The 20 Queer Q's series (from our sister publication, Pride) seeks to capture LGBTQ+ individuals and allies in a moment of authenticity. We get to know the subjects, what makes them who they are, and what they value.
The goal of these intimate conversations is to leave you, the reader, feeling like you just gained a new friend, a new perspective, and that you learned something new about or saw a different side of someone — maybe someone that you don’t see online, but someone that’s maybe like you.
In this new #20QueerQs, get to know HIV activist and fitness expert, Raif Derrazi. Learn about advice he has for queer youth, what self-love means to him, how we can better remember our history, and more!
Name: Raif Derrazi
Preferred Pronouns: He/Him
Sexually Identifies As: Gay
What do you love about the LGBTQ+ community?
I love our willingness to be pioneers and curious trailblazers of gender, sexuality, and self-expression.
What are your thoughts on PrEP?
PrEP is a fantastic option we can add to our tool belt to combat HIV transmission. There’s a fear that endorsement of PrEP means people are going to run around carelessly having sex, no longer fearing HIV, and not caring about the other STIs. That may be true for some, but the answer isn’t to deny its importance. Most people want to respect their bodies and make healthy choices. Education and community empowerment initiatives are the key, not suppression.
Do you think it’s hard to make queer friends?
I do have some difficulty making queer friends, but I could say the same about non-queer folks as well. I’m in favor of fewer friends with deeper connections.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride means fully embracing who we are without judgment, including our imperfections. That doesn’t mean walking around with a beaming smile. You can be full of pain, tears streaming down your face, beaten, bruised, clothes in tatters, and yet still hold your head high with Pride.
Who is someone you consider to be an LGBTQ+ icon?
Peppermint. I got to know Peppermint as her assistant and now we’re close friends and co-produce projects together. She has taught me so much about the LGBTQ+ community, being trans, drag artistry, advocacy, activism, and navigating it all with grace and humility.
What advice you have for LGBTQ+ youth?
Many of the things that make you feel 'othered' and weird are often your gifts to the world. But people are often ruled by fear and don’t know how to appreciate them
Do you believe in love?
I believe in love like I believe in gravity. It's fundamental to existence, just like physics.
Favorite drink to order at a bar?
Whiskey Diet with a lime.
What are the values that you look for in an ideal partner?
I look for honesty above all and goodness in their heart. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be always working to grow.
Fill in the blank: Love is _______.
The purpose of life.
Is there an LGBTQ+ TV show or movie that has had a great impact on you?
Angels in America...I remember I was like 18 years old in my living room, it was airing late at night, and I was so enraptured. I was on my knees, inches away from the TV screen, tears streaming down my face. I had never felt so acknowledged and visible in the media before. It was dealing with terribly real issues that I was struggling with inside too.
What is the title of the current chapter of your life?
“On the Verge of Greatness.” Ooh...I have to battle my inner critic saying, “Who are you to say that about yourself?!” My response: “Hush, child.”
A night in or a night out?
I’m such a hermit. I’m way too comfortable being inside for days at a time without seeing sunlight. I have to encourage myself to get out and enjoy not being home. Once I’m out, I definitely enjoy myself.
What can we do better to remember our history?
I think it’s more than just any one thing, like reading a book or taking a class. As a society, holistically, our values have to evolve. Part of that is ageism. We value things and people that are new and young, but our elderly population is growing and they have so much experience and wisdom to pass on.
What does self-love look like?
Self-love looks like never compromising your greatness and simultaneously humbling yourself enough to know that you’re not born great...you got “werq” to do.
Sunrise or sunset?
God, I love a beautiful California sunset...but lately, my appreciation for sunrises is skyrocketing as I'm learning to wake up earlier and be more productive with my days.
What is your preferred method of self-care?
Working out is my favorite, favorite, favorite way to love on myself. It’s cathartic, I’m pushing myself to new limits, I get to see my progress in the mirror, it makes me feel alive and awake, and it improves my overall health...what’s not to love? It was also my big conquest over my AIDS diagnosis...like a big ‘F you!’ I’m in charge here.
What’s your favorite way to start your day?
My favorite thing to do when I wake up is kind of a guilty pleasure. I know it’s not the best thing, but I just enjoy it too much. I grab a cup of coffee, sit in front of my computer before the sun has come up, and browse the news headlines of the day. Politics, the economy, financials, world news. I could easily spend hours doing that every day if I didn’t control myself.
Would you call yourself self-assured?
In general, yes, I am self-assured. But let me tell you, you do not want to be in my head sometimes. It is a battle between self-doubt and self-assurance with a thin margin in favor of self-assurance.
What value/quality has being queer given you? What have you gained?
Being queer has taught me how to be courageous enough to be different and how to have compassion for people who are misunderstood or highly judged.
This article was written by Joe Rodriguez and was originally published on Plus magazine’s sister publication, Pride.com, as part of its 20 Queer Q's series.