Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who's That Queer?

Brought to you by Pistol Pete

Don't let the pretty face fool you. Justin Hayford is one bad ass muthertrucker of a case manager. Got red tape you need slashed? Bring it on. Like all the legal staff at the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, Justin provides direct legal advocacy to people with HIV,helping them resolve problems with social security, public aid, Medicaid, employment, health insurance, confidentiality and estate planning.
"I spend a lot of my time fighting my way through various government bureaucracies, trying to get things my clients are entitled to," says Hayford, "at the same time, much of what I do is provide people with the legal information they need to solve their own problems."

Justin got the itch to do legal advocacy for HIV when he was in grad school at Northwestern University in the 1980's."This was a time when there was a great deal of extraordinarily insightful social and cultural criticism being written about the AIDS epidemic and our nation's pitiful response to it." It was clear to Hayford that AIDS was creating monumental social injustices, and the most important thing that he could do was dive into the fight.After finishing school, he started volunteering at the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, and soon carved out a spot for himself in the organization to be paid for what he had become so passionate about.

When it comes remaining happy and healthy as part of an oft stigmatized group, Justin's philosophy is inclusive. "Being queer doesn't make anyone more susceptible to drug abuse or alcoholism or sexually transmitted diseases or social isolation. It seems to me that many of these problems often stem from a lack of self-worth; if you don't feel your life is worth living, why bother protecting yourself against HIV or cutting back on your intake of crystal meth?"

Justin Hayford has never bought into the negative messages our culture spreads concerning homosexuality and suggests that others consider questioning conventional wisdom. "Considering how fucked up American culture is, why should anyone believe the nonsense that 'the mainstream' tells us?" Good question, Justin. Right on. Right on.

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