What A World

Don’t Bring Home the Bacon

Jacking with the fatback and the bareback
by Nancy Ford

Move over, New Orleans, with your sugared-dough-fried-in-fat beignets. Step aside, Philadelphia, with your Velveeta-dripping cheese steak sandwiches. Once again, Houston has been named the fattest city in America.

Hmmph. I know you are but what am I?

Taunting Houstonians like a schoolyard bully, Men’s Fitness (granted, a magazine I seldom peruse) recently published the Centers for Disease Control’s claim that more than one-third of Houstonians are overweight.

The article indicated some of the blame might be laid at the never-locked door to the Bayou City’s 1,034-some fast-food restaurants, about one-tenth of which are Jack in the Box restaurants.

Yes indeed, Jack is back. Have you seen that new commercial, pushing its BLT Cheeseburger? Its damage goes beyond the caloric, and enters the political.

The ad begins with a young man gently breaking the news of his engagement to his mother, who grimaces to learn that her son is not marrying a woman. It ends with a shot of the groom munching down on said BLT Cheeseburger, his betrothed. And they lived happily (burp) ever after.

The fast-food giant even launched a designated website for the nuptials. When we log on to MarryBacon.com, we find a picture of the virginal sandwich, wearing a white bridal veil. A photo gallery of well-wishers enthusiastically celebrates their own love of bacon. The site even prominently features a link with instructions to make a bacon baby, which, to me, seems to violate several laws of nature.

Jack in the Box’s Marry Bacon campaign obviously plays off the old childhood taunt, “If you love [fill in the blank] so much, why don’t you marry it?”

I love my car, so why don’t I marry it? That’s an easy one. I’ll never marry my car because I know my car only loves me for my money. She burns through it like it was gasoline.

But back to Jack. It’s easy to parallel the commercial with the argument posed by opponents of same-sex marriage. Given the fast food giant’s demonstrated opposition to LGBT equality, is MarryBacon.com Jack’s jab at same-sex marriage as much as it is a marketing strategy?

Each year, the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index rates companies based on how they treat their LGBT employees, quizzing them on 40 LGBT-specific policies like hiring practices, diversity, spousal and partner benefits, and more.

Its perfect score being 100, HRC’s 2012 CEI rated JITB a lowly 15. In fact, not only was their overall equality score deficient, but Jack and his big white head didn’t even bother responding to HRC’s query. Thank you and drive through, please.

Its christening of Houston as “Blubbertown” aside, the CDC also shared another bit of startling information recently.

Turns out, data indicate that new HIV infections have risen by 61 percent—the highest tier—in one specific demographic.* No, not in the third-world countries category. Not among poor families who have little access to health care and education about HIV and how it is prevented. The most recent available figures show 61 percent of new HIV infections are among men who have sex with men.

Again: The figures show 61 percent of new HIV infections are among men who have sex with men.

If these stats are to be believed, gay men, as we’ll refer to them here, seem to be doing their damndest to reclaim AIDS as The Gay Disease. A curious development, wouldn’t you agree, erupting from the very folks who led the fight in awareness and advocacy when “gay cancer” first insinuated itself into our community’s forefront in the early 1980s?

Forget the billions of dollars spent on research and education. Forget 30 years of individuals and organizations tilting against La Mancha-like windmills. Forget the walks and marches. Forget the decades of uninterrupted mourning. Forget all those quilt panels.

This 61-percent statistic also asks us to forget the men, too many to mention here by name, who were sacrificed to ignorance in the earliest wave of an epidemic that devoured our community’s best and brightest before their full contributions could be made. Before we knew how to protect ourselves.

It also dishonors HIV-positive men and women who have struggled with the virus for 20 or more years, through its second and third waves, who have now elevated safer-sex practices to fine art.

Damn right, I’m mad. Furious. Frustrated. Disgusted. Makes me want to drown my sorrows in a BLT Cheeseburger.

So. Back to Square One: If you happen to know any sexually active gay men, or men who have sex with men, please spread the word: There’s this sexually transmitted disease out there that kills. It’s not easy to contract. You can’t be infected by kissing, or from a mosquito bite, or from sitting on a toilet seat, or by swimming in a public pool, or by being served at a restaurant by a gay waiter. The disease is passed from one person to another via bodily fluids; generally, sperm and blood. Sexual contact that involves either of these bodily fluids places its participants in a high-risk category. The virus can also be spread via oral sex.

Using condoms almost always prevents HIV. Not sharing needles is a good idea, too. Nothing new here.

To reduce that 61-percent new-infections statistic, perhaps gay men could think of safer sex as turkey bacon. Is it as satisfying, compared to unencumbered, no-holds-barred pig bacon? No. Might it save a life? Yes.

Otherwise, if gay men love unsafe sex so much, why don’t they marry it?

* “Gay and bisexual men remain the population most heavily affected by HIV in the United States. CDC estimates MSM [men who have sex with men] represent approximately 2% of the U.S. population, but accounted for more than 50% of all new HIV infections annually from 2006 to 2009—56% in 2006 (27,000), 58% in 2007 (32,300), 56% in 2008 (26,900), and 61% (29,300) in 2009.”

From www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/incidence.htm

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