Editor's Note: Accuracy is not guaranteed; you can help us get better by highlighting mistakes and suggesting edits! Please fill out this survey if you wish to learn more about us and our mission or send me an email.
Hi, guys, how's it guy? Let's see, maybe you should introduce yourselves. Kathy, do you want to go first? No, you go first. Oh, no. There you go. There you go. I love it. We're very polite. And I'm Tovan. I'm not going to say like an apology. I'm Tobin Low.
I didn't hear it as an apology.
But your Tobin, though. I'm Kathy, too. And you guys host the show? Yes. We co-host a show called Nancy.
OK, so it's Chad Radiolab, so what I love to do in this episode, and the next is introduce you or reintroduce you to some people we think are doing amazing work, starting with Tobin and Kathy.
They sort of come from the Radiolab family. Kathie was a contributor. Tobin worked with me on season one of More Perfect. And about three years ago they formed a show, now a much beloved show called Nancy that is all about LGBTQ issues, although you might hear that and think, oh, it's deadly serious capital. I important.
But, you know, like Nancy is actually like a lot of things. I think we're funny. We're heartfelt. We talk about pop culture and family and dating and we talk about a whole bunch of stuff. This is thing I love most about you guys.
Is that you? In a world where everybody takes themselves too seriously, everybody of all sorts, you guys do and don't somehow, like you marry the dunes and the don't in a way that I think is very unique.
That is a high compliment. Yeah. Some would say that we could be more serious.
But you know what? You know, I think it's working for us.
OK, so today we're going to feature a Nancy episode that Tobin and Kathy produced with somebody who works at Radiolab, actually a guy named David Gabal. And I don't think it needs much set up from here, so. We're just going to add a play, here it is. Kathy, yes, Tobin. Take my hands, OK?
We are best friends, obviously, which is hilarious because you told me a story the other day that I'm obsessed with about let's call him co-worker. Kevin, co-worker.
Kevin, I was telling co-worker Kevin about how after the season is over, you and I, Tobin, are going on vacation together. I'm so excited. And his response to me was also like, you guys are really friends. How dare you, coworker. Kevin God, Kevin, this is real.
This is a real BSF thing we have going. We are best friends forever. I am no actor. This would not work. OK, to be fair to co-worker Kevin, it does get at this thing, which is not all co-workers are best friends, I guess. And in fact, like I don't know a ton about the people that I work with, to be totally honest. Yeah, that's true. One one of the things that happen and we've talked about this before, Kathy said, like when we got the show that my co-worker walls started coming down.
Yes. Like people started, you know, pulling us to the side and sharing stories or sending messages.
Everybody's got a story they want to share. They do.
And especially the person that we're here to talk about today.
David Gabal, Mr. David Gabal, one of my favorite people who works here.
Yes, he does admin work for two of the biggest shows here, Radiolab and the take away.
He also brings joy and baked goods wherever he goes. Always so nice he has. And David's one of those people who started opening up and sharing these stories. You know, he's 59. He moved to New York in the 80s and he's had all these incredible experiences. And the other day he shared something that I did not know about him. And it came with a request for for me to help him out.
And you did, of course. And that's where today's episode came from, from WNYC Studios. This is Nancy with your host, Hillburn, Lowe and Kathy to. We're finally doing it, Tobin. It's it's all happening, we're talking about it forever of finally happen. I know. Can I have you introduce yourself? Sure. I'm David Gabal. I work here at WNYC. Yeah. And so we know each other and that's how we know each other.
I know. Which is was crazy because when I was getting ready for this conversation, I was thinking about what questions I had for you. And one of them was so basic because even though we worked together, I don't know, like, where are you from originally? Milwaukee. You're from Milwaukee. Milwaukee, born and raised. Milwaukee bopped around to a couple of different universities, graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. At the time, Mary Tyler Moore was actually throwing her hat in the air.
They were filming it there at the time. It was great.
And what year was that that you moved to New York? 1980. 1980? Yeah, 1980. I moved right into it. Stephen and I met and he was in graduate school and I was in undergrad and he was a native New Yorker, so it was so easy because he moved back like six months before me and he's calling me trying to pick out an apartment in New York and I don't know, New York. And we ended up on 14 between eighth and ninth.
It was a dump, but it was good. And we made it cute. I was so I was so in love and out of Milwaukee and living in New York and and we were setting up house, I'd like it was it was time to be in love and be. Tend to be young. And yes, it was a sexual playground, you couldn't go home, you couldn't walk home without someone cruising you on the street or you giving into it and going into their apartment or the alley or the doorway or I mean, it sounds ridiculous, but we didn't have cell phones here.
You're you're not Grindr ing. You're you're cruising. And. It was fun. It was really fun. We paid for it a little bit, but it was fun. Was there?
Was there a moment for you that you felt like you realized that it was it was changing that sort of carefree atmosphere when you saw people starting to get sick and saw people on the streets in New York in the mid to late 80s, looking gaunt, looking skeletal with that lipodystrophy sunken look. And it was Carmen. You saw it all the time, all the time. That was what put it in the air, because I was not an activist, I was not as angry at Reagan as I am now, I was not acting up.
I just wanted to keep dancing and drinking and all of that. But I saw it around me and then people died. When did Steven find out, when did you find out about your status? Steven died in 88. He died in January of 88, January 28th, 1988, and. You know, he was just getting sick, they didn't give a big used to call it ahk. And he would kind of go from doctor to doctor to get a diagnosis he like better or that he could deal with.
A look back at pictures now. The last Halloween party he threw in that he was dead, then three months later, you can see it. I mean, now we know what it looks like, right? You can see it how it was fast then. It was super fast. He was pretty fast. Yeah. How old are you? I'm twenty nine. Which is how old I was when he died. I'm old, I was when I tested positive.
See, I told you I'd cry. That's OK. I knew I would I can't talk about this whole thing without it. Oh, my God. You want to take a minute now, you have a nice box of Kleenex? No, because it's just part of it, you know, it's just part of it. Then I cry commercial. So I'm an I'm an easy mark. So you had this idea I've been HIV positive 30 years, so I thought, I have no idea now what a young person testing positive or trying not to test positive goes through.
All I know is the AIDS crisis. We're not in the middle of a crisis, but I thought, I don't know what they think and maybe they're things they want me to know about them that I am unaware of. I mean, that was really curious, like, did we go through all that and nobody knows anything? And how do we pass that on? Did we? Did we go through a plague for nothing? Did we learn anything? Does that make me think about it?
Because I realize this is not an assumed thing. And I realized with my straight friends here at the station, knowledge of the AIDS crisis is not an assumed thing they know about. It's just so part of my being. I mean, I fucking take pills every day. You can't ever forget it. So it's I have realized my reference point is way off, it's my reference point. So, David, what we did is we reached out to this big New York organization, it's called Gay Men's Health Crisis, CMHC, GMG, and it's a group that's been doing HIV and AIDS work since the epidemic started.
It was founded because of the crisis and they've been doing HIV and AIDS work ever since. And so not only do they work with people from your generation, they actually work with people who have become positive since then. And so we told them what you wanted to do and they found us, someone for you to talk to. He's a guy named Dominique Christan. He's 30 to HIV positive. He used to work for them, actually. OK, and he's going to join you in the studio.
Terrific. That's coming up after the break. This is Radiolab. I'm Jad Abumrad. We'll be back in a moment. Hi, this is Charlotte from Coolibah in the Netherlands. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and also in public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloane and w w w dot Sloan Doug.
This is Radiolab. I'm Jad Abumrad. We are featuring a story from our friends at Nancy on this episode.
Let's get back to the story of David and Dominique on the part of a community called the Helsingborg community.
Got to tell you, the old guy with that is so that's me. Tell Daddy what that is. So at first I could be a little bit.
Remember Madonna? She came up with that video. Yeah. So voguing, right. Volgin comes from the house in Boston. It's Paris is burning.
Paris is burning. Yes, I know a little. So it's like. Oh, it's like a family, right? It's a subculture and it's family. We create these houses, which are our families. And inside these houses, we do have parent roles like we have the mother of the house, the father of the house and things of that nature. Do you live together? No.
So we don't live together. So we call it the house because it was to confirm, like the designer house is like the house of the house of Cartier and things like that.
And then how did that lead you to GMAC?
So GMAC had a house called the House of Latex and it was a prevention house. And not only were they are part of the community as homeworking and competing in the category such as robo and runaway, they also were like a prevention house. So they would be at the boss handing out condoms and information and referrals. And you were part of that house? Yes, I did a little community service with the house, even though I wasn't officially Aztec's because I was always in my own house.
What's your house? My house currently is the house of St. Lawrence. I am the mother of the New York City chapter. But at that time it was the House of Prodigy.
So when did you first test positive to first? What a stupid way to say it if you only do it once.
When did you test positive twin in it? I felt really invincible at the time because even though I think it was possible at all and realized it.
No, and it's so it was such an ignorant part for me. I was I was very ignorant because I was like, I don't do drugs. I don't you know, I don't I don't hang with those people. I don't do risky behavior. I'm in a relationship I'm paid for. My part is faithful. So there's no way that I can be positive. My partner couldn't even if he was cheating, you know, he had a really fit body.
He took care of himself, health conscious. He doesn't have nothing. I wouldn't know he had something. And at the same time, like I said, I was working at GM, see where all the information is there. Right. But I still felt invincible and I still was ignorant around the fact that anyone can get it.
What made you go get the test?
I got a call from someone just saying that I should get tested, that my love of cheating on me being messy, the person was being messy, but at the same time I was like, OK, whatever, and I want to go get tested. And it was a shock to me when I first went to go get tested because they, you know, they said, you know, you are HIV positive. I'm like, what me?
Now, tell me about that day. Oh, wow. The day I found out that I was positive still is like still very touching and painful. I was talking to my friend as my friend texted me, and I could tell something was a little different because when he came in, he is like his whole aura was like, oh, Dominique, I got to tell you something. So I knew right then and there and stomach dropped. I broke into a sweat.
And I just thought my life was over. I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't know. I really didn't know how I was going to, like, make it right. So I don't know if I could tell anyone, how will they look at me?
How will my job look at me being like, how how am I telling people to use safe sex in your ear and you're working and you're working in prevention central?
Well, I lose my job is what I thought, right? What happened? So I sat in it.
I sat there for a couple of maybe a month or two, just this me knowing my status and just keeping it to myself, not disclosing to it. You didn't tell anybody. And so anyway, I stopped talking to my lover at the time. And, you know, I just was like, it's not going to work out. I didn't confront him or anything. I just sat in that space.
So you didn't even tell him? No. Wow. I didn't know. And so the first time I ever disclosed it to someone was we were having a group at GMAC and we was working with working with at risk youth. And there was this. Bold and brave young guy who was sharing his story with us. He was surrounded by his peers and they all look like.
Wow. OK, and then they started making little comments like, well, we knew you were sick because you were very thin and it kind of like hurting, right?
And I said, well, you can never tell the way a person looks that they have HIV.
And I don't know what came up on me, but I said I have HIV. Do I look like I have HIV? And you can hear a pin drop. Even my boss looked at me and. And I think I just did it, I just did it, and that's when the first time I really felt free, I felt free. Wow.
So from that point on, were you at ease? Were you.
I was at ease for a while, being that I had the support, like I said, of JMC. So that's where I worked it. That's why I spent a lot of my time at. So everything was great at what I believed, but I was great. Right. I thought everything was fine because I was there with people that supported me, that loved me, that understood right. And didn't judge me.
But what if you had that same exact what? So when I started to venture outside of the circle and started like having a life and going to the clubs and even in the ballroom scene, I was so respected. Right. I was popular in the bar scene because I was a trophy winner. I was a very popular and had a lot of people looking up to me as a leader. So when I did come out, that changed and came out about your status changed.
It changed how stigma. And did people say something to you, dirty you just dirty little things you hear on mumble, you hear them say stuff.
I remember one time I was inside of a club and I walked in a club and for some reason, like it was a really dark club and a spotlight was shining on this one person. And I can read his lips. Right. And he said he's cute and his friend turned around. I was like, child, he's dying. So that's like attorney say, well, when they kind of defining somebody with HIV, he was like a child. He's dying.
And I was just like, take a step back and that's OK.
Time to go home. And and I start to experience that more and more right now. As started hearing things in my own community that didn't sit right with me, people being judgmental and so much hate right now, I'm surprised at that because I thought if you're testing positive now, you've got information and you've got medication and you have all these things I didn't have.
Yeah. But I had that same kind of signal stigma still, let me say something.
I'm I'm sadly surprised to hear it.
It's hurtful, right? And especially for people to want to say that looks like me because we have to we have to go through, like, what it is to be gay. We know how hard that is. Right. So not only do I have to go to that, I have to go through what it means to be black and gay. All right. What it means to be black and gay, HIV positive, what it means to be black and gay, HIV positive as well as being feminine.
All right. What it means to be black and gay and positive, feminine and believing in God. And that's a lot, and you come from a really religious family. The day you told your family, how long after you tested positive? Oh, did it take a little time or a little time, a little time, and I didn't disclose, I kind of got caught. My mother was snooping around and saw some paper.
And on the paper, you know, it was from a hostile I was signing up for a program to help me with my medicine, Medicaid and all that. And she said this is about and I was like, oh, this woman I work for mom being mom. She did her investigation and that's when she found out. And, you know, it was like a bad main line, like one call she made to call, like all my aunts, all my uncles, a grandmother.
And everyone was like, hey, how long you been positive? I didn't tell us.
I'm glad she found that paper. Yeah, I'm glad she found it.
Would you have gotten around to telling her I'm I don't know. Never say never. Yeah, parents are different. Parents are different.
But I don't want to be a disappointment. I'm the oldest child as well. I have little brothers. And at that time I was like, oh, this is a disappointment. I come to New York to be this great person, to be the first person in my family, to go to college and to be somebody. And now look right. Because when you think about somebody being gay, the first thing they think is, are you going to catch AIDS?
All right. So now I have to go back to that I'm gay.
Then that's actually go back to that for my age. And testing positive. So long ago. Yeah. We didn't know we were going to get AIDS, so I know when I came out, it was like, oh yeah, and things have changed. If you're gay, you're going to be gay. You're going to you're going to get sick. All right. That's that's what it was.
That's the that's the comments that made me go, huh. I guess nowadays it's not even that now.
It's like you're going to be gay. You don't have to get sick. If you take this blue pill, take it. And you don't have to worry about ever getting sick. What do you take so I take a Complera. Don't even know the name of that one. Oh, yes, yes, yes, I'll take them there with a cocktail. OK, and I can't pronounce like so many of the different ones as a piece of it. Yeah, I can flair.
It sounds so pretty. I'm taking Complera.
It sounds like you've got it now, right. Right. It's pretty nice that one pair that all I have. Is it really one pill. Yeah. That's all I have to do and it's pretty dog I have never taken.
Only want to take my pill for that.
So I have a lot of other things going on. Yeah. I fell into a depression and stopped taking my meds at one point and I contracted a meningitis. Right. I was drinking a lot of feeling like liver failure, so I had to take a lot of pills, but not for the HIV, but complications from the agency. Right?
Oh, me too. I mean, at one point I was getting high cholesterol because of one of my HIV drugs. So I had to take extra cholesterol medicine on top of it because I couldn't stop the AIDS drug. It was an old one. They don't even give that to any people anymore.
Yeah. But being life like knowing I had to take these pills and knowing that it's part of surviving is what we do it right. Do you feel bad about being HIV positive?
No, no, no, no. OK, I don't feel bad at all. I don't even regret it. So people say, if you could go back and change everything that happened, what would you do different? And being totally honest and I don't know if I was being totally honest, I wouldn't change anything.
Right. I made a conscious decision to be in love right now. If I had to change one thing, I would say I wish I was in a relationship with someone that was more honest. But they were like people were saying, you know, would you have wrapped it up? And I know it's not a safe sex measure, but no, I probably wouldn't use the condom because I was in a trusting relationship. We were getting tested. Right.
So I wouldn't change anything. And I just think this is my purpose in life. I think things happen. That's all a part of my great destiny, which is God's plan.
I don't know if I would change anything either, because it was wonderful to come to New York and be in love and and not have to think about HIV and AIDS. And so it made sense when people were starting to discover like, oh, it's sex is transmitting it. Yeah. And. Then the Larry Kramer's and the activists were saying, well, then stop having sex while I was so happy to be able to. Yeah, you don't want to hear that a while.
And I'm long time alcohol drug recovery. Would I undo that? Yeah. Getting sober was one of the best things that ever happened. But you have to go to a really messy place to get there. But I wouldn't undo it. Yeah. And yeah. And I think you meet right.
And I seen how much I loved myself, I, I seen how much love that is in the world because I'm positive and I don't think if I was positive, I would never have experienced that.
If we date, we still have to disclose. We have to find a way to do that. I get it out the way right from the beginning. Yeah. What do you do? I get it out the way I say, hey, my name is Dominique, 10 inches and I'm HIV positive. Not until I was going to say.
Are those is that all true? No, no.
But it's a good line. Yeah. That's always got my attention. Yeah. But I suppose what I've learned is when I wait to disclose and I think I'm protecting myself, but I'm really not because I get feelings for this guy and everyone's at that point where they will be open to date someone HIV positive. And even if they do take someone that is you positive are open to it, they might not want to date someone who is HIV positive and open about their status.
When you hear someone my age talk about the 80s or what it was like or everybody was dying, what do you think? We're still dying. It's just it's different. I think a lot of I see a lot of my young black. You've dying still to this day, not a change to the communities that that are dying. I'm changing so it's not talked about as often, but it's still around. AIDS crisis is still around.
How many friends of you of yours have you lost? So many. I lost so many people. I'm sorry. Yeah, people say, you know, it's not the 80s or more people not dying from unless they are, they're still dying from it, they're still being infected from it. I know black men are getting infected, especially the black youth. We're getting infected and we're still dying or a lot of the stigma.
It's not cured. No, not here. What do you think the future is going to be? But we make it all right. What do you make of it? What we make it so we're going to make it we're going to keep on educating. We're going to keep on fighting. We're going to pray. We're going to educate, keep loving. And hopefully with all that, the spread of HIV and AIDS will be done. Anything you want to know about me living in the 80s and being where I'm at now, what do you want to know from the old white guy, that old guy?
How are you making it? I just do the next right thing, the next day I take my pills, I show up at the doctor and. I. Try to be useful. It's very important to me what we're doing here. Because we can't have gone through all this for nothing. We can't forget about it. That's why I wondered, like, what do young people know, what don't they know, how do we pass this on? How do we make this worthwhile?
And. I remember being told early on by my one of my best friends because. The guy I loved who died wanted to look the other way all the time, he wanted to go to a different doctor who'd say something different than what he wanted to hear. And I go back to my original doctor said was just being informed. And my best friend said, if that means that the doctor wants to see you every other day, I want you to show up every other day and not every day is a medical problem for me.
I've been spared. I have not landed in the hospital. I did not lose every friend in the world. But I'm still living with this every day. And it just becomes it doesn't become you, but it becomes a fact about you and you need to just deal with it. So I show up. It's probably I just show up every day. But that'll make this worth it somehow my bunch of guys led to the next bunch of guys look to you and you will lead to them and hopefully we'll keep talking about it.
Yeah, I hope so.
I want to say thank you. Thank you. Thank you. That means a lot.
Yeah. Don't stop. Don't you. Don't you neither. Keep going on. I mean, I love that you're talking to people and I love that you're talking to people still.
All right. Thank you, my dear hogtie.
That was David Gabal with Dominie Christian. All right, that's our show. Let's do some credits, this episode was produced by Matt Calev, edited by Jenny Lawton and Sound Design by Jeremy Bloom. Our executive producer is Paula Schoeman.
Special thanks to Krishna Stone at Gay Men's Health Crisis.
I'm Tovan Lo. I'm Kathy, too. And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios. You can subscribe to Nancy on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast, their next episode comes out soon. I'm Jad Abumrad, Radiolab. We'll also be back soon. Thank you for listening.