going crazy and choking her life out of that doctor. So I pressed charges against her and of course we went down the line and eventually definitely got her fired because of how everything happened. Thank you for that. And then of course I went to my doctor and we did the whole back check. And then even with my doctor, even when it came back positive with my doctor, I still got to checked again with somebody else. Just that three times strike and then you out type situation scenario. But after we found out that it was initially that I was HIV positive, then me and my doctor went to the next step scenario as far as treatment and what pill worked best for me.
Speaker 2: Can I ask you, when you first were diagnosed as a person who sat there for that diagnosis? The next thought I know for myself, I waited a little bit before I told my mama. My mama was the first person in my family. I told my friends first, but I waited a couple weeks to tell my mom. What was your thoughts about what it was going to be like having to tell your mom, having to tell your family?
Speaker 3: Well, it wasn't really hard for me at all because my mother was the first person I called. And so I called her and just like she said, it's basically the same thing. I said like, well you better go get another opinion. I was like, well we already going to go do that anyway. And then she was like, you've been through worse. I was like, you right. I just wanted you to know.
Speaker 4: Wow,
Speaker 3: That's amazing. We was already there. I just wanted her to know there will be no surprises For
Speaker 4: Sure. That's amazing. Ms. Trina, I can call you Ms. Trina. Okay. Ms. Trina is so knowing right, that strawberry, you was the first person that he called to give his status. Was it something that you took? And I heard you say, well you've been through worse and that encouragement piece. But what was your initial reaction, if you don't mind sharing once he called and says Ma da?
Speaker 1: Well, my initial reaction was how did you get it? Why wasn't you safe? Who did it? I wanted to beat him up. So real
Speaker 4: Mama stuff.
Speaker 2: It was like Mama bear protective mom. Yeah.
Speaker 1: So it's like when he first told me, well he told me he was gay. So I was like, well that's what you want to live by. You got to take what come at you so you just can't. So it was hard. It was a little hard. I was really in my feeling really wanted to go beat that person up because he actually showed me who it was. So me and my son wanted to go beat him up. So
Speaker 4: Oh sure bro. You gave up the name and mine and brother was definitely trying to go.
Speaker 1: That's all this is my son. Yeah. I can't imagine. This is my son
Speaker 4: Protection.
Speaker 1: He got HIV. He never thought it would happen to my child, but my brother have it too. So being though with my brother go through when the family came around, the family, they didn't want to touch him, didn't want to discuss it with the family because it's really none of their business. That was our business. Yes. So when the brother came around, they didn't want to sip, take a cup after him. They didn't want to eat around him. They didn't want to do nothing. And he was crying. He was in his feelings. But when it came down to my son, no, you will not do this to my
Speaker 4: Son. That part. That part. Thank you for
Speaker 1: That. He ain't never around nobody anyway.
Speaker 4: Trouble. You ain't outside.
Speaker 1: No, he not. No. Let me let rephrase that.
Speaker 4: He
Speaker 1: Ain't around the family.
Speaker 4: Okay.
Speaker 1: He around everybody else but the family.
Speaker 4: Okay. That blood don't make you family sometime when it comes to different
Speaker 1: Stuff. He's a busy person. No matter what he got inside him, he stay busy. He's on the go 24th, always calling him. Oh, I'm always calling him. What you doing? Where you at? Cause I know you're doing something.
Speaker 2: That's amazing. You being a mama bear. I think so many of us, and it's why I thought it was so important to have you on the show because there are so many moms there with new positive. Their children are new, positive and they don't know how to react. And I think you're helping people to see a reaction that's supportive. And then there are so many of us who didn't have, it's no blueprint on parenting. Right. You make mistakes and there's so many of our moms who just weren't prepared for that moment and didn't always do the right thing. And I think you being that mama bear and protective is affirming to a lot of people. Maybe your mama couldn't give it to you, but Ms. Trina here telling you now that who you are does not change based upon your diagnosis.
Speaker 1: This is my son. Hello. He's always before nice. No matter what happened, if I need him, he's there. What? Come on now. Don't block my son out. This is me for sure. These kids that I have are me all respect for that. Don't do nothing to my kids. I'm hurt respect for that.
Speaker 2: How did that feel Strawberry that your mom was so protective?
Speaker 3: Well, I've never been hood all my life. So sir wasn't like I tell everybody know my story. We we from Berry Farm. So you not
Speaker 1: From Berry Farm.
Speaker 3: That's where we lived. That's where we
Speaker 1: Grew up. No, you didn't live in Berry Farm. You lived in 3709th Street. We did not live in Berry Farm. That's where my mama lived had spot.
Speaker 3: But we stayed in Berry went at work.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Mama had to mom say that's like when you say I'm from dc, but you really from Landover,
Speaker 3: She was like,
Speaker 1: Don't don't. I don't rock no hood. I'm from, I'm my mama. That's where I'm from. Hello. I'm not from Berry Farm. I don't rock berry farm. I'm not from no hood. I'm me. I'm me. So when I walk the streets, I'm still me. Hello. Wherever you was. Yes. Coming through.
Speaker 2: We know strawberry from you because y'all babies, y'all don't look alike. But you said that it was helpful. You said that you felt you expected her to be supportive.
Speaker 3: Yeah. She's going to be supportive.
Speaker 2: You've heard the horror stories though. I mean you've worked in a community. Oh yeah, definitely. We both have. So we've heard what it looks like for people to not have that. Do you think, do you notice that your story or do you feel like it's different because you had such
Speaker 3: Supportive? So our connection wasn't like me and my mother growing up, our connection was always there. It was like pinpoint, but then the whole me being gay thing, she was in denial a little bit about it in the beginning. She didn't want that life for me and then she just didn't want that life for me basically. I understand. And we was mad at each other for a little minute, but we came back around because like she said, at the end of the day, that's my mother and I'm her son. So
Speaker 1: The thing is being gay is not a problem with me. He don't need to dress like a woman to be gay. You still can be a man and look good at what you do. So if you going to be gay, be gay. I don't care what you are, you still, my
Speaker 2: Child wasn't part of that fear. You know how the world is. Right? Right. So I'm sure you've seen men that are feminine presenting in the world and it's not always safe. I hear from you, a protective mama who loves her kids was a part of that. I don't want you to be out here presenting in a way that could get you hurt.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Draw more attention. No. The thing is when I see a lot of gay men acting out, they act crazy. They trifling some of 'em. They just loud and about, you don't have to be like that. And I told him, you don't have to be like that. You look good.
Speaker 4: You look like you look good today. He look good all the time.
Speaker 1: You go back and look at all his pictures. He don't have to be loud and ghetto all the time. Come on now. You don't have to do all that. Understood. We know you are. You represent very well.
Speaker 4: Understood very well. She say it's question for you. So as we talk about this family dynamic, and so I was raised by my grandparents and so we were probably the catalyst of the family, all the cousins and all that stuff came over all the time, broke up my stuff. But another story. So when you received the information and you guys processed it and all of that stuff, at some point it has to get out as we talked about family a little earlier, like that conversation with family. And so what I think about when I heard you first talk about your uncle, my brother, your brother, sorry. Instantly came to my mind was the movie Philadelphia, right? Because I think that probably was the earliest time that I saw HIV portrayed on tv. And then the way that the acting was and all of that, it was very much portrayed.
Speaker 4: If you touch me, if you sit next to me, it's like chicken pox and it's going to jump off and grab you. And so I think for me and probably a lot of my cousins, we watched it one day, we movie to watch in the summer, but it led to a lot of conversation as kids, right? As kids about what the virus was and all of that. And it wasn't until I got to be an adult that I started doing the work and learning about it and all of that stuff. But my mind was stuck on Philadelphia for a long time. And I think that's kind of in my opinion, probably the catalyst for a lot of the fear that's in our community when it comes to HIV and aids. So if I may have that conversation, if you could remember that first conversation with a family member, and you don't have to say their name, don't jump them out there, but what was that first conversation? Was it something positive? Was it negative or how did
Speaker 1: It come about? My brother or
Speaker 4: My son? No, about for your son who was the first person to come or you have a conversation with not only just about him being gay but also his status.
Speaker 1: Well, I don't even know who I had the first conversation with, but if I did have a conversation about him, I really don't. It really, like I said, none of their business. There you go. But if I did tell somebody, probably was my mother and it was like I just told her and she said, well don't worry about nothing. I said, I'm not worried about nothing. There you go. Just wanted to go beat the boy up. They gave it to him. Hello? Once again, back to the, but she said back to the beginning. But like I said with my brother it was different. It wasn't like him because didn't nobody treat him like that because of me. Right. So when my brother, when he was staying with my mother, I had to move him out of there and move him with me. Make him feel comfortable because you understood about what he had. Now that I understood. But that's my brother. I see past the disease. Yes. I don't care about what they have. You are my family
Speaker 4: That's so honorable and thank you. Y'all heard what she said. Y'all heard what she said. Let that sink in. Sorry.
Speaker 2: I believe I felt like when I told my mom, I remember being in a room full of maybe 10 of us. We were all telling our HIV stories, forget the event. And all of us had the exact same experience. Literally the exact same terms our mothers used. When I told my mom, I didn't even get it out, she finished it for me. I said, mom, I have to tell you something. And I'm looking down like I don't want to do this. And by the time I looked up, my mom just looked and said, do you have the virus? When I said this in the room though, everybody was like, yo, my mom said the same thing. Are they reading a pamphlet somewhere? But I'm saying that I'm saying that Ms. Katrina, because it felt like my mom was waiting or fearing that ever since I told her I was gay that there was a fear. Do you feel like you were waiting or at some point had a fear that I'm gay was going to lead to one day having this conversation? My mom positive.
Speaker 1: Oh wow. No, I didn't feel like that. I just feared the fear of him being gay and people bother him and he having problems with, I told him to, but when he first told me he was gay and he was going to work out, what's that at McDonald's and he was walking to work. So he came back, he cried and it was like, no, we don't cry. We don't do that. You are a old boy. I ain't crying. So I gave him two weapons. I think he still had him same weapons today because he said police busman, everybody was coming at him the wrong way, disrespecting him. So I'm not going to walk you to work, I'm not going to ride you to work. You won't go to work if you beat somebody down, I'm going to take the blame.
Speaker 2: That's a protective mother. That's it. But I hear you saying because if I'm ever not here, you have to learn how to navigate the world and be yourself. If you dare to be whatever that looks like, learn how to navigate that in a way where you're able to be safe. And I think you do an amazing job. Strawberry. I mean I've never ever seen you in any drama to your mother's credit. I've never seen you out here acting ghetto, acting out of character. You always came, you're well put together. You are always one of the most kindest, one of the most sweet people in the room. You're definitely a person. If somebody's by themselves off to the side, you come in to make sure that they're good and that they feel included. So I did a good job with you. I want to ask, it's one thing to be HIV positive. It's one thing to accept yourself. It's one thing to have acceptance from your family, but you chose to be an advocate. You out here, I mean every platform you out here sharing and you're really the face of it. What made you decide to do that?
Speaker 3: So I kind of fell into that. That wasn't really a choice.
Speaker 2: Okay, tell us how it happened.
Speaker 3: So even with the name Strawberry, trying to find my own identity, just learning to accept myself and fully loving myself for who I am, just from my past and upbringings and everything and just everything I was surrounded by. So I just wanted to find a love for myself and then find like-minded others. And so came into smiles and then came into Whitman Walker came into us helping us, just all these different organizations around 14. Then I was like, okay, cool. I see other gay people. Let me get more involved with these nonprofit organizations. So I started volunteering and then that volunteer work just came into me. I don't know, making it my own I guess. And then me telling them what they could do better. And then so I just started volunteering, then started, then they started paying me for volunteer. Oh, hello. It just fell into it.
Speaker 3: I was already doing work with HIV and it's just once I became positive, it was just like, okay, now I connect more to everybody else that actually have it. So now I can make it mean more and I can make them see that it will be okay. My words are not just words. I can share my experience as well, but I still had a little pushback from that. I didn't have the other people's stories. I didn't have anything bad happen to me because of HIV. It was more so me just being feminine and gay that I had bad experience on me being positive. That was nothing. Everybody's like, oh, okay, it's fine. I don't care. It was like, oh, you don't look sick. And I was like,
Speaker 1: Thank you.
Speaker 3: You still got to keep yourself up.
Speaker 1: Thank
Speaker 3: You. But yeah, I just literally fell into it and everybody saw how comfortable I was with it. So just so many different nonprofit organizations was asking me, oh, do you want to do this interview or you mind being on a poster for this? So I'm like, yeah, I don't care. They was like, you sure? I was like, yeah, I don't care. They was like, we can have therapy sessions. I was like, no, I don't care. Seriously. Yeah, it makes no difference to me. You
Speaker 2: Were good at it and your gift made room for you
Speaker 3: For sure.
Speaker 1: Walking in your purpose.
Speaker 3: Thank you.
Speaker 2: Now mama, listen, I know that my mama comes from an era, it's similar era of your business. I've heard you say it several times. That's not people's business. Y'all era is very much like you don't tell people your business out in the street. So I want to know how
Speaker 3: To
Speaker 1: Stay
Speaker 2: At my home as mama with, okay, you gay, okay, you're HIV positive, but you advocate you out here on every platform, sharing your business. Was that hard for you to navigate watching your child do that? Was there fear around how people would receive his business?
Speaker 1: No. None of
Speaker 2: That? No. Because you knew you raised the
Speaker 1: Game. I enjoyed this. She's the og accepted. Just accept
Speaker 3: My thug.
Speaker 1: What you say show don't play with it. He ain't no thug. But no, I enjoy his life. He put me in some of it. He let me go to some of his rewards and all that stuff. So I really enjoy being with dirt even though he's out there and I'm just in here, ain't doing what he's doing. So
Speaker 4: For sure you're doing it today though.
Speaker 1: Yeah. I guess you're doing
Speaker 4: What he's doing today because you joined him as an advocate today. And so welcome to advocacy, right? Because what you both are doing is talking to the masses about the family structure and how it looks different for different people. And so my heart is just pounding over here of just the joy and the love that I see you guys showing as we talk to the different communities about what I heard you say that resonated with me is like, and no matter what, this is my son. Because there are so many families, not even just moms, but so many families that don't say that it's the quite opposite and it forces them out into the streets, which from the work I've done before could be very dangerous for folks. And so to your credit, as Kai says, I want to make sure we acknowledge your stronghold of strength and resilience,
Speaker 1: But I don't even think about his disease most of the time. It's like when he called me whoop it, like damn, I forgot he had this disease. It wasn't even on my mind. It don't be on my mind because I overlook it. Because like I said, once again, he's my son. I love my son. He cannot, he look too healthy to be having anything like they said hello,
Speaker 4: But sometimes we don't look like what we've been through either.
Speaker 1: But that's life. People go through everything every day. So like you say, the people out on the streets, but you got to wonder why they out there sometimes it ain't always because of that disease or a lot of things they go through is they just want it to be out there. Sometimes I think they just want to want to be out
Speaker 4: There. And lack of support system though too plays a large role. That too. If folks don't have somebody that they can come and say this is who I am, this is what I'm battling, these are my challenges and help me kind of process through. It kind leads folks
Speaker 1: Out. They still have the support and still don't think they got this support at the same time.
Speaker 4: True. Then we could probably put that over there in mental health category. They just start to flip over to That's a whole nother conversation. Yes.
Speaker 1: Into those different things leads to a lot of things
Speaker 4: Though. Yes ma'am.
Speaker 1: But like I said, yeah, you got to overlook that sometimes. Like I said, it ain't even on my mind. I forget the fact that he do have that disease so healthy.
Speaker 4: I love that because
Speaker 1: Unless he bring it up, y'all just did bro me head into this
Speaker 5: Thing to be an advocate.
Speaker 4: Now she's an advocate,
Speaker 1: She my son and it's like I ain't forgot boy. What? Right, right. But I love that. But I told him it better not be a setup. He always said, oh, that's why he was apprehensive when he came in here. He set me up on some things. I'd be like, what do you got me into now? He
Speaker 3: Was one time we went to a hair show, a hair fashion show. It was a setup and three of the models got sick and the designer, he was like, well, he was like, is that your sister? I was like, no, that's my mother hellos. Everybody always say that's my sister hellos. He was like, well ask her if she want to walk. I was like, my mother never been in a fashion. I said, but okay, I'll go ask her. She was like, did you walk? She did,
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 3: But she was very apprehensive.
Speaker 1: She said, ma, I need you to do
Speaker 3: I know. I said, I need you to come in the back real quick.
Speaker 1: Yeah. So he didn't ask. So you thought she was going back there and put a little safety
Speaker 3: Together? Something I told her I needed her help with
Speaker 1: Something. The shoes that I had to wear gave it to another girl. She didn't come prepared. So hello? It's like you did that. You set me up. I'm a nervous all. I don't know what he said. All you got to do is walk know.
Speaker 3: I said just put walk. That's all.
Speaker 1: Walk. All you got to do is walk. Walk.
Speaker 2: I came to watch the show you walk,
Speaker 1: But it was just a scary thing sometimes. But y'all make me feel comfortable. So I'm not scared on this TV because you appreciate it.
Speaker 2: I appreciate it because we both worked in the community and you just don't see a lot of people. What really inspired me, if I'm being honest, I told you I was the one that requested that you be on here because I watched Strawberry, not as another feminine gay man. I watched Strawberry at these events. At these events. Being gay as all outdoors, but you love to see but you're not just there. You're there with your family. You're there with your twin brother who is straight. You're there with people and they got you. They're not uncomfortable. They're so supportive and we know that that's not always the narrative. There's so many people out there that just when they came out, lost complete contact with their family and never saw their family again. There are people who navigated and because of that navigated being positive, navigated learning and they might be fine, they might be healthy, but they had to navigate alone.
Speaker 2: And so seeing you even in that space, that means something to so many people to even see it. And so I just knew that people needed to see and hear what you had to say. And it is somebody's mom. You know how many people's moms reached out to me and said, my child is HIV positive, what do I do? And I'm like, I know what to do from the person living with HIVI don't have no kids. I'm not nobody's mama. I can never replicate what a mama feels for their child. So your presence here helps us navigate. Question for you. I feel like my family didn't know a lot about HIV before I became HIV positive. Do you feel like you learned more just because of your love for your son wanting to know? Well I
Speaker 1: Read up on it after finding out that he had it and it's like, Hey, should I go get tested? Even though I know it ain't me, but I have got tested for it. But no, a lot of families still don't know about HIV today. They just know if you say you got it, they don't want to be near you. They don't want to catch it. They don't want you in their house. They don't want you to drink after them. They don't want you to touch their dishes. They don't want you to sleep in their bed and all that. Because this is how my brother got treated. So this is what he told me how they was treating him down my mama house. So it was like I was crying for 'em.
Speaker 4: Yeah,
Speaker 1: And you hate for people to get treated that way. So when my son told me, I know I wasn't going to treat my son like that
Speaker 4: And wasn't going to allow nobody else
Speaker 1: To either. No I wasn't. I never allowed nobody else to do nothing. Period to my kids, period. They didn't even talk down to my kids when I came around. They didn't call 'em out their name. They didn't disrespect them of me. I appreciate that. Oh, they couldn't even talk to nobody unless I gave them a nod. Yes,
Speaker 3: It's a nod for me. Let me tell you, I used to feel like we was adopted because she wouldn't let us go nowhere. See, nobody spend the night over nobody house. I mean we just couldn't do nothing. She's
Speaker 4: Protective. Protective. Yeah.
Speaker 3: And I understand that too.
Speaker 1: Old protect.
Speaker 3: I've learned to understand that. But back in day I was like, just tell me I'm adopted and just be honest.
Speaker 1: How you going to be adopted looking like me? The
Speaker 3: Whole That's the only excuse she had that we a lie the
Speaker 1: Whole face.
Speaker 3: That was it.
Speaker 1: But they're not twins though. I
Speaker 3: Know. Not twins. Oh my God, I thought Y was twin. No, we're not twins. It's just easier. So they're not twins. They're not twins. Every time somebody see us out, they always be like, oh my god, you have a twin? I'm like, sometimes I say yeah, but depending on who the person is if I
Speaker 4: Want to. But I thought that was your twin. I was going with it when you was like twin. I was like, they
Speaker 3: Did. Well, he'll immediately say yes. He don't want to go through when we say no, everybody be like you sure? And I'm like, mama, I know how long it took for one to come out distance to the next one coming out. Now
Speaker 4: They stay stepper,
Speaker 1: They're year apart. That's my little brother. But they're not twins though. It's
Speaker 4: Close enough.
Speaker 3: She's like, no, not even I they, they're
Speaker 4: Not. Not even
Speaker 1: They too different. But as kids he was overprotected of him. He probably still a little overprotected and get mad when he don't listen to 'em. But
Speaker 3: I had to take therapy for that.
Speaker 4: Amen. Shout out to mental health. Okay, professionals. I had a question. So I don't know, you've probably heard is not what you call 'em original Washingtonians, right? So growing up we had, and I'm from Orlando, so we write almost like the cousins for dc right? But we had a lot of conversation hanging out at my great-grandmother's house in Kenworth. And it was these running jokes of was HIV was said house in heaven. Oh, they got that house in heaven. That was the analogy for HIV. And then for AIDS it was the AI die slow. That's what people say, oh they got that a I die slow or they got that house in heaven, right? And it's like that's some ignorant stuff, right? But as kids, when everybody is saying the same thing as kids, you got to grow up. And so as you grow up with that same mindset, you both were saying with this lack of education that a lot of us in our community, I don't want to speak for nobody, but we tend to not really educate ourself on things.
Speaker 4: We kind of take street credit for it. Or right now if TikTok said is law, right? If Instagram popping is law, if an influencer say it, then no one's second guessing it. How many people done died this year? That ain't dead, right? Because it didn't come across. Did you be like, oh Lord, and then just shared 1,001 times before they say no. And so those stigmas kind of grow with people. And so I applaud you of being able just to say, I'm going to take this education, I'm going to learn it because I want to know what's going on with my son. So what could you say to another mom that is in your position at this very moment whose child may call them and say, mom, I'm positive. What? Encouragement? Because you're an advocate now. So what encouragement could you give that mom knowing the research that you've done already knowing that what? What's inside your son? Your words, right? What's inside your son don't matter because that's your son. Can you talk right here and tell that mom that's going to watch this episode that's probably going to like, I'm going to kick my son out. I ain't having that up in my house and don't drink all of my stuff. Right?
Speaker 1: Well, I would tell that mom, if you love your son, like you say you love him, when he was first born to you, you would accept him. You wouldn't give him up. You would be there for him and you would let nobody hurt him. So it'd be like if she was pregnant and she had HIV and her child came out with it, she would accept it. She would accept herself. Wow. So don't hurt your child, just be there for him. Even as a grown person. Thank you. Be there for your child. He's still yours no matter what.
Speaker 4: Hello. She did that. Don't do
Speaker 3: That. I asked you
Speaker 4: Not to meet me. Can you pass me?
Speaker 3: You got me on the tab now what did I asked
Speaker 4: You? Look, take one and pass it around. You want one
Speaker 1: Know I don't,
Speaker 3: She don't cry,
Speaker 4: Right? Look, I about say she talk. She wouldn't dare take a tissue. I just
Speaker 1: What you talking about
Speaker 3: On your own? It'd be duck tears. It got to be something real. But yeah, so to clear that when she said, when I came to her and I was crying from my experience of working when she said, you don't cry. So she's not saying that men don't cry. Okay? She's not that type of mother because right, she knew she all feelings, emotions cry. She said, you don't cry when people do this or that because like she said, she was telling me how to take on the world and how to accept myself and you chose to be this and you chose to do this. So this is everything that come with it, so you going to deal with it. So it was in that moment that I was just like all f everybody,
Speaker 2: I'm going to ask you to do the same thing your mom did, which is speak to people. But before I do that, I heard that when you said, I'm glad you cleared it up. I immediately understood when you said you don't cry saying,
Speaker 3: But somebody's not
Speaker 2: Going get it. And so I'm glad that you cleared it up and it leads me to ask you another question because I feel like when you, it's one thing to raise a child that's black gay man, but a black gay fem child, there is a little bit of like, you going to have to gangster up, you're going to have to knuckle up. The world is not playing with you out here. And as soon as people feel like you are passive or soft or something, they could run over, give an inch and watch them take a whole mile, a state if you will. And do you feel like even that kind of tough love having to bulk up, do you feel like that was helpful?
Speaker 3: So in the beginning, at first, no, I didn't feel like it was helpful. I just felt like I was like, this woman is hood and she would always be hood and I'm tired of this. It's like I'm feminine. Get it through your mind. I need some support.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I'm kind.
Speaker 3: But like I said, growing up where we came from or whatever and it built all my, I'll say all my bad experience came with that mentality and it made me tougher and it made me stronger because it's like you said, if you show them how weak you are or if you don't do anything to defend yourself, they will keep bothering you. The kids in school, the kids in the neighborhood, everybody did make fun of me because of my red hair, because I was feminine and because sometimes I pretended to be shy just while I wouldn't be as interactive for nobody wouldn't bother me. But none of that helped because they still was going to pick on me because I was just the pick of the day because I just looked so different. And then I acted so different as well. So I had to get that backbone and then I didn't want to, but then I had to start fighting. So it's like once they saw that I could fight one, then two, I was a little semi crazy. So it's like once you stop putting yourself out there showing that you do have a backbone, people do learn and they listen. So that's just the life we live in. It is a life we live. But I appreciate unfortunately,
Speaker 2: Unfortunately, unfortunately we hope that the world continues to change and be a more safe space. What would you say to somebody who is out there, they may not have a mama like yours, or maybe they do and they don't know that they have a mama that's going to support them yet you've never seen it. What would you say to someone out there who is struggling with disclosure to their family, disclosure to their loved ones? What advice would you give?
Speaker 3: I mean, most of the time the same advice I give everybody love yourself first. And once it comes to you loving yourself first, then you'll be able to tell those people that are important to you. Anything that you feel like you want to share with them. Because like you say, it's your body, it's your life. You live for you. You don't have to tell nobody anything. But we all do want that support. And we all do want somebody that we feel close to that we can share with. So if you do have a mother, a father, uncle, whoever you feel that's in your life that you can feel comfortable with, sharing whatever you need to share with them, especially your status, share with them. But after you share it with yourself and accept yourself for all that you are and can internalize, that's the part that's
Speaker 2: Beautiful. Appreciate you sharing. I have one more question. This is my last question. My question is, so many people struggle with adherence. You know that especially in the beginning, people struggle with taking a pill every day.
Speaker 2: Was family helpful in keeping you accountable? You know how mamas could be, and again, we have a similar mama. My mama is not as gangster, but she's definitely on it. She's definitely on it. And in the beginning I felt like my mom made it clear her expectations. Like I'm not going to treat you different. I'm just Kai when I'm home. Nobody talks about it. But the expectation is that you take care of yourself and live because you're my baby and I want you alive. And I was very clear about that adherence wasn't just for me. My family's voice became a part of that. Do you feel like,
Speaker 3: So my upbringing, my mother already knew I was OCD, still am OCD. So my mother already knew. I mean it was just with the expectations of me being her son, she never really checked on me for it because she said she never thought about it unless I talked to her about it. Hell, it was one time we had a conversation, she was like, are you sure you sick? You sure you got it? You're never in the hospital.
Speaker 3: But no, she already knew I was going to do what I needed to do to stay healthy and take care of myself. So it wasn't even a discussion to have on the medicine. But what I will say behind it with the medication, once I did go through the variations of medication to find the right one for me, because you do have that choice and that option because it's your body and you get to choose what you put in it, talk about it. So if you don't like something, you do get to change it. You get to
Speaker 4: Change it. So you got to write
Speaker 3: Exactly. So if you don't like that meds and how it's treating your body of those effects, I need something else. Hello? And if you don't like that one, I need something else. We got options.
Speaker 2: And if your doctor say no, change providers,
Speaker 3: Okay, you can't change providers. You can get another doctor, you can get another therapist. Hell, you can get another yoga instructor. These people work for you. So if they not working for you, change 'em. Hello.
Speaker 4: Love it on that. So listen, we've had an amazing conversation. I just thank both of you. We thank both of you for coming to share your experience with not only us but the world. And so what I wanted to wrap up with real quickly is strawberry. What I heard from you earlier is often what I tell people about my experience that I've been through so much and thank God, like mom say, I don't look like I've been through. But sometime it's important for us to realize what our purpose here is. And so when I heard you say that, when you had your positive status, that made you relate to the people you was kind of working with anyway, that's the kind of way I feel anyway about the different providers and services that I work with. And I have this mantra that I says that I believe that I was born to suffer so that I can serve.
Speaker 4: And so for me, people was like, well what does that mean? I'll say it again. I believe I was born to suffer so that I can serve. And so what that means to me is that I have to make it make sense. I have to believe that everything that I went through is so that I can help somebody else process forward or know what the experience looks like. And so I applaud you for doing just that, right? Not throwing a pity party for yourself, I don't think ma going to let you do it anyway, but thank you as well Ma Katrina for coming in and go ahead. I'm sorry Ms. Trina,
Speaker 4: Right? And this mom, mom is not a gangster. I was just tough on my boys. I was a single parent. But listen, you had to do what you had to do to make sure that they don't become another statistic right outside of your hand. So as we wrap up this conversation, we brought a lot of things home today. We talked about accepting people for who they are, that your relationship to them is something that is born in you. You are a mom, you are a child, you are a grandmother, you are a auntie. Whatever relationship you have, see past what someone's status is and see what matters the most, which is their soul. So if you need to know more about resources, head on over to link you dmv.org. Put your zip code in. You'll be able to find all kinds of resources to get you to who you need to be with. You also can catch up with us more episodes, more resources, social media links and things like that. Head on over to dcendshiv.org/ podcast. That was it. Listen, we'll see you guys for another episode. Check us and we'll be back. Peace, love ahead, grace.

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LinkU is a free and easy-to-use resource to help you find services that you need in your area. It is DC, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County’s goal to make sure everyone who lives, works, and plays in the DMV area can access the services they need, including help with HIV prevention and care.

Meet the Guest

Derrick (Strawberry) Cox
Community Activist

Derrick (Strawberry) Cox is an unsung hero in the DMV LGBTQIA Community. He is the first to volunteer, goes above and beyond, does not allow outer influencesto deflect him from the goal of spreading goodwill among all, and most importantly is extremely reliable. Derrick (Strawberry) Cox innately is blessed with possessing the abilities to Dance, Model, Act, Host, Event planning and Proficiently Advocate for the education in HIV Awareness and Preventive Health, Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights and Liberties, and is eloquent in public speaking forpolitical lobbying in regards of the positive aspects of the LGBTQIA Community. Strawberry does more than he would want you to know or let him take credit for,far as volunteering with Ryan White as an Individual living with HIV, Capital Pride, any LGBT Community Based Organization, DC Black Gay Pride, Whitman Walker’s PR, Lead Mentor in His Peer+1 Program for newly diagnosed and those living with HIV in the DMV area if you haven't already seen him on the bus, commercial, WW website and 14th street building and of course, if you didn’t know Strawberry sits on the DC Council as Vice President for his committee C.E.E.C (Community Education Engagement Committee).

Strawberry is an impressive listener who is always giving the best advice. His knowledge of HIV /AIDS, being a Pride of Resources, and expertise in meeting people where they were is a huge advantage to our community. He put this skill set to work meeting and greeting any guests and can count on him to get other volunteers back on the right track. Along with his undeniable talent, Strawberry has always been an absolute joy to work with and still is. He is a true team player, and always manages to foster positive discussions and bring the best out of anyone. Strawberry enhance us daily with his sincerity, care, and kindness. He gives so much of himself to family, friends, and the Community. Strawberry is a rarity in the way he effortlessly gives of himself, his homes to others if needed to get back on their feet, money even if it's his last, and informed about pretty much anything here in the DMV! And, what he don't know he'll most certainly help youfigure it out! Strawberry has the ability to see the good in nearly every situation.He’s not jaded, slighted, bias, or the least bit vindictive. It is his time to purposely be given a formal platform toward elevating him to expand throughout the entire LGBTQIA community on a global aspect.

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