In My Skin
Fabian Quezada-Malkin Knows the Value of Finding Inner Peace Because He Knows All Too Well What It’s Like to Lose One’s Self
by Dann Dulin
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]abian was a singing teen idol who charted many Top 10 hits in the fifties and sixties. The Fabian of this article is not a professional singer, but after you hear his story you’ll find that he may also be in the pantheon of life achievers, as well.
It has not been an easy life. Fabian endured radical transformations, from hustler to a seminarian to an addict and now to a survivor. It’s been a tragic and an inspiring journey.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, his devout mother worked two jobs to support her family. Early on he knew he was gay and at fourteen, Fabian began hustling. At sixteen, his mother sent him to the seminary, believing that the strict monastic life would turn him straight. Indeed, he became Father Fabian and lived to serve the Lord…wait, wrong story.
One night, Fabian snuck out of the monastery and went to a gay bar where he met a fellow priest. Fabian thought he had made a friend; instead the priest turned against him and made his life thorny, criticizing him constantly. Fabian was ousted from the seminary, and, feeling guilt and shame, he moved back to his mom’s.
Afterwards, he met an older tourist from Long Beach, California, who became sweet on him and this man invited Fabian to move to the U.S. Believing that this was his only chance for freedom, Fabian relocated in 2001. Once settled, the seventeen-year-old enrolled in a high school program. Within a year though, liberty sprouted shackles. He discovered that he was HIV-positive, broke up with his boyfriend, quit school, and became hooked on crystal meth and booze.
Down and out, Fabian medicated himself with his daunting turned-upside-down new life. He hit rock bottom, crashing on the streets for nearly a year. Occasionally he’d sleep on a friend’s couch. He started attending AA meetings, where he learned about the LGBT Center’s Transitional Living Program (TLP), an eighteen-month facility for eighteen to twenty-four year-olds who are homeless. The program teaches life skills and offers resources to help the homeless become autonomous.
“It was so nice to just have a bed,” recalls Fabian, “but then the real work began.” Entering the program in 2004, Fabian received free medical care, attended AA and crystal-meth recovery meetings, and enrolled in an employment class, which helped to land him a job. “I entered the program having zero self-esteem and came out taking full responsibility for myself. TLP saved my life.”
Sober for four years, Fabian, thirty-one, has completely transformed his life! He’s now a precision colorist and revered hair stylist at a Beverly Hills salon. Last year, he tied the knot with Marc Malkin, an E! News correspondent, and Fabian even has a better relationship with his mother nowadays. In his down time he writes lyrics and is learning how to play the acoustic guitar. Currently this Rocky Balboa is in training for his fifth AIDS/LifeCycle, which starts at the end of this month.
A perfect day for Fabian is waking up in the morning next to his husband, while his two dogs, Paca and Jeb (the former, a mud Terrier mix and the other, a mud Maltese mix) romp about them, have breakfast together, then cuddle the rest of the day while watching a marathon of House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.
Dann Dulin: What’s the best thing about being married?
Fabian Quezada-Malkin: Knowing that I chose the right man!
Do you two plan on having kids?
We’ve had that conversation, but at the moment we’re not sure. But it’s something that could happen in the future.
What propelled you to pursue sex work when you were fourteen?
I wanted to have extra money to buy new clothing and shoes. More often than not we never were bought new clothes or shoes.
Was there any aspect of seminary life that you enjoyed?
I liked the camaraderie, and being away from the pressure of my mother, who at the time, was trying to change me [to be straight].
What did you learn about being homeless?
I learned to be grateful every day for having a roof over my head.
When did you first hear about the epidemic?
When I was in junior high. But I didn’t learn about the disease and all the people who had died from it until I got diagnosed here.
How did you feel after being diagnosed HIV-positive?
Learning I was positive took a toll on my mental state, which I have worked on and continue to work on daily. It made me feel “less than,” like I was dirty, and that I was going to die. It contributed to the use of drugs and drinking. I wanted to escape because I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was HIV.
What motivated you to get tested?
When health workers from the City of Long Beach came to my school and offered it. That was in 2001.
What HIV meds are you taking and how do you boost your immune system?
I take Stribild daily and I exercise and eat nutritious foods.
What keeps bringing you back to the AIDS/LifeCycle and what first brought you to it?
You know, I love it more and more every year and I plan on doing as many as I can. Seeing posters at the LGBT Center in L.A. first inspired me. I also spoke to friends who had rode in the past.
What keeps me coming back each year—and I realized it after I watched the movie, The Normal Heart—is that the fight is not over! There are people still getting infected who don’t have the money or other resources to pay for doctors and medications.
Does Marc ride with you?
He doesn’t, but we are a team. A lot of donations I receive come from people who Marc reaches out to.
Tell me about the ride itself.
The journey is physically challenging—but it’s doable. Getting up really early in the morning gets taxing, but remembering what people with HIV and AIDS go through keeps me going.
One of the big “ups” for me is what those who have done the ride call the “love bubble.” It’s where everybody takes care of each other, knowing that we all are there for one reason only—to end the battle of AIDS. Another great motivator is the beauty of Mother Nature that is all around us as we ride.
There’s a steady rise in HIV infection in your generation and younger. Can you address this?
We need to be more aggressive in schools early on, educating about HIV. I would say starting in junior high. The best way is to have former substance abusers who are HIV-positive speak to students. As to reaching out to the ones who are actively using or drinking, information must be provided to them, but not force it.
You would be a perfect candidate for this, Fabian. Have you spoken publicly?
I have not, other than speak at meetings and share my story and sponsor others as well.
Do you still attend AA meetings?
I still do, yes.
Whom do you look up to?
Anyone who is happy and comfortable in their own skin.
What do you look forward to?
I take life one day at time. I look forward to growing as a hairstylist and also to keep writing music.
Being that you work in a Beverly Hills salon, you probably encounter celebrities. Have you ever been starstruck?
Always! I recently went to see [country music singer/songwriter] Dierks Bentley in concert and got to meet him after the show. I was speechless. Marc had to start talking because nothing was coming out of my mouth.
What celebrity would you like to have mad animal sex with?
If you could go back twenty years, what would you say now to that kid, Fabian?
I would say, “Keep doing what are you doing and you will have a beautiful amazing full life!”
Dann Dulin is a Senior Editor of A&U.