This week, guest videographer and editor Jesse James Rice and I are accompanying the more than 3000 riders and volunteers of the AIDS LifeCycle and collecting their stories. If you’re not familiar with ALC, it’s the world’s largest annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser where riders bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of 7 days. I won’t be riding a bike, but will be riding with the Press Corps, a group of reporters, photojournalists, bloggers, etc., to help document this amazing and emotional journey.
This year’s ALC is the biggest yet, bringing in more than $13 million to the prevention of and education about HIV/AIDS. It’s the 10 year anniversary of the ride and also the 30th anniversary of the first documented case of HIV in the U.S. We’re partnering with our friends over at Towleroad and will be uploading daily Video Stories there as well as right here on IFD. Be sure to “like” IFD on Facebook and follow us on Twitter as I’ll be uploading pics and updates along the way.
My name is David Phillips, I grew up in Southern California, in an era in which it really was okay to poke fun at anybody from the LGBT community. It’s the way I was raised.
I became a dentist in Central California in King City, didn’t realize when I hired her, my dental assistant was a lesbian. And I spent 14 years learning from her a whole aspect of life in America that I didn’t get. I was diagnosed in 1998 with cancer. I was told, “You’ve got six months.” And a few years back, as part of a 10-year celebration of being cancer-free, I’ve been looking at the HIV/AIDS issue, I’ve been looking at the AIDS LifeCycle ride rolling right through my town in King City, every year.
In the 80’s I lost a nephew to AIDS. Didn’t see it coming. This was somebody else’s problem, this whole HIV/AIDS thing and suddenly my sister was losing her son. It was a horrible, painful, awful experience for the whole family to have to come to grips with the fact that “that disease” could affect our family. And I thought, I’ve got to do this thing! I’ve got to jump in and give this a shot. For me, a scary part of it, it’s a little, rural community – King City, pretty conservative. Kind of a cow town. And I’m thinking, I have to go out and raise three thousand bucks here? That’s going to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center? How’s that going to work? What I discovered is that a lot of preconceptions that I had had of people that I knew were grossly unfair. Just as preconceptions that I had carried earlier in my life about the community that I was in the process of embracing were totally unfair. I jumped in, started fundraising, everybody started writing checks, started riding my bike like crazy to get ready for this. I told everybody that this was a one time celebration of surviving cancer. I got to this lunch stop on day one and was already trying to figure out – how do I go back home now and tell the people at home, we’re doing this again next year?
I love the openness and the warmth, and the genuine love and affection that I have been shown by a community that I use to think had something wrong. I love doing this. We’ve become fervent backers of this in our family – my daughter rode with me last year, and again this year. My wife was a roadie working in the info center. I’ve already told people back home, this is what I do now and that’s what I do. We are able to have conversations in King City that we probably couldn’t have had three years ago. Very exciting thing for me.