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Today is my last day at the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office of Philadelphia (AACO). After almost four years at the Department of Health, first as a research interviewer and now as a program coordinator, I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, people and identity. I can honestly say the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it. I have been privileged enough to serve my community as an employee for the Philadelphia Department of Health, which has allowed me to serve among some of the greatest civil servants to protect the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

Those of us with kids in school know that this time of year means the approach of an event that can cause distress even in the hardiest of us: Back-to-School Night.

This annual observance is on the surface a meet-and-greet with our children’s teacher(s), where they tell us all about the amazing things our children will be learning and doing this year, and we try to avoid signing up to bake cupcakes for school events. Usually, I come away a little jealous of all the great things my son will get to experience (though occasionally I’ve sat through a dreary, droning recitation of the syllabus).

For LGBTQ parents, however, Back-to-School Night can bring with it a host of additional questions: What if the teacher is homophobic or transphobic? What if the other parents are? Will I stand out because of my gender expression? Will there be other LGBTQ families there, or LGBTQ students in the class? Will there be LGBTQ-inclusive books and lessons?

Some of us may have already spoken with our children’s teachers to introduce ourselves and answer any questions they may have about LGBTQ families and individuals. This can be helpful, especially the first year in a school. Sometimes, however, our schedules prevent this; other times, we may choose to give our children, especially tweens and teens, the chance to control how and when to come out about their families. There is no one right answer for every family every year. The first year in a school may require a different approach than the third. We may even mix methods the same year when dealing with homeroom teachers as well as music, art, physical education and other specialists.

Most of us hope we will never have to make the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home. Yet, many of us will be faced with this challenging task. Turning the care of our parents, grandparents or partners over to strangers is a decision fraught with guilt, anxiety and hope that a facility’s caregivers will provide high-quality care for a short period of time or the rest of someone’s life.

Every week, via email, I receive dozens of story pitches.

Some are quite good, connecting me with engaging people and interesting stories that I might otherwise have missed. Most, however, are pretty useless to me in the overall scheme of things. A lot only tangentially relate to topics I write about or are blatant product pitches.

Months ago, I came across a Facebook post a friend shared that was written by a parent who had lost a child. In the message, she implored fellow parents to embrace gratitude every day — to reshape thinking about the many chores and challenges they face in raising their children instead as opportunities others only wish for. I squirreled this away into the unwritten list of possible column ideas I stash in my brain and, unfortunately, its relevance is all too real today.

It is hard working in liberal institutions built by the Joe Bidens of the world when you are like an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  When I speak to fellow LGBTQ Generation Xers and millennials on the streets of Philly, it’s clear we are pi--ed about issues surrounding HIV prevention and holistic care. We are vocalizing and demanding that our anger not be treated as a passing fad. But, huge disconnects exist between generations and in relation to public knowledge about the role of Philadelphia public health systems — that don’t get much attention.

Two people who live together in an intimate relationship are unmarried cohabitants, absent a ceremony and a marriage certificate.  They may have children and make purchases with separate or joint money, but because common law marriage in Pennsylvania was abolished in 2005, they will never be considered married. 

If a couple had created a common-law marriage before 2005, then that couple is still considered married, but remember gay marriage wasn’t legal in 2005. Now that same-sex marriage is lawful,  there exists the possibility that a same-sex couple who lived under the conditions of a common-law marriage before 2005 may be able to receive retroactive status. 

I have always been intrigued by history. I love to look at how things came together over time and how advances in knowledge, technology and society — for both good and ill— helped shape the world we live in today.

Being transgender makes me keen on transgender history. The stories of pharaohs and emperors who may well have been trans, for example, shed light on just how many centuries a transgender presence has existed in the world.

Sure most HIV advocates have heard of U=U, but how do we get the rest of the world to listen?

For about the past decade, activists and advocates have been working hard to educate the world on a very important scientific fact about living with HIV: that undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U). U=U is a now globally accepted scientific consensus that simply means when a person living with HIV reaches an undetectable viral load (also sometimes called virally suppressed) for six months or longer, they are virtually unable to transmit the virus to a sexual partner — even without the use of condoms.

Q: I’m looking to retire soon and am trying to decide how to produce income from my investments.  Interest rates on bonds haven’t been so great lately and a friend suggested investing in dividend-paying stocks, but I’m worried about the risks. Please help.

A:  With your retirement coming soon, it’s certainly important to understand your level of risk, considering recent market volatility.  And while many people turn to bonds for perceived safety and income, dividend-paying stocks may serve as a good compliment to bonds for income.

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