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Author and Activist Mark S. King Gets Real About Sex, Drugs, and HIV

Author and Activist Mark S. King Gets Real About Sex, Drugs, and HIV


<p>Author and Activist Mark S. King Gets Real About Sex, Drugs, and HIV</p>
Photography by Darrell Snedeger

Photography by Darrell Snedeger

In his fascinating new memoir, the award-winning blogger illustrates that those living with HIV can have just as crazy, beautiful, sexy, and fabulous lives as anyone else.

“I feel as if I’m an essayist…I am a storyteller,” says award-winning blogger, author, speaker, and HIV activist Mark S. King when asked what the inspiration was for his new memoir, My Fabulous Disease. He explains that he really wanted to illustrate that people living with HIV are more than the virus that affects them — they are simply human beings like everyone else.

“A lot of my professional platform or the way people saw me was as a long-term survivor and HIV activist personality,” King tells Plus. “And that’s all well and good, but what I always liked about my blog is that it was whatever was on my mind. The fact is that those of us living with HIV have full and complete lives outside of our HIV status, and other challenges that have nothing to do with HIV, or other things that are triumphs that have nothing to do with HIV. And that is why you’ll see in My Fabulous Disease, there are other sections unrelated to HIV about my sex life, growing up gay, and addiction.”

King has been involved in HIVAIDS causes since being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1985. Among many accolades he’s received over the years, King was named the 2020 LGBTQ Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association (NLGJA). He was also awarded NLGJA’s Excellence in Blogging honor in 2014, 2016, and 2020. In 2020, he won the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Blog and was named one of the “Out100” by Out magazine.

But before accomplishing all that, King, like many 20-somethings, was just trying to find his place in the world. In the early 1980s, after graduating from the University of Houston, King pursued a career in Hollywood and appeared in dozens of TV commercials, “hawking fast food and soft drinks.” He also started Telerotic during this time, which ended up becoming one of the largest gay telephone fantasy services in the country. However, soon after receiving his HIV diagnosis, King sold the company.

Plus cover star Mark S. King photographed by Darrell Snedeger

It was this specific time period that King reflected upon in his previous memoir, A Place Like This, which focused on his tumultuous time in L.A. in the ’80s. With his new memoir, My Fabulous Disease, he hopes to give a more complete picture of his life. The book’s title is also the name of King’s award-winning, long-running blog (myfabulousdisease.com). In the memoir, King compiles stories from his life collected from his decades of journaling and blogging — and he leaves in all the good, bad, hilarious, and sexy details.

“A lot of it was written in real time, in that I was writing it as it was happening,” he explains. “Certainly, from the ’90s on. It’s funny, it is my therapy. It’s like I’ve had my own version of talk therapy…. And that is, I was talking to myself, I was writing it down, I was processing it.”

“I’ve been to therapists before [and] I had visited a new therapist before who was practically licking their chops when they discovered and learned that I’d been living with HIV for so long,” says King with a laugh. “You could tell, oh my, they were going to have so much material to work with here with this client! And I would have to say, no, no, just relax. I’m okay with all of that. Now let me talk about my relationship.”

'My Fabulous Disease: Chronicles of a Gay Survivor' by Mark S. King is now available at most major booksellers

Ultimately, King says it was mainly through his writing that he’s been truly able to heal and figure things out about life and himself. “My most reflective, meditative times are sitting in front of my laptop staring into space saying, ‘How do I feel about this? How do I really feel?’”

He certainly keeps it real in the new memoir, including the frank discussion of sex and drugs — and their particular connection to gay culture.

“We have a problem with alcoholism and addiction in our community,” says King. “And it is a constant threat. It is the disease more likely to kill me than HIV. And especially me, I have that history. I think there’s so many of us in our community who struggle with that or know someone who they can’t reach anymore.”

“It’s worth talking about and sharing and writing about it,” adds King. “And I know that crystal meth…it has such a culturally specific grip on gay men. It has this kind of mythological, sexual-superstar drug reputation. And if you’re young and you’re trying to find your place, and you believe that in order to be a successful gay man you need to have zero inhibitions and feel and look pornographically hot, then there’s a drug that can make you feel that way.”

Plus cover star Mark S. King photographed by Darrell Snedeger

King says he was especially honored to have former Olympic diver and fellow longtime HIV advocate Greg Louganis write the forward for My Fabulous Disease.

“Greg has just always been one of those people that I kind of know peripherally,” he says. “But clearly I admire him. And when I thought about the foreword, he was just the first person I thought of because he knows a little something about living life out loud and publicly…. He has aspects of the story that are very different from mine, but a lot of it is just how we release ourselves from shame and celebrate who we really are. We would all be out more naturally if other people weren’t pushing us back or [perpetuating] the shame that they engender in us.”

King now lives with his husband, Michael, “a real smarty pants involved in national healthcare access [and] a much better person than [me],” he jokes. King often finds himself traveling from their home in Atlanta, reporting on the latest news out of health conferences and giving speeches at colleges, nonprofits, and to groups of people, who like him, are living fabulously with HIV.

'My Fabulous Disease: Chronicles of a Gay Survivor' by Mark S. King is now available at most major booksellers.

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Desirée Guerrero

Editor

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.