Jordan J. Edwards is putting his own experiences as an “outside the box” type of Black man to good use, helping a community largely neglected by society due to the fact that it, too, is so varied and unique.
The 30-year-old, sexually-fluid Black man is the new director of the BQPlus Center of Liberation at the Normal Anomaly Initiative in Houston. The Normal Anonmaly provides much-needed services, like free HIV testing for the community, but also seeks to increase resources such as transportation services and sustainable employment for marginalized folks in the region. Most important to Edwards, though, is that leadership is in-tune with the community they seek to help.
“The Normal Anomaly Initiative is currently the only Black queer-led organization with a physical space in Houston,” Edwards says.
Edwards believes many well-intentioned attempts to help marginalized Black queer folks have failed in part because they didn’t account for the breadth and diversity of the community. In effect, he believes you can’t help a person or community without knowing them first.
“I feel that it is essential to have multiple expressions of representation,” he says. “People living with HIV may have some similarities in their stories, but we are all different.”
The story of HIV among the Black queer community in Houston is one of disparate impact. Edwards points to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control which shows Black people generally account for the highest rates of persons newly living with HIV, and male-to-male sexual contact is listed as the leading cause amongst Black folks newly living with HIV (79 percent in 2018).
Edwards has been living with HIV since 2013, and says his sexual fluidity has guided his approach to helping the community at the Normal Anomaly and elsewhere. It’s helped him understand that just as he and his needs are unique, so, too, are those of the folks he seeks to help on a daily basis.
“I am not stereotypical of what society has deemed a ‘Black gay man,’ Edwards says. “I identify as sexually fluid because I don’t fit a specific box; I have my own narrative. As a leader living with HIV, I feel that your uniqueness, identity, and walk through life do not have to be defined by your HIV status. Take it one breath at a time.”