|I was a teenaged AIDS educator
||[Jan. 25th, 2017|10:43 am]
In the mid-80s, I was a high school student raised in a Christian apocalyptic cult in a rural, conservative part of Canada. I was a homophobe, because I'd been raised to be one. My parents did not believe in public sex education, yet were supportive of my self-motivated learning. I was an unpopular child, and threw myself into academic research. I was fascinated by AIDS, and I read everything I could find on the topic.
I read everything from tabloid articles (Rock Hudson and Liberace had reams of articles written on them) to medical journals. Where most kids I knew would hang out with one another and play hockey or chat on the phone, I would beg to be taken to the university an hour's drive away. There I'd sit and read articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. I had a written correspondence going with the World Health Organization, the science editor at Time magazine, and the head of AIDS research in Canada (I've long since forgotten his name). I talked to doctors, nurses, and professors of virology. I researched everything from social ramifications to medical testing and treatments to safe sex practices.
This latter topic was the one which landed me in the most trouble. I purchased educational pamphlets from safe sex organizations in San Francisco. Here I was, a homophobic virgin, reading about anal sex, fisting, docking, poppers, and all sorts of things for which I really had no understanding. Poppers were as mysterious to me as retroviruses, but I kept reading, hoping that eventually, I'd be able to understand what it all meant.
As a result, I ended up becoming one of the most educated people on the topic of AIDS in Canada for that short period of time. Professors started coming to me for information and my opinion. I put together an education system on teaching about AIDS in junior high schools. Suddenly I was introducing safe sex topics to rural New Brunswick. The principal accepted my program, with the exception of any sympathetic talk about homosexual behaviour. I accepted this because I figured some education was better than none. There was already one reported AIDS case in the region, after all.
I wrote up a survey to be given to the students before and after taking the lessons on AIDS education. It demonstrated that the message was getting through to the kids, and that they were learning about AIDS transmission, safe sex, blood transfusions, and IV drug use.
I took my findings to a regional science fair, and that's when things got nasty. Some of my materials (ie. the safe sex pamphlets from San Francisco bath houses) was sexually explicit. One kid kept showing up and taking my materials, taking off with them to snicker and show his friends. I had saved up my allowance to purchase these, and didn't appreciate having them taken, let alone to have them being laughed at. I managed to get them back, and put them away in my purse.
While I wasn't looking, the kid came back and stole them from my purse. I had no idea anything was wrong until an angry mother stormed over to me with my pamphlets. She screamed at me, told me I was a pervert who was corrupting her son, and then she tore up my pamphlets and brought over science fair staff. They went through my materials, ensuring there weren't any more "dirty" materials.
I was not reimbursed for my stolen and destroyed property.
I received an honourable mention for my science fair project. I was invited to address a class at a local university (I demurred, because I thought that since I was just a high school kid, I'd have nothing to teach to university students). And when I went on to the provincial science fair, I had all my materials searched for contraband perversion before I was allowed to set up.