When I told my father I was gay during my freshman year in college, I, like many gay and lesbian individuals in Generation Y, was not sure how he was going to react. Growing up in the suburbs of a poor, blue collar city, the environment was accepting in a general sense, but there was - and still are - many stigmas that surround gays, blacks, and Hispanics, in addition to various other minority groups.
My father actually accepted the news casually, and said, "I don't care who you love, or date, or have sex with, just make sure you are safe."
He emphasized the last few words and after I said "OK," he repeated it. His generation was in their 20's when the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit, and over the years, I have realized that this is where a majority of their fears and biases come from. For many of our parents, hearing "I'm gay" from a child is a flashback to that one gay person they knew in their youth that died of the terrible disease; or if they did not know someone, those images of men dying in hospitals and dead bodies splashed on the covers of newspapers come to mind.
The disease, of course, still impacts the gay community at a high level, but I believe that many would be surprised that gay males are no longer the most affected group in America. For our generation, this could be seen as a double edged sword. Many gay men will think, "Oh, it's not an issue anymore, so I don't have to be safe" or "It's just like catching a cold now."
Straight-identifying individuals still falsey believe, "Oh, HIV/AIDS, that was some gay disease in the 70's and 80's."
I don't think our genertion is ignorant, but I feel many people act this way in the fear of getting tested; a fear of finding out what happens after those results are read.
It's national HIV testing day - get tested and be safe.
Read more about why you should get tested on Jeffrey's blog Generation (WH)Y?.