Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

Two Dads, Two Boys and a Horse

24 Jan

A beautiful and sad story in this weekend’s New York Times.

Tim Mannion, Maurice and Rocky (Photo from Barista Kids)

When two gay men, Timothy Mannion and Timothy Vanover decided they wanted to adopt a child with specifically-difficult physical needs, they never realized they’d end up with a miracle.

Maurice Mannion-Vanover was born to a crack-addicted mother in Washington on September 11, 1990. The issues surrounding the birth of he and his twin sister meant she would only live 20 months. Maurice was born with AIDS and when “The Tims” as they came to be known, took Maurice home, they were told he wouldn’t live longer than 6 months. “We’d cry at night thinking we were going to lose him” Vanover said. But as Maurice grew older, his health improved greatly, He began to gain weight and thrive. He also wound up with a brother. Kindoo was adopted by the Tims in 1997, a year after Maurice’s adoption became official.

The family moved to New Jersey after Tim Vanover got a job in New York. They lived in the busy suburb of Montclair, NJ so what happened next was a bit of an improbability. You see, as a young man, Tim Vanover rode horses back in Goshen, Indiana and their son seemed to pick up the same fascination as his Dad. When lessons became too expensive for Maurice’s fathers, they surprised him with a horse of his own one Christmas. In 2002, Rocky became a part of Maurice’s life.

Everyone in the neighborhood noticed how fast Maurice and Rocky became friends. The children of the town would constantly be at the fence to visit Rocky, who was hard-to-miss, this being quite literally a one-horse town. The two were “like one” as Tim Vanover said. After Rocky came into Maurice’s life, his studies improved and his health was excellent. There were ups and downs of course, like when the Tims separated in 2003 (but remained living in the same house so as to raise the children together) and Maurice’s health wasn’t always perfect, but a change definitely occurred for the better with Rocky around.

Then in December, after receiving his black belt in karate, Maurice went to visit Toronto to see his beloved dog, Hunter. Then on December 29th, just before he was going to head back home to New Jersey, Maurice came down with a mysterious fever and was rushed to the hospital. After a few days there, he told Tim Mannion “Daddy, it’s time, the clock is ticking.” Within a few moments, Maurice was gone.

Later that same night, Maurice’s dog, Hunter wandered into the parlor hall alone and quietly passed away.

On Saturday, Maurice was laid to rest. On-foot, walking ahead of the hearse were Maurice’s Dads, Tim Mannion and Tim Vanover, his brother Kindoo, and Rocky. While standing there, Rocky used his head to pull Vanover’s head close to him as if sharing in the grief.

Tim Mannion, Tim Vanover, Rocky and Kindoo Mannion-Vanover (photo by Marcus Yam, NY Times)

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Lake Logan Episcopal Center, 154 Suncrest Mill Road, Canton, N.C. 28716, or to The Shepard Schools, 10 Columba St., Morristown, N.J. 07960. Please indicate that your donation is for the Maurice Mannion-Vanover Scholarship Fund.

An additional tribute can be read at Barista Kids.

h/t: Kappy Griffith

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Miss America Goes Gay(er)

5 Jan

There are some (perhaps stereotypical) things which I feel would perhaps be nowhere without the support and/or participation of the LGBT Community. Among them are:

Musicals – I challenge you to put up a production of The Sound of Music with no Max, no Rolf, no Captain Von Trapp and no stage manager.

Figure Skating – WWBBD? (What Would Brian Boitano Do?)

Fashion – Project Runway is not all that far from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, let’s be honest.

And of course…

The Miss America Pageant. We make the gowns, teach the contestants how to walk, design the sets, choreograph the opening numbers and in some cases, they even let us judge (so long as we promise to play nice *cough* Perez Hilton *cough*). Sometimes we’re even mentioned ONstage.

Kate Shindle being crowned Miss America 1998

Back in 1998, the AIDS crisis took center stage at the pageant when outspoken equality advocate, Kate Shindle took home the crown. She took a chance in speaking up for those living with and dying from HIV/AIDS, and happily it has not been a cause she has everĀ  let go of. From 2003-2007, I was happy to found and produce the World AIDS Day Concerts in New York City with her and her passion for this cause is unlike any I’ve seen. Since then, Kate has been seen all over Broadway and is currently starring in Wonderland – a new Broadway musical based on Alice in Wonderland.

Now, in 2011, there’s a new crown-hopeful who is making waves. Miss New York, our very own Claire Buffie has chosen as her platform, LGBT Equality. This is the first time in 90 years that a contestant is standing up for the equal rights of a community that has helped make the Miss America Pageant what it is today.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Claire on a few occasions

Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

and am happy to report that she is not only stunningly beautiful (as is expected), but she is well-spoken, articulate and has the same passion for equality, that our friend Kate Shindle continues to have for those living with HIV/AIDS. She marched in the NYC Pride March this June and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Marriage Equality New York’s Wedding March this past fall. And at any event she attends, she can almost always be seen having one-on-one discussions with LGBT people, young and old about their experiences.

We frequently talk about the need for advocacy outside the LGBT Community. And here we have a marvelous representation being given a nationwide television platform on Saturday, January 15th. As we know, the Miss America contest is going to be seen in televisions all across the country and I for one am very proud that New York is being represented by someone who can speak so eloquently about who we are.

Good luck, Claire! No matter what happens next week, we got your back girl. Come to think of it – who BETTER to have on your side at a Miss America Pageant? We promise not to go all “Drop Dead Gorgeous” on anyone, but our brothers and sisters backstage will certainly be there with some extra spray glue and glitter should you need it.

Taylor Proffitt, Claire Buffie and Ronnie Kroell (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

NY Senator Tom Duane Arrested in AIDS Protest

9 Nov

Senator Tom Duane Arrested Today at City Hall. Photo:Cindy Rodriguez

Earlier today, NY State Senator Thomas Duane joined the heads of several HIV/AIDS Organizations in an act of civil disobedience which wound up with Duane and others getting arrested.

The action was in protest of a bill that was vetoed earlier this year by Governor David Paterson. The bill would insure that people living with HIV/AIDS wouldn’t be required to spend more than 30% of their income on their rent. The bill would effect 10,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. According to WNYC:

“Gerald Deyounge from Brooklyn is one of them. He attended Tuesday’s protest and says he’s about to be evicted from his current apartment because he can’t afford his rent. Deyounge says he lives off a disability payment of just over $1,000 a month and about $700 of that goes to housing. Deyounge says right now his life is stable, but he’s not sure where he’ll go if he loses his apartment.”

Openly gay and openly HIV+ Duane has long been an outspoken advocate for our community and has fought tooth and nail for marriage equality in New York. If you don’t know who he is, please give this video a watch. he is easily one of our most passionate elected officials we have. Thanks Senator, for everything you are.