Acclaimed writer and activist Mark S. King knows how to turn ashes into soil, which makes him more than worthy of being one of The Advocate's Champions of Pride.
Discovering he was HIV-positive in 1985 led him on an inspiring journey that started out working for renowned organizations like the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation and AID Atlanta, and led him to create his award-winning blog, My Fabulous Disease (which was just won an award from The Association of LGBTQ Journalists).
King’s work has proliferated both the queer and HIV communities alike. His strong voice and experience have equipped him to appear on ABC News, 48 Hours, CNN, The New York Times, and many more. Currently living in Baltimore with his husband, King continues to encourage folks to speak their truth. And he’ll never stop.
“I’m proud of speaking out loud about the things that I have the most shame or challenge with, which is by the way the meaning of life,” says King, who is gay, living with HIV, and also a recovering drug addict. “Those three things that would normally mark people, what I’m most proud of is that I’ve taken them and spoken openly about it and used it as a tool to help somebody else.”
Last year, King meet queer men from all over the world at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, many of whom came from countries where they risk imprisonment or death for admitting they’re gay. For him, it was one of the most inspiring things he experienced in the last year. “They were from all over the place,” he shares, “and I got to put them on camera and got them to tell me their story about life back home as a gay man. I was in the company of true courage. People who are fighting for very basic human rights.”
A long-term survivor, King encourages more HIV-positive folks to share their stories so that they can help other poz folks. “I didn’t go through 35 years of dark stuff for nothing,” he says. “I believe the reason for it is to better understand somebody else and other people’s challenges.”