Sunday, March 26, 2023

REPOST: Let’s Get to Know Charles Kirtland, Mr. Virginia Cub 2018

Editor’s note:This interview with Charles Kirtland was originally published in June 2018. Along with the rest of the LGBT and allied Hampton Roads community, we were distraught when we heard the news of his death this past week. After reading through this piece again, we were reminded of his activism and commitment to justice, his leadership in the community, and, most of all, his huge heart. We will miss, you Charles. More than you know. 

When you think of words to describe yourself, what comes to mind? 

Charles Kirtland, 33 years old, Vegan, and Manager of Gershwin’s in Downtown Norfolk. I’m Mr. VA Cub 2018, a member of Hampton Roads Pride and a proud sponsor and supporter of The LGBT Life Center. I am running for a World Title this August in the Bear community at World Bear Weekend in Lexington, KY. If I win, my title year will be spent advocating for HIV and AIDs awareness and to tear down the stigma around the virus.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in San Antonio, Texas. My dad was Navy and I got the privilege of living in Illinois, California, Bermuda, Texas, and Virginia.

How long have you lived in Hampton Roads?

I moved back to Norfolk in April of 2007 and have loved being here the last 11 years.

What do you do 9-5?

Well, I manage a restaurant that’s open for dinner and late night. During the day I get to do whatever I want essentially. However, the fun stops when I have to go to work at 3.

What would you rather do every day from 9-5?

Every so often I miss having a day job, but then I think about how much I enjoy my work life and that moment passes by.

How long have you been out?

Since I was 16, so the last 17 years I’ve been open about my sexuality. But I only fully embraced who I am as a person and have found love for myself in the last 5 years.

If you could give yourself at age 16 one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to take big risks, move to a place where you know no one and thrive by building a new life with the man you love. (I didn’t do this years ago, and I regret it often).

Who is your LGBT hero?

I have the highest adoration and respect for Dr. Charles Ford. I absolutely love history, and love hearing stories of LGBT history more than anything. I could listen to and engage in conversation all day with Dr. Ford, he’s a dear friend and a cornerstone of our community.

Do you have any suggestions for local LGBT movement leaders?

Embrace the needs and wants of LGBT youth, the transgender community, and the LGBT POC community. They are underrepresented and need the opportunity to have a voice to allow them the same rights and privileges the rest of our community has been awarded.

What is the best part about the Hampton Roads LGBT community?

We are a close knit community, I have never lived in a place where everyone supports each other so much.

What is one thing you would change about Hampton Roads?

We need more unity between our neighbors on the north and south end of the tunnels.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

I am a terrible artist with a great imagination. I wish I could put to canvas what I see and feel.

What quality do you most admire in a person?

Strong sense of self worth.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Not to sound like an alcoholic, but I absolutely love crafting new cocktails and finding new recipes to create. Making my own bitters, syrups, infusions, and extractions.

What is your favorite curse word?

Don’t know if everyone considers it a curse word but some might. I love saying douche, more specifically referring to someone as a douche canoe makes me giggle every time.

When did you find out you were HIV positive?

On March 19th 2018, I was doing a typical testing like I’ve done dozens of times before. The LGBT Life Center had a testing van at MJ’s and I happened to test positive. I was a bit saddened at first, but not having any other options, I accepted and owned up to my actions and have decided to be a voice for those too afraid to get tested, too afraid to get on PrEP and too afraid to tell others of their status. I am unapologetically POZ and look forward to the day I can stand and say I am undetectable and untransmittable.

Any words of advice to those afraid to be tested or to those who have recently had a positive test result?

Finding out your status is the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re positive or negative, knowing is the most important part. If you’re negative I urge you to get on PrEP and exercise safer sex practices and if you are positive, follow through with getting on your medications to bring your viral load to undetectable levels and live your life to the fullest. There is nothing to fear with having HIV and you’re going to live a very long and happy life.


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