It was so quiet that I though I might take a quick nap while I was waiting. The more time that passed, the more people began arriving. Sounds of people walking and going about their lives. Conversations about getting home, family, business and laughter soon filled my quiet moments.
As I stood there watching all the people pass by, one courageous young lady approached me with a simple question. She said I looked like such an interesting person. Would you mind if I took your picture? I happily and enthusiastically agreed.
With all the people around in their daily attire of t-shirts, sneakers, suits, brief cases, sweat pants and shorts, there I was wearing my Leather Boots, tight jeans, a t-shirt, Leather Vest with my Great Lakes Leather Sir patch on the back, a silver arm band and Leather cuffs… I was just heading home from having been bestowed the honor of becoming the next International Leather Sir so I was also carrying a large Leather Sash over my shoulder. Okay, so I guess I did stand out a little bit. A fact that was quite obvious by the looks I was getting from other people.
After a couple photos, from this young woman, we sat and chatted for the next 20 or 30 minutes. She was one of a few dozen college journalists who annually descend upon a south Florida shelter to write articles for the second largest homeless newspaper. The event is called Will Write For Food and teaches writers, journalists, photographers, and others, skills they just don’t get in during their educational backgrounds.
Yet much of our conversation surrounded the t-shirt I was wearing. This shirt had a symbol screened on it to fight the stigma of HIV. A fact that she would never have know if she hadn’t chosen to approach me. Before our conversation was over, she knew a bit about my life in Leather and a lot about this symbol created by Dave Watt, a symbol many of you have come to know as Mr Friendly. By the time our conversation was over she had received a website, a hashtag, a hand full of buttons, a dog tag, and literally the shirt off my back to take home with her, all adorned with the Mr Friendly symbol.
She had never heard of this symbol but was touched by our mission to end the stigma of HIV. So touched she shared with me a few stories of her LGBTQ friends facing their own stigma challenges.
Why am I telling you this story? Because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You never know the impact you can have upon a person until you suck up your own fear, your own stigma and have an open conversation with someone. No matter where you are at. You will be surprised at how many common threads we have binding us all together in this mission.
Challenge yourself to do what I am challenging myself to do. Seek opportunity to change a life. Set out to find that interesting person to talk about HIV with. We all want this change. Then be that change. #stigmafree #mrfriendly www.mrfriendly.
Sir Mark – International Leather Sir 2014