Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, Daniel was repeatedly told about the horrors of being gay. Learn more about how Daniel was able to overcome the prejudices of his youth to emerge as a passionate man living with HIV who is learning to thrive again.
What misconceptions relating to HIV do you think are still prevalent or dormant in society and what would you like the general public and the younger generations to be doing?
I'm not at all ashamed about living with HIV. I feel very lucky to be alive at this time – to be able to survive HIV and live a relatively regular life because of the amazing scientific and medical advancements that have happened over the last few years.
What really makes me sad is the misinformation and lack of awareness about HIV – particularly with gay men who are either not willing or not interested in getting better educated, or even tested. I believe the ignorance that exists with guys that use terms like "clean" or "safe" is incredible. They’ll engage in risky sexual behaviours themselves but then continue to discriminate against HIV positive guys who are healthy and on medication.
I've always been completely honest and I’ve put my complete trust in the medical professionals helping me. It’s common sense – if you’re not going to trust them and take their advice, you’re just fooling yourself in the long run.
What is your earliest memory of hearing about HIV? Where were you and what was your initial reaction?
I was born into the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) religion. Most people have a limited idea of what the JW's faith involves and just how intense it actually is.
I was born in 1968 so my teenage years were extremely difficult times. Being gay was completely abhorrent in the eyes of my community and anytime homosexuality was discussed at the sermons or in general it was seen as the lowest of the low of humanity and awaiting imminent destruction.
You can imagine therefore how terrifying my teenage years were and how difficult it was coming to terms with my developing natural sexual feelings. It was hard but I had to make a stand and choose what I knew was true and right. So I made the best decision I have ever made and excommunicated myself from the faith.
At 20 I emerged into a scary and confronting period in the LGBTIQ+ history. It was the late ‘80s and AIDS was tearing through the community and tragically took so many beautiful souls. My sexual liberation was only beginning, and it was a bittersweet pill to swallow.
How did you hear about BGF, and what role has it played in your story?
I moved up to the Central Coast in 2015 to help look after my aging parents who were declining in health. Late in 2018 I hit a low point with issues of isolation and continuing interference from family who were still immersed in the JW church. I was really struggling.
I'd been fortunate enough to find an amazing social worker who I really trusted and she introduced me to BGF. I can't tell you how amazing on so many levels it was to be linked up with BGF. My BGF Caseworker and all the staff I've met have been completely supportive and instrumental in helping me find my feet again and the resources to connect again with the LGBTIQ+ community.
What would be your fondest memory of working with one of BGF’s Community Support Workers?
I'm always having fun and I love joking around, so I always get a big kick out of phoning BGF (which I do a lot) or dropping into the office. It’s a place where I feel I can discuss any issues I’ve got going on but also have a joke and chat with my Case Manager and the staff, who are all awesome and always make me feel safe and supported.
What personal goals do you have for 2020?
My life has been through such upheaval over the past few years. I’ve been involved in a Supreme Court case which has been very complex and I’ve struggled to find legal help. I’ve had to "self" represent which has been taxing both on my time and my mental headspace. The case is still ongoing but once I’m able to get closure and hopefully get some justice, I’ll be able to focus my attention on other things I'm passionate about.
I'm a visual artist and I’m working on a multimedia piece which I'm excited about because it will focus on issues surrounding my own life including the religious doctrines and symbols that have played such a big part in my life.
I'm also very keen to be involved with more social justice projects, including things like the "Religious Discrimination Bill" as I feel like I’ve got a lot to say and offer on this one.
Something I recently discovered through BGF was an interest in writing. Although busy with litigation I was able to participate briefly in a BGF Creative Writing workshop which has sparked a new creative source of expression. That's very exciting!
Do you have any book or movie recommendations for everyone self-isolating at home because of COVID-19?
I love to watch documentaries and I just watched, "The life and death of Marcia P Johnson" on Netflix. It's such an amazing story and particularly close to my heart as I lived in NYC shortly after she was murdered. I think it’s a poignant and relevant story that highlights the importance of searching for answers and remembering the groundbreaking "fierce queens" and LGBTQ+ members of our world while also celebrating their remarkable resilience.
I've also been watching heaps of Saturday Night Live clips on YouTube. My particular recommendations are "Housewives of Disney" and "Vincent Price - Halloween Special with Kristen Wigg" doing Katherine Hepburn and Gloria Swanson which is genius!