A Walk In My Shoes

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Experimental art program.

Poetry as storytelling, created by young poets and read by adult male survivors & advocates.

Every night in New York City 3,800 unaccompanied homeless youth seek a safe shelter bed. There are, however, only 450 official emergency safe shelter beds available for them.

There are 240,000 homeless LGBTQ youth across the U.S.A. There are simply not enough emergency safe shelter beds and/or services that serve their best interests. 

We've checked out these places. They are safe:

My Friend's Place, L.A.

The Ali Forney Center, N.Y.

Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, N.Y.

Many of the Show Me Your Life videos were lost when our Facebook accounts were abruptly deleted by Facebook.

boys who do sex work to survive on the street understand that the street is killing them/ bourgeois middle america wants to pretend that “nice" children are never kicked out of their homes, and there are never real issues that go to an adolescent’s sexuality/ real boys are real boys and that’s the end of it/ although it could very well be the very beginning of what is yet to cum/ these boys find us because we set it up for them to find us on the grapevine/ and we aren’t even on facebook that piece of shit they call the great machine/ so as we are communicating with these kids, one thing we try to do is impress upon them that it’s the street (not sex work) that is actually killing them, and there are options/ tricks of the trade pun intended/ and they can learn to make it safer, and they listen they actually listen because it’s scary out there, and most 13-year-olds become quite unglued, the voids they’ve become at all the angles carves its amniotic leakage with the stain of knives they find in sad ruins and their periphery/ and they will sit there and look you right in the eye or rather the eye of some camera they have commandeered/ fear burning in their ancient mouths that nightly suck the cocks of married men with families, and some tricks will even tell you that you look just like their son, and so you wonder why isn’t he fucking him instead of me, and the answer is because that is how it works, the marketplace of quid pro quo, from the dead there are only curses and chainsaws, and, of course, the noose, and after you have explored ideas with them, idea after idea, and all those baggages of pain, and sometimes it might be the idea of living in a safe house, some place where they can’t grab you and fuck you in the ass, and you might even be able to look at the past through telescopes staring at the secrets all of which will come spilling out like water in the subway, drowning all of august in wombs and sound, strange moaning as they choke it back, oddly begotten dreams of what a family is, the terror and the flight/ and they’ll almost gulp it down again, because it’s now the time to make a decision/ to make a decision/ and you can call it what you want, but the bottom line is that it’s just getting the kid off the street because that is what is killing them/ not their hiv/ not their occupation/ not their addictions, and not their families/ not their failures/ but the street/ the street/ get off the street/ to move or not to move/

SUSTIVA

i can’t imagine what it must be like for some of the children who take these drugs/ no watching horror movies pre bedtime/ not everyone is emotionally or neurologically equipped to take lsd/ kids ask me about what it’s like to start taking antiretrovirals for the first time/ it’s not a stupid question, and there’s an element to it the medical community will not discuss/ some great mystery they usually wrap up in mumbojumbo/ it has to do with a drug called sustiva/ sustiva is a lot like dropping acid/ the thing is a trip, and you are either willing to take that trip, and you will not be in the driver’s seat, or you are not ready to take the plunge/ the medical people just don’t want to scare you off, or they’re just plain ignorant about what the plunge is like/ it’s like crossing a bridge to a small island somewhere in the distance/ you reach the middle of the bridge/ you stop and contemplate the jump/ you will never really reach the island in the distance at the end of the bridge/ you’re going to jump and you know it/ it’s not about the island; it’s about the bridge/ as you jump, you will burn everything else in your life in a bonfire of the leaves/ smoke and ash will follow you in slow motion down to the water where it will float like ground up bone, the kind of bone where they will pour your ashes, too, when you are dead, and if the poison that is the medicine that treats the replication of the organism eating you alive from the inside out doesn’t drown you, the water will; no one is more surprised than you when, instead of drowning, you kick it up a notch, and gulp the cool air into your lungs, and looking up at the bridge, you wonder that you had the balls to jump/ you stand there in the middle of the bridge staring at the island in the distance you had always assumed was your inherent destination/ and you realize that it might be fitting for other people to make it to the island, but you are not other people, and the island is only there/ the old men dressed in wisdom’s white will pull the moon’s too-traveled sobbing of your second selves up like an anchor, and they will tell you what you must do or they will in all piteous sublimity refuse to treat you at all, you must follow the rules, and take the pills at night, bare, iron-handed night deep in clemency and blindness, and that is when you will have reached that exact point where you profoundly realize that the day will arrive when charging through your veins you will have grown tired of the dreaming, and the colors, and you will be tired of all the other pills and admonishments, and you will have grown weary of their bare and invasive hands even as they burn you with every touch, and every probing of your asshole open for the world to see, and if you think that humiliation is not a part of their agenda, think again/  and they will either swallow you or the sea will/ facing the whiteblue, cloudless sky/ and shaking the late leaves down, your descent with its fragile dying will soon hit that whirlingcool bottom of that awful plunge/

Emerging poets (12-16 year olds)

When I have no food.

A poem by Trece

When I have no food

Then I get these shakes

And I have to lay down

On the floor where I

Sleep and put my coat

Over me so I can try

To stop shaking.

 

GETTING INTO CARS AT NIGHT TURNING TRICKS.

A Poem by STEPHANE

I have a bag when I am turning tricks @ night

keep my phone on and run the video when

          I get  into strange cars

Sometimes I let them take me 2 their homes

I always try 2 get the numbers of the address

You better charge more if they take you home

I do not like 2B totally naked when I am

          turning tricks

Then if you R naked they want to tie you up

If they gag you it means it is going 2 hurt

Do not go down into his basement

I hate it when they cum in my mouth cuz

          it tastes very bad

You can shoot junk 2 help you do it

The tricks do not want 2 see you shooting junk

Do it in the bathroom

Try not 2 show the trick yer arms

If a trick sees tracks he will want 2

          save you

Tricks who want 2 save you are dangerous

They get mad when you relapse

Tricks think you live in a house

The trick will beat the fuck out of you

Their wives are never home

I always wonder what the

           wife looks like

A picture of the trick with his family

          will probably be on the wall somewhere

Do not let the trick see you staring

          at the picture

The tricks R always afraid of their wives

Tricks always ask 2 many questions

They are very nosey and want 2 know

          what turning tricks is like

I can only do it if I am high

If a trick throws you out of the car and

          you get hurt

Carry a first aid kit in yer bag

Like green snot cumin out of your piss hole

          is bad and it will hurt

They always want yer name @ a clinic

If you give yer real name they can find you

You might need the 2 or 3 IDs you buy

A small shoulder bag is better than a big one

You might have to run

A trick might say he is out of money

          after they fuck you

I carry a knife

The end 

 

XRAY BOY.

A poem by TRENT

If you tape the xrays up

to the window you can

see inside my head. My

tricks always smile and

they think they know

what motivates me. But

they are wrong. I do

not hate anyone even

when I look inside of

them and see all the

vacant spaces of their

bleeding and their holding

on so tight to me my

lungs are crushed.

 

A Boy is Wearing Gloves.

A poem by Dmitri.

Sometimes men want me to play dress up.

I like gloves.

I do not like no hoods.

I want to see his face.

I want to see his eyes.

Sometimes even if you can see the trick’s eyes.

He might hurt you anyway.

If he puts a hood on.

It means he wants to whip me.

Men hate women.

They do.

Be very careful.

When you dress up.

If it is like a woman.

You can be hurt.

They will beat you up.

I call this Boy in Blue.

I made him blue.

Cuz you cannot see.

His bruises 2 good.

I took them out.

Mine do not go away.

They are forever.

So now I am in hiding.

Inside the Buddha.

Where no one can hurt me.

 

Or beat me up.

The storybook vessel lingers but it’s just how one person saw it/ it’s a take/ it’s just one take/ one take sweeping the front porch more briskly than was actually necessary when you could have hosed it down with a commanding sadness/

Abandoned by their families & the government, by faith and community leaders, the kids are forced to find ways to survive on the streets. They endure violence, hunger, cold, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, infections and diseases, addictions and suicide ideation. And, STIGMA.

The boys who have brought up this issue of suicide and HIV — even though it’s simply within the context of a surreal video — are receiving professional counseling. They deserve nothing less. It is important that we LISTEN to them.


Comment from anonymous viewer: "You sway these boys! They copy your ridiculous opinions. You pull their video about suicide now!"

Responding to comment: It would be absurd for me to contend that I have no influence because obviously, I do. But you ought to attend a house meeting and see how contentious it can really be. There is so much you do not know. In fact, there is a lot to HIV you do not know. To wit: One of the short shorts films the boys are making has to do with adolescent boys with HIV and heart disease. HIV does not exist in a vacuum. The AIDS orgs want you to believe that it does, but it does not. If you are a teenage boy who has been on the antiretrovirals, you WILL have heart disease. I call it HAART disease. The politically correct lie that is being told is that HIV is no big deal. I am here to tell you that heart disease is a very big deal. Especially if you are, let’s say, fifteen. To manage heart disease and HIV is more than some kid who has been kicked out of his home can handle. I do not CARE who the kid is. It’s all going to be just way too much. So then suicide becomes an issue. All of this falling down on some kid’s shoulders who is not yet seventeen involves the level of support that kid receives. It’s D-I-R-E-C-T-L-Y related. So do not sit there on your smug, white, fat ass, Mister AIDS org, and tell me what is and is not appropriate. It is appropriate that they speak to the issue of suicide because it is an issue as is heart disease. You may now suck my big, fat, white cock, asshole.

One of the Smash Street Boys was recently hospitalized. When this happens, there is a correlative event that is endemic to adolescent boys with such things as heart disease and HIV, and that is suicide ideation. Suicide ideation is very real. It occurs when a sense of helplessness takes hold, and the adolescent sees his peers are slipping away (because they are). I firmly believe that that adolescent boys MUST express themselves at times like this on a feeling level. If they hold it in, suicide ideation turns quickly into suicide. They’re already at-risk just being male adolescents. But when you add multiple layers, you can find your ability to stop a rolling stone from going down the mountain is iffy at best. It isn’t an issue of my being appropriate or inappropriate by allowing such boys to make a video that deals with suicide and HIV. It is an issue of SURVIVAL. We will get past this. We have a LOT of help. TRAINED help. But I refuse to hide an issue that hits boys with HIV very hard.

There is no way to sweep under the rug the reality that HIV and suicide are not issues. I don’t care what any AIDS org says about HIV being no big deal. They’re wrong. The below listed men were AIDS activists and they killed themselves. None of them were fifteen-years-old and had been kicked out of their families.

Suicide and HIV are real issues where you have not heard the last of it.

Carl Goodman, a longtime AIDS activist and co-founder of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), which held protests against government inaction in the 80s, took his own life. He was 58. (January 2014).

Spencer Cox, veteran AIDS activist, died of AIDS-related causes after stopping his medications, which cause side-effects such as lipodystrophy, a form of fat redistribution. “He was brilliant,” Mr. Larry Kramer said. “He figured out single-handedly how to test these drugs more effectively than any scientist and statistician could.” He was 44. (December 2013).

Rodger McFarlane, a leader in the gay rights movement during the early days of the AIDS epidemic and the first executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, committed suicide. In a letter that he left, Mr. McFarlane wrote that he was unwilling to become further debilitated by heart and back problems. He was 54. (May 2009).

And so it begins with this. It begins in hate. The extent to which they are hunted down and hated remains a re-education of what we call The Life. They can tell you about stigma. That strain is wet upon their lips at all times.

Stigma brings dramatic and immediate consequences to people just trying to live their lives.

But both village and tribal culture dictate that punishment for the breaking of taboos must go bone deep. I see it every day with them. Places they’re not much welcome. They cut their own hair.

They pair off. Who loves who, and who loves only himself.

All I can tell you is that people hate them. Who is there to love them; no, we would deny them that fundamental validation.

They know more of love than the lovers in their homes and marriages and suits and houses in the suburbs and cars that go round and round, prowling. Married men want them more than anyone.

The kid is living on the street. He shits in a vacant lot. Sometimes he sleeps in an abandoned building. He’s sick a lot. He’s been turning tricks anywhere he can find them. A blow job is five bucks. He shoplifts. Skateboards and drugs. Vodka and tricks.

HIV is going to cost a whole lot more, a whole lot more than five bucks.

Smash Street makes art. Art heals. You don’t believe it. Actually, I think you do. You just don’t want to pay for it.

Or his HIV.

Often, you don’t even bother to count them. Their invisibility will tip the boat, the boatman, and all the poets of consequence over into the River Styx, and consequential to whom.



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