Living Positive

Author and musician Tim'm T. West talks about being an HIV-positive rapper, educating gay youths, his successful music career, and what he'd trade it all for.

BY Clay Cane

August 13 2009 12:00 AM ET

TIM'M WEST BENCH xLRG (courtesy) | ADVOCATE.COM

You're a keynote speaker at NAPWA Positive Youth Institute. What's your approach when you are speaking with youths, especially from this generation, about HIV? For the younger positive people, there sometimes can be apathy around HIV because they haven't seen the more devastating affects. I think it does lead to a lot of the delusions about some of the real challenges and struggles that come with living life HIV-positive. I try to relay some of those realities, not to scare young people. My whole approach is there are different kinds of ways people can step out and become leaders. Anything we can do as a community to lessen the negative stigma of people who are living with HIV helps toward prevention efforts. Ultimately, it's a health concern. We get so caught up in the stigma of it. I want these young people to know it's really about your T-cell count, your viral load, eating healthy, and exercise. I'd really like people to see HIV as other manageable diseases. That's not to say people shouldn't take seriously preventing the infections, but people who become infected need to know it's ultimately about their health.

In your music, you talk about the journey of being black in America, yet you don't gloss over your sexuality. With which do you identify more -- being black or gay -- or is it equal? It's kind of equally neither. I think I identify most with my humanity. There was a period of time when I got caught up in Afrocentrism, and then I realized I am kind of anticentrist. I don't believe in putting any culture on a pedestal because of the way black people have turned their back on me when I came out as gay. Similarly, I don't believe in putting my sexuality on a pedestal or living in the gay ghetto because I've been asked for two or three ID's at bars in a way that I felt was racist. When you live in the borderline between black and gay, you can take away a deeper appreciation for humanity. There are often times I don't feel part of the gay community; at the same time I am often representing them. There are times I don't feel part of the black community, as much as I think I represent them. In general, I am hoping to stabilize some sense of our humanity as people.

Are you single? I'm in a relationship; it's been a long three months [ laughs ]. It's a new relationship.

What kind of men are you normally attracted to? Some people would call me a bear chaser. [ Laughs ] I tend to like the bigger guys; I think it's just the country boy in me. Other than that, I don't have a whole lot of preferences other than the guy being stocky and kind of chunky.

Tags: Music

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