Trigger Warning

...Because Writers Are People Too

by Corey Saucier

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Buses are disgusting. They are full of poor people and pedophiles.”

This is the first sentence that popped into my head at 8:40 a.m. on a bright beautiful golden-blue morning when sitting down to write about the cough that has kept me up all night.

It is and accurate sentence in that I probably caught this constant hacking red, raw thing from sitting too close to someone who also had a constant hacking red, raw thing in their throat and was unable to take a sick day; and they probably caught their thing from sitting too close to someone who had a constant hacking red raw thing hiding in their body too. Because bad things hide in the mouths—and like I said, “buses are disgusting and full of poor people and pedophiles.”

You must admit that that is a pretty amazing sentence. It is arresting and catches your attention immediately; because you know, who doesn’t love a pedophile! This is a joke.
It’s funny obviously (or trying to be funny maybe)….But it’s still a fairly terrible thing to say. It’s a terrible thing to pop into my head first thing in the morning. And it is completely inappropriate to print. And this is my problem.

I am what you call an over-sharer.

I saw exactly what pops into my head, as soon as it pops into my head, and, if it’s true, I do not filter or apologize for it. Because this country has a thing called: “Free Speech.”

But still it’s a terrible thing to say.

And saying terrible things is starting to make me nervous.

I wonder sometimes if it is possible to say too much. To push too far, to hold too much danger in your tongue.

In my tongue.

I’m forty years old now. I’ve been an HIV educator and safe sex advocate now for more than half of my life, and, when I was twenty-five and cute and blond, and the youngest person in the room, it was completely excusable to be radical, and controversial, and boundary pushing because no one really listened to the pretty young thing with limp wrists anyway. But now that I’m older and bearded and grey; for some reason the things I say now have provenance; and I wonder if perhaps I’m leading some wide-eyed young girl in the middle of the country astray.

Maybe they don’t quite get the joke, maybe they don’t really understand the “new science,” and maybe when I say that ,“Condoms were the safe sex of the eightiess (that didn’t really work anyway) and that Undetectable is the new safe…,” they really don’t get the caveats…

“Because caveats are for losers!” This is a joke. (Another awful thing I want to say.)

A few years ago there was the thing called: “Trigger Warnings.” All the cool blogs were doing it. If you said anything that was the least bit confrontational, or dark, or emotionally stirring, you had to preface it with: “Trigger Warning” so that no one was overly affected by the things you were printing.

For example: The sentence “Buses are disgusting. They are full of poor people and pedophiles” would have needed a Trigger Warning in case a person had been molested and bringing up the subject caused them a micro trauma.

I found it exhausting… and more than that, a little condescending… As if I could ever know what was too much for someone else to bear. The human capacity to turn pain and trauma into beauty and grace is constantly awe-inspiring. Why would I ever think to mute that?

But I also don’t want to cause unnecessary harm…because you know I’m liberal, and progressive, and blah blah blah….We are all our brother’s keeper after all. Especially now, as I grow into my old age (and try very hard to earn my way into heaven). I don’t want to be responsible for anyone catching HIV because they heard one of my trite little tales about a twenty-four-hour love affair with a boy I met on PreP.

Even if the science is sound.

The first article I ever wrote about HIV was to replace a columnist who chose to not take his HIV meds. He made a specific decision for specific reasons; and wrote and documented his journey along the way. His writings were brilliant and noble and beautiful and maddening and eventually silent. And we were all witness to his dying. (Because that’s what happens if you don’t take your pills.) It was powerful. And sad. And I am so proud of the editors who allowed those words to go to print. His name was LeRoy Whitfield and his voice was a force. And though a person stating reasons why not to take HIV meds could be considered dangerous…I do not believe he ever wanted anyone to follow in his choice. He did not want anyone else to die. (In fact his articles are why I take my pill every night before I go to bed.) He was simply a man telling his story the way he knew how…because that’s what writers do.

So I guess this is my: “Get Out Of Jail Free Card,” “Sign Here To Release Me From All Legal Liability,” “Enter At Your Own Risk.”

Everything I will ever tell you about infection and protection and risk and my own journey is true. But truth is a glass room with many entrances. Do your own research. Make your own choices. Mitigate your own risk. Think for yourself! Because “Trigger Warning”: I am just one person. And sometimes I just write pretty words.

Do not open your legs to a stranger because of a few words someone wrote on a page.

Unless the stranger is really, really cute.


Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently penning his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.