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See, that’s what the app is perfect for.

Sounds perfect Wahhhh, I don’t wanna


Violating and profiting off of marginalized bodies is nothing new in the US. See colonization, slavery, mass incarceration, the war on drugs, Japanese internment camps, the recent passing of SESTA and of course the targeted genocide of Indigenous people. The sordid, oblique and malicious violence against us is the sad stale crust of the American Pie that Trump and others allude to when saying: Make America Great Again!

We know that the most marginalized and unseen communities are viewed, watched and violated by the lens of criminality, every day. It is interesting that the state apparatus holds an obstructive nuance: collecting black and brown bodies to fill prisons, to enhance the veneer of diversity when RFPs for programming are doled-out, all while simultaneously stating they can’t find our communities to serve.  So interesting and mind-boggling that I can’t help but think it’s intentional.

I’m HIV positive and have been for almost a decade and have experience with the trifle of surveillance for the better part of my seroconversion. Once, while at home doing computer work, the Philadelphia Department of Health dispatched Disease Intervention Specialists to my home without trying to contact me first. Here I was in the living room and they hunted me down! They claimed in their condescending tone that it was for MY benefit, that they came to see me. Had they brought me lunch? I wanted to quip. Instead, I just picked up my jaw when they had the nerve to ask me if and when I would report to a doctor for HIV care. I had not engaged with the medical establishments in Philadelphia for about 6 months at that time because I was actively targeting these establishments for their anti-black employment policies and practices and their lack of accountability to communities they professed to serve. I was still taking my medicine because this was before I decided to go on a #medStrike to amplify workers demands at a local nonprofit and as an act of solidarity for the victims of alleged sexual assault by former Mazzoni Medical Director Dr. Robert Winn

The two women asked to come inside after telling me who they were. I declined. I asked why they were at my door and they stated “we want to talk about your health” and I asked them to tell me more. By then a neighbor cracked his door open. I continued to implore them to provide further details through my frustration, embarrassment and discomfort. Even while the State was literally at my door I was having to FIGHT for my humanity. One of them said it’s about your HIV status. At that point, I invited them in. Once inside they began to ask inappropriate questions about my private life. They then began to lecture me, echoing the highly problematic and stigmatizing rhetoric of campaigns like HIV Stops With Me from the CDC. The corrupt and negligent state attempts to put the burden of the epidemic on the backs of poz people, suggesting that my virus is what was reducing the life chances of people in my community and not their draconian policies and invasive procedures. Did they even consider the possibility of interrupting my safety before coming to my home? I told them I didn’t need this information, that I knew how to take care of myself, that I had worked in community organizations and that this process was invasive and made me unsafe. They dismissed this.

Fast forward. Today published an article highlighting how the GPS dating app GRINDR has been sharing personal data of users to private companies. While I’m not surprised that a capitalistic enterprise is making *coins off of third-party sales of data, I am very upset. I’m devastated to have my suspicions proved right. There is no safe® space in this whole world for poz people to live, love and connect without surveillance. Not our living rooms, and not our phones.

The history of the epidemic teaches us that progress does not happen unless poz communities feel empowered, including feeling safe enough to disclose our status without fear of retribution. This news coming out about Facebook and its problematic approach to data-sharing and now Grindr. This gives me and potentially other PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS) more stressors. We know how trauma impacts our already compromised immune systems. As a poz person I often am unable to speak freely about how disclosure politics and desire limit, restrict or renders me undesirable and nasty. Now we have a receipt that proves that even the enclaves of community we have carved out online are not immune to the overreaching hands of the state and profiteers alike. As we are digitally spilling the TEA,  they are spilling our info into the hands of advertisers, trend companies, and who else? Under capitalist assault, HIV is being weaponized against us.

I call on us all to hold GRINDR accountable. We can start by informing ourselves and others of the privacy policies of all the apps we are on. It does not matter how poz-friendly they may seem in their marketing and who their users are.

Over the next few days, I will be meeting with friends, accomplices [read: allies] and lovers to consider what this breach of trust means for my intimacy, criminalization and the future of how we hold and maintain community. Do we all need to rethink how we reach out?

As part of my process I am going to share an anonymously published zine called, How To Have Sex in Police State which opens with this:  “We are in a dangerous moment under the watch of a hostile regime and we urgently need to take back control of our lives, our health and our freedom.”

Abdul-Aliy is a Black poz non-binary jawn* from Philadelphia PA. They organize with the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative and otherwise loves to give out free hand-jobs when able. A Flower Left To Wilt, their collection of writing/poetry will be released on October 26, 2018. If you want to hear them talk ish weekly, listen to FOR COLORED BOYZ PODCAST!

*Jawn - a word used to describe any and everything in Philly Philly!

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