Anyone who has started a new venture knows that one can’t really expect to make ends meet from the baby business alone. As I begin my transition away from disability benefits and begin building my production company and coaching practice, I am seeking employment with organizations where I can be of service using my skills and talents. In working with a career counselor who specializes in helping disabled persons get back to the work force, I gave him my web address so that he could see the many kinds of work that I do. He said it was helpful in planning which direction to go as we move forward. He also strongly suggested that I change some of the content of my site, specifically the HIV advocacy pictures and videos.
I was angered when I heard this suggestion. I have created my life so that I do not have to live in the closet and I can be free to be authentically me. Part of the reason I am so public about it is so that I can be a part of erasing the stigma and giving others encouragement so they know they are not alone. I don’t think it is necessary for everyone to be as vocal about their status as I am. It’s nobodies business. But it angers me that it is 2016 and that so many people still have to hide it.
I am not angry with the counselor for it is his job to protect disabled people from being discriminated against in the workforce. What does invoke the inner rage is the reason WHY he had to suggest it. My disabilities, bipolar disorder and HIV, are not visual to the eye. However, if a potential employer researches my name online, they will instantly see become aware of my status and may very well discriminate. Yes, my No Shame picture and video are on the homepage of my web site. But it is also everywhere else…facebook, twitter, several radio interviews, blogs, etc. There is no way I could remove it if I wanted to…and I do not want to.
With more thought about the conversation with the counselor, I know on some level he is correct for making the suggestions. Reluctantly, I have created an email account that is part of my legal name. I will introduce myself with that name, exclude Skip on my resume, and be careful to only use the new email for communication. I’m named after both of my grandfathers, both amazing men, and I’m honored to share their names. I love my legal name. But I’m not going to write it here because it will become searchable, and right now the only thing that appears in the search engine are a couple of old addresses.
It pisses me off that I have to go back in the closet and cloak my everyday identity. It feels like I am going against everything I stand for. However, it has reminded me in a very real way, why HIV/AIDS advocacy campaigns, like No Shame About Being HIV+, are so vitally important. There has been so much progress in the medical advances and we are living full and joyful lives…but discrimination and social stigma are still very much alive.
– Skip Sams
Skip Sams is a multi-media producer and success coach who aspires to inspire others to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality.