Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Moustache, My Prostate

Last November Castro resident Kris Konietzko stopped shaving above his lips. By the end of the month, he was sporting a bright red mustache.

“It was pretty funny,” recalled Konietzko, considering he has brown hair. “The longest I had gone without shaving was three or four days.”

He was struck most by the visual difference the facial hair caused.

“Really, a little bit of hair on the face changes the way you look,” he said.

And he was quick to tell people that the mustache was not a permanent installation.

“The first thing I said was “I am Kris. I don’t always have this mustache,” said Konietzko when he would meet strangers.

The reason for Konietzko’s change in appearance was due to his participation in a fundraiser called Movember. throughout November each year hundreds of thousands of men throughout the world grow “Mos,” shorthand for the French-derived moustache.
The idea began as a joke in 2003 between Garone and a group of friends to bring back the 1970s style of mustache. at the end of one month, they threw a party and handed out awards for best and worst mustaches.

“I was surprised by the controversy and comments growing a mustache created. I said, we should put this to a cause,” said Garone. “I researched men’s health and saw prostate cancer is equivalent to breast cancer. It became a go-to for us.”

Prostate cancer is a major concern for men, as one in six will be diagnosed with the cancer. more than 33,000 men die of the disease each year.

Last year Movember recruited 450,000 men to take part in 11 countries who raised $81 million. the money goes to support the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Live Strong.

Over the years, Garone said he has found gay men tend to be more willing to talk about their health issues. Conditioned as they are in the need to talk about HIV and STDs with friends and sexual partners, gay men are repeatedly told about the need to address intimate health concerns.

“I think gay men are much more comfortable having these discussions,” said Garone, 40, who is now at the screening age for prostate cancer.

Garone sees Movember breaking down stigmas around men’s health similar to the work the gay community has had to do with AIDS.

It so happens that a simple thing as a mustache best illustrates that idea and serves the same role as the pink ribbon does for breast cancer, he said.

“There is a lot of stigma with just growing a mustache. We are trying to break down stigma around men’s health,” he explained.

He also sees the mustache as a “perfect leveler” that can unite all types of guys and brings gay and straight men together to fight a common cause.

“It doesn’t matter is you are a policeman, a DJ, a pilot, in the finance industry, gay or straight. everyone can do it and do it for their own reasons,” said Garone.

Konietzko, 33, signed up through his job at Shift Communications, a nationwide PR firm that encouraged employees in its San Francisco, Boston, and New York offices to take part in Movember last year.

The openly gay Konietzko plans to take part again this year and has been trying to get his boyfriend to sign up as well.

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