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Things We Say Today: Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV+ Status

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In a raw and vulnerable interview with The New York Times ahead of the release of his new memoir, Over The Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, Jonathan Van Ness stepped away from the camp and laughs of his tv personality to open up about the darker parts of his past. In the interview and his memoir, the fun-loving Queer Eye star (who identifies as non-binary, but uses he/him pronouns) recounts childhood abuse at the hands of an older boy at church. Van Ness experienced an adolescence marked by low-self esteem, homophobia and bullying. He turned to AOL chat rooms to meeting older men for sex. “For a lot of people who are survivors of sexual assault at a young age, we have a lot of compounded trauma,” Van Ness confided.

This difficult childhood led Van Ness to drug use and sex work, and subsequent addiction. After stints in rehab, Van Ness eventually was diagnosed with HIV at 25. “That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” he writes in his memoir. Now however, Van Ness has turned thing around, using his humor and audacious love of life and style to become an icon to queer and straight people alike. Which made coming out as HIV positive and as an addict even more important. He told the Times:

When ‘Queer Eye’ came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?,” he said. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the L.G.B.T. community thrive around me…I do feel the need to talk about this.

We applaud and admire Van Ness’s choice to be open about his past and his diagnosis. It shows that trauma can be overcome but he also reminds us that every day is a journey of healing and self-acceptance.

In other news:

  • Thea Queen will be back for the final season of Arrow and we’re stoked to see her take a final bow. Get it? BOW. (via TVGuide)
  • There’s casting news over on Supergirl as well, with Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files) and Carla Buono (Stranger Things) joining the fray as Rama Khan and Gamemnae. Both are aliens who have used their powers to protect humanity and the earth, but will come into conflict with Kara and Co. (via Deadline/io9)
  • Can’t do better than the headline “White supremacist accidentally sets own head on fire while trying to burn down synagogue.” (Via Independent)
  • Downton Abbey is on it’s way to winning the weekend box office, proving what we all knew: That the Dowager Countess of Grantham can kick Rambo’s ass. And Brad Pitt’s too. (via Variety)
  • We are totally here for the CW adaptation of V.E. Schwab’s The Archived. An no, it’s in no way a Supernatural rip off. (via Variety)

And finally, here’s the best video on the internet today:

What did you see today?

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.