One Black Gay Couple Navigate Love and HIV
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya and this is NEWS & NOTES.
Before the break we had a special Roundtable. I spoke with three generations of gay African-Americans. So, continuing our Sex and Sexuality series, I want to take a closer look at the lives of two openly gay black men in a committed relationship. Tadhi Coulter and his partner, Timothy Daniels, are co-founders of the HIV/AIDS educational organization Standing-N-Truth. Thanks for being here.
Mr. TIMOTHY DANIELS (Co-Founder, Standing-N-Truth): Thank you.
Mr. TADHI COULTER (Co-Founder, Standing-N-Truth): Thanks for having us.
CHIDEYA: So you guys were here. You heard the last Roundtable that we had. And, obviously, it seems like we're at a crossroads where some things in terms of acceptance of gays and lesbians in the black community have changed and some things have not. Speaking specifically from the standpoint of a couple - and Tadhi, I'll go to you first - how do you feel you're accepted as a couple when you guys go to family events or church events or public events or whatever you guys go to?
Mr. COULTER: Well, honestly, I would have to say that we have a small circle of friends - some are gay, some aren't - and that's who we love to be around. As far as my family goes, that's another story. A longer one than radio would allow.
Mr. DANIELS: Tell the truth.
Mr. COULTER: They're not as accepting as I would like for them to be. I'm from a pretty religious background, raised as an American Baptist and a Pentecostal, so there's some tension there.
CHIDEYA: Do you speak to them?
Mr. COULTER: Definitely speak to them. But one example is, my partner and I were going to have a celebration with my uncle and one of my aunts was very resentment toward that. She has some resentment. So she left the event because I brought my partner along with me, even though we were invited. So just that sort of tension.
Mr. COULTER: Yeah.
CHIDEYA: Yeah. So from your perspective, Timothy, being a couple, being in a committed relationship, do you find that you're able to create a world where you deal with people that you enjoy dealing with, or is there, you know, inevitably some static in certain parts of your life?
Mr. DANIELS: I think that for me my experience is I always believe that we teach people how to accept us, how to love us. And with me being in a black fraternity, that's a whole another issue. So I had recently - we wanted to show our film and do a workshop in Illinois. So I was asking them, are you sure you want us to come there? This is what we're going to be talking about. Now you know I'm going to be saying okay, I'm part of this organization and I'm a gay black male who happens to be HIV-positive as well. So there's some other dynamics that they have to be associated with and they have to be okay with. So I put it on other people.
CHIDEYA: So how has it been to be member, I mean, you know, black sororities and fraternities, you can live your whole life and be engaged in them and be engaged, you know, from the time that you're in school through, you know, doing good works later on. Can you - are you still part of the fraternity? Are you able to, you know, participate?
Mr. DANIELS: I still participate and I still talk to the little, what I call them, my little bros. They respect me because I won't have it any other way. And one instance, we were interviewing somebody to come into our organization. So they were interviewing this guy and they - we're all sitting at the table and was, like, well, are you a fag? Are you gay? So soon as the guy left the interview and then we discussed his interview, I was like that was not cool, you know. Well, and one bro was like, well, we don't want no fags in our fraternity, this and that. I said whether you believe it or not, you already have fags in your organization. And there were some even before you even got here and they're going to continue to be some here. So, from that point on, they didn't want to get into that discussion, you know. And I'm like, somebody has to stand up, be bold enough to stand in their truth and confront the issues when they happen. But my experience, people just love you anyway. People...
Mr. DANIELS: ...from my experience.
CHIDEYA: So we only have a couple of minutes left. From what I understand, you guys are - you have different seropositive situations. Timothy, you're positive...
Mr. DANIELS: Yes.
CHIDEYA: ...and Tadhi, you're negative. Obviously that's not the whole breadth of your relationship, but has that made it hard for you to be a committed couple together?
Mr. COULTER: No. The way I see it is that we're all positive. I'm a gay man. I know the high risk that men who have sex with men are at the highest risk level. So I understood that going in, and I also understand that until we find a cure for HIV and AIDS that we're all at risk. So I'm not going to base my life on picking and choosing someone who may or may not be HIV-positive. I happen to love Tim. He's my partner. And the fact that he is HIV-positive, that's something that we work through.
CHIDEYA: Very briefly, Tim. I'm going to ask you, do people come up to you who may be in relationships but, what we say, on the down low and ask for advice?
Mr. DANIELS: Yes. All the time, because I have been bold enough to walk the plank, as I say, to put myself out there, you know. Being HIV-positive for over 20 years. And just - I think that part of my experience has just been to share and I just think more people, we need to be open enough to share our experiences with others. So a lot of people come and ask me lots of advice, and I'm just open and share with them.
CHIDEYA: Well, I want to thank you both for sharing with me. We had Timothy Daniels and Tadhi Coulter, co-founders of the HIV/AIDS educational organization Standing-N-Truth, both at NPR West. Thanks, guys.
Mr. DANIELS: Thank you.
Mr. COULTER: Thank you for having us.
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