Ariel Sabillon Is a Gay Latinx Immigrant and More Than His HIV Criminalization Case
September 27, 2018
I met Sabillon at the U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA 2018), where we had this conversation. We understood so much about one another, both being from Central American countries that are currently facing levels of violence almost unthinkable to many people, and that is one of the things that led both our families to flee to the United States.
We spoke about being HIV-positive Latinx queer immigrants, stigma, HIV criminalization, and how we've found refuge in #centralamericantwitter.
Giuliani Alvarenga: How was college for you when you first started? Like, how did you find community there? Did you reach out to the LGBT center as you were navigating this, también [as well]?
Ariel Sabillon: So, college was really interesting, because there were a few things happening before I got to college. One was my HIV diagnosis.
GA: Which you found out in ...?
AS: In the summer before my senior year of high school -- which actually didn't bother me too much. I was just like: "OK. I'm HIV now. That's fine." I was like, "Oh!" Like, crap.
GA: So you were already sexually active?
AS: I was very sexually active. Yes.
GA: And I'm just in shock, because in high school I was quarantined. I couldn't go out because my family was like, "You can't go out and hangout with people who are not Jehovah's Witnesses."
AS: My family? My parents separated when I was in the 8th grade. They got separated. So, I went with my mom. My older brother went his separate way. He got his own house. And my little brother stayed with my dad. And my little sister went back and forth.
And my mom worked long days. So, she was never home. So, even if she said, "You can't go out," like, who are you to tell me I can't go out? You're not even here, so .... Not that she wouldn't. I mean, she let me do whatever. So, yes. I was very, very sexually active during my high school years -- almost to the point that it was not healthy.
So, it wasn't like surprising to me, but I was obviously in shock, and it took a minute for me to get used to it. But I was very devoted to my school. I ran cross country. I applied for scholarships. I have a full ride to Florida State. Everything is paid for, for me. I haven't worked in like two years.
AS: So, everything changed. Because I became naturalized right before Obama went out. So, I became naturalized so I could vote in the election. I've always been very political. And I was like, I have to fill my paper out. Let me do it so I can vote. And then that happened, and I was just like, oh, my God. I don't know what to think anymore. Everything that I thought about the U.S., it's wrong, obviously.
And then, it was just difficult. I don't know how to explain it. It was just like I was a minority. People didn't speak my language. I was so used to speaking Spanglish all the time, and, like, my food.
I'm also from a working-class neighborhood. And most people in college are not from a working-class neighborhood. So, I was very misrepresented.
And for two years, my freshman and sophomore year, everything was paid for; I was fine financially. But I just didn't know how to navigate college. I was failing my classes. I got really bad grades -- or, bad grades for my standards.
And then there was the whole HIV thing, and I just -- I wasn't telling people about it. And then I was having a lot, a lot, of sex. But I didn't want to be having a lot of sex. I was just doing it to feel good, I guess, like, to feel validated.
And Mami was so proud of me, too. She was like, "Oh, my God." Our relationship had healed by then. We had mended. We had open conversations and we became really good friends. And we're really good now.
But she was so proud of me. And I didn't want to tell her, "I fucking hate this; I want to go back." Like, I hated it. I hated it. I hated it so much. Just, like, everybody was rich. I felt like everybody was rich. Everybody was white. Everybody was not like me.
And the queer community, the gay community, it was mostly white boys who didn't really care for the politics that comes with being gay. Does that make sense? There's this whole movement, this whole, like. ...
This article was provided by TheBodyPRO. It is a part of the publication 2018 U.S. Conference on AIDS.
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