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AIDS/LifeCycle Stories: Young Man Calls Mom At Rest Stop To Tell Her He's HIV-Positive

Kenny Norman TR

NATHAN MANSKE

GuestbloggerThe ImFromDriftwood.com crew is in California for the 10th annual AIDS/LifeCycle, a bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles raising money for HIV/AIDS. IFD founder Nathan Manske and guest videographer and editor Jesse James Rice will be sending us exclusive daily Video Stories from some of the 2350 riders who are embarking on the 7-day, 545 mile trek. You can also follow their daily adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Driftwood At Rest Stop 3 on the third day of the Ride, Kenny approached the embedded Press Corps, which IFD is a part of, and informed us that he was about to call his mom to tell her for the first time that he's HIV-positive. He told me the decision came after having a lot of alone time to think about it while cycling and also the amazing community that's been surrounding him the past few days. He invited us to film his end of the phone conversation which lead to an incredibly emotional moment on the Ride.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

PREVIOUS STORIES FROM OUR AIDS/Lifecycle SPECIAL...
Ride Brings Actor Chad Allen and Father Closer Than Ever [tr]
From Mocking LGBT People to Cycling 545 Miles By Their Side [tr]
After Decades of Stigma, Man Feels Comfortable in Being Open About HIV Status [tr]
AIDS/Lifecycle 10 Ride Opening Ceremonies: Video [tr]

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Comments

  1. Brave Man. This stuff breaks my heart.
    Pride in oneself, irrespective of who or how one is, is the most valuable force in one's quality of life...

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Jun 9, 2011 11:54:19 AM


  2. That's great he told her but don't you think in-person would be more appropriate than over the phone! Geesh.

    Posted by: Ernest | Jun 9, 2011 12:23:28 PM


  3. That video was NSFW -- Not Safe For Weepy queens like me.

    Ernest, having had to make that same revelation to people I loved dearly, let me tell you, once you get the courage up you just have to do it, however you can. Sounded like the ride made him ready and I applaud him for taking the step right then and there.

    Posted by: Glenn | Jun 9, 2011 12:47:59 PM


  4. What a lousy thing to do over the phone! Have some tact. I suppose he could have told her via text message or twitter it or posted it to his moms Facebook wall which would have been just as impulsive. Give me a break on how "brave" he is.

    Posted by: Lisa G | Jun 9, 2011 12:53:08 PM


  5. Lisa, have you ever had to tell someone you love something similar? Why not celebrate the fact that this event and the community participating gave him the courage to tell her at all instead of criticizing his method of doing it.

    For all we know, Kenny and his mother could live thousands of miles apart and *only* talk on the phone (especially given that the title on the vid says "I'm from Front Royal, VA" and the ride is in CA). Are you going to say, "Sorry, sir, but have a little tack--you should really wait until next year when you'll actually see her in person.'?

    Posted by: dex | Jun 9, 2011 1:03:42 PM


  6. Heartbreaking.

    What can we do to help young people stay negative?

    I know he felt the community support on the ride, but I hope his mom has support too.

    The whole thing is sad.

    Posted by: dms | Jun 9, 2011 1:04:34 PM


  7. Lisa, by far the least tactless content on this page is your comment. The fact you were able to type that out without catching the irony is beyond hilarious. Let's try for a little self-awareness on your next go, okay?

    Posted by: rafi | Jun 9, 2011 1:24:08 PM


  8. Over the phone... In person... It doesn't matter. The point is that he finally was in a place where he NEEDED to tell her... HAD TO tell her. That's all that matters. Personal disclosure isn't easy. It's even harder when it's a parent/loved one you have to tell something like this.

    Personally, I think it's a wonderful thing that he did it; and I don't care how, just that he did.

    As for the question of how do we keep (young) people negative... A good place to start would be to break down the taboos that surround sexual activity (gay or straight), and have open and honest conversations with our children about it. Stigmas are real and hurtful. We all could do much better without the holier than thou's and Victorian's among us who would shame us into believing that "natural" sex drives are sinful or wrong. Our children should be able to come to us about anything that concerns them, and we should always support them for being able to have difficult conversations with us. After all, a parent's love for their child is supposed to be unconditional. That means accepting them for who they are. No matter what.

    Posted by: brian | Jun 9, 2011 1:29:50 PM


  9. Disclosure is such a difficult thing, especially to parents. I did so on the phone to my Mom, for a number of reasons; distance, disfunction, comfort zone.I recently had some friends disclose to me, at a party. We tryed to be private about our talk, but got over heard, and some others took umbrage that they had to find out in such a way, at such a event. I had to take these 'offended' people aside and point out such a personal thing is really hard to know how to handle, and these friends did the best they knew how to. They weren't trying to make people happy, but share the deepest tragedy of their lives. I think those with such outrage are inherently selfish, and have little toleration or understanding for another persons situation."Lisa" here has a opinion, and I see clearly the value of it. So, do tell "Lisa" when and where is the "right" time and way? It is the "Lisa's" of the world that make life so much harder, than need be, as they seem to know everything, but, when to shut up.

    Posted by: boo | Jun 9, 2011 2:50:29 PM


  10. Amen Boo. Well said.

    Posted by: Boo Who | Jun 9, 2011 3:08:29 PM


  11. @Boo

    Very well said. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to tell my friends and family, and pray I will never have to find out. I know that based on my relationship with my mother, I'd call her first. In my family, we process things -- it'd be easier to break the news by phone and then let everyone think about it before we had the full conversation.

    I, for one, am proud of Kevin for making what must have been the most difficult phone call of his life. This week he is surrounded by hundreds of supporters, and I will cheer him and the rest of the riders as they roll across the finish line on Saturday.

    Posted by: Joe | Jun 9, 2011 3:10:39 PM


  12. He seems like a great guy, and Lisa's comment was obviously harsh. But every family is different and has different ways of communicating. I'm sure that being on the ride made this an easier/better time for him to find the strength to do this, but I can't imagine telling my mother something like this by phone, for a variety of reasons.

    But again, every family and everyone is different, and we need to respect those differences. We all have different perspectives and approaches. Again, I'm glad he told her, but it's not the way some people would have done it, and that doesn't make them monsters.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jun 9, 2011 5:09:03 PM


  13. Thirteen years ago, I had to tell my own parents that I had tested positive for HIV. I planned the conversation so that it would happen in a private, neutral space. I made an appointment the following morning with my doctor so they could ask her any medical question they needed to have answered. I gave them books to read. I thought I covered all my bases as best I could. And still, it tore their heart out and made them cry.

    So I can say from experience that there is no 'best way' to have this conversation. For various reasons, people disclose their HIV status in all sorts of ways. With a letter. A face-to-face conversation. Through a friend/relative. An email. Or not at all. You do what works best considering the relationship dynamic you have with your parent(s).

    Having said that, I must admit that while watching this video clip, I felt terrible for his mother. Perhaps there was more to it than what we saw, but it seemed like a bit of a conversational hit and run. "I'm HIV positive. Telling you is the worst thing about this. Gotta go. Call you later when I get to camp."

    I wondered how close their relationship was, how generally anxious his mother is as a personality, the quality of her support network, how much she knows about HIV/AIDS, what her experiences have been with loved ones who have had life threatening illnesses, etc... There is so much about their relationship that we don't know, so it seems unfair to judge.

    But I will say that watching it made me very uncomfortable. It was heartbreaking.

    Posted by: peterparker | Jun 9, 2011 5:33:55 PM


  14. Have I become so cynical?

    Why did he feel the need to approach the press corps beforehand? It reads kinda hungry to me.

    Posted by: Tim | Jun 9, 2011 6:36:50 PM


  15. I think everyone shares news like this in the best way they can, when the time is right and they feel able to do it.

    What I found a little odd about the piece was his "pride" in being HIV positive. I don't get that. I'm all for NOT being ashamed of being HIV positive, but proud? That doesn't process for me.

    As someone who's been doing HIV prevention education for 27 years, and someone who buried a LOT of friends, I worry that today's young gay generation doesn't understand that HIV is something you do NOT want to get and, although it's not a death sentence any longer, it sure as hell doesn't make life any easier.

    Pride in being HIV positive undermines that simple message, in my opinion.

    Posted by: Black Bart | Jun 9, 2011 6:40:10 PM


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    Posted by: franck henry | Jun 9, 2011 8:44:58 PM


  17. @Lisa
    I'm supposing you are a lesbian, which means you are highly unlikely to ever have to be in the situation he was in. He could have done nothing, and let his Mom find out at the hospital, or after his death. Which would be the better option? And lesbians say gay men have no empathy for women's issues!

    Posted by: RedOnTheGreg | Jun 9, 2011 11:27:45 PM


  18. coming out once is hard enough

    Posted by: andnowwhat | Jun 10, 2011 1:58:39 AM


  19. Oy vey. A denialist rears its frightening and dangerous head here at Towleroad. I hope everyone else realizes that the post by FRANCK HENRY has no basis in reality or medical fact.

    Posted by: peterparker | Jun 10, 2011 2:13:03 AM


  20. @PeterParker: good on you, for more reasons than one.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jun 10, 2011 6:17:31 AM


  21. Thanks, PAUL R! ;-)

    Posted by: peterparker | Jun 10, 2011 12:09:38 PM


  22. @Redonthegreg
    Really nobody has to be in the position he was in at all. Its not like he caught a cold and was calling in sick. So I suppose we should not fault someone who obviously has a track record of bad decision making for making another bad decision. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways, I guess i was just making the world too tough. Boo hooo

    Posted by: Lisa G | Jun 10, 2011 12:19:13 PM


  23. Thank you guys so much for your wonderful responses! Everybody is entitled to their own opinions which is why I cannot judge them but do us all a favor and keep your ignorance to yourself. For one, I live in CA, my mother lives in VA. It's not like I can just hop on a plane to visit her anytime. Two, I had been trying to get up the courage for a long time to tell my mother and that particular time was the right time for me. Last, whoever said I approached the press corps beforehand because I was hungry, that is blasphemous! I wanted that moment to be captured to inspire people. I want this video to inspire more people who are HIV+ and have yet to tell their family. I am trying to spread more awareness with this video. I want to be a role model for all persons living with HIV/AIDS and this video is monumental in AIDS history.

    Posted by: Kenney | Jun 12, 2011 2:22:30 AM


  24. MY NAME IS MELINDA GREN FROM FRESNO CA.I WILL LOVE TO TELL YOU GUYS HOW MY STATUS CHANGES TO NEGATIVE, AND AM NOW A LIVING WITNESS OF IT AND I THINK ITS A SHAME ON ME IF I DON'T SHARE THIS LOVELY STORY WITH OTHER PEOPLE INFECTED WITH THIS DEADLY VIRUS...,HIV HAS BEEN ONGOING IN MY FAMILY... I LOST BOTH PARENTS TO HIV,. AND IT IS SO MUCH PAIN IVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET OVER.. AS WE ALL KNOW MEDICALLY THERE IS NO SOLUTION TO IT..AND MEDICATION IS VERY EXPENSIVE..SO SOMEONE INTRODUCED ME TO A NATIVE MEDICAL PRACTITIONER IN AFRICA..I HAD A JOB THERE TO EXECUTE SO I TOOK TIME TO CHECK OUT ON HIM.I SHOWED HIM ALL MY TESTS AND RESULTS.. I WAS ALREADY DIAGNOSED WITH HIV AND IT WAS ALREADY TAKING ITS TOWL ON ME.. I HAD SPENT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS SO I DECIDED TO TRY HIM OUT...I WAS ON HIS DOSAGE FOR 6MONTHS. ALTHOUGH I DIDNT BELIEVE IN IT, I WAS JUST TRYING IT OUT OF FRUSTRATION... AND AFTER 2 WEEKS, I WENT FOR NEW TESTS... AND YOU WONT BELIEVE THAT 5 DIFFERENT DOCTORS CONFIRMED IT THAT AM NEGATIVE..IT WAS LIKE A DREAM,,I NEVER BELIEVE AIDS HAS CURE..AM NOW NEGATIVE,,AM A LIVING WITNESS..I DONT KNOW HOW TO THANK THIS MAN... I JUST WANT TO HELP OTHERS IN ANY WAY I CAN..HAVE JOINED MANY FORUMS AND HAVE POSTED THIS TESTIMONIES AND ALOT OF PEOPLE HAS MAIL AND CALLED THIS MAN ON PHONE AND AFTER 2 WEEKS THEY ALL CONFIRMED NEGATIVE..BBC NEWS TOOK IT LIVE AND EVERY.. HOPE HE HELPS YOU OUT.. EVERYBODY SAW IT AND ITS NOW OUT IN PAPERS AND MAGAZINES THAT THERE'S NATIVE CURE FOR HIV AND ALL WITH THE HELP OF THIS MAN,,HAVE TRIED MY OWN PARTS AND ALL LEFT WITH YOU,,IF YOU LIKE TAKE IT OR NOT..GOD KNOWS HAVE TRIED MY BEST.ABOUT 97 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED NEGATIVE THROUGH ME..AND THEY SEND MAILS TO THANKS ME AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED NEGATIVE,,THIS MAN IS REAL..DON'T MISS THIS CHANCE,,HIV IS A DEADLY VIRUS,,GET RID OF IT NOW..
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    Posted by: Melinda | Jun 14, 2011 9:29:52 AM


  25. Not sure why the Gay Community and Gay Friendly is so cynical and just plain nasty. I told my Mom that I was gay, in Illinois, after learning that my partner that I had left behind in California was diagnosed with AIDS. She told me that I was to tell no one. She was not kind at all. Neither to me or to my boyfriend. Skip ahead 25 years and my parents tell me and my husband, face to face, that we are no longer Catholic since the Catholic Church does not approve of Gay Marriage. Then after getting cast as Howard Cunninham in HAPPY DAYS - A NEW MUSICAL my mother told me over the phone they would never be coming out to see me again in anything. OVER THE PHONE. Then I get an email from my Dad saying CONTACT US AGAIN AND WE WILL TAKE OUT A RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST YOU. I am not looking for sympathy but how dare you tear apart this man for coming to terms with his disease in a way and time he thought was right. I applaud his decision. Can you imagine if he was in their home and THROWN OUT? Many of you are just NASTY QUEENS...unless you've been there...don't dare to comment!

    Posted by: John | Jun 22, 2011 1:25:50 PM


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