Recent Comments


    AIDS Life/Cycle Is a Transformative Experience

    By Tom Moon, MFT–

    Among participants in the AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC), there is a longstanding tradition in which riders read personal testaments—”Why I Ride”—to one another. Here is one, representative of many, by my good friend Tom B.:

    “I have lived in San Francisco for 40 years, which means I have buried more friends than I can remember. The worse day of my life was in 1990, holding my best friend Chris’ hand at Mt Zion Hospital as he took his last breath. Later, standing on the top of Twin Peaks, giving his eulogy before we sprinkled his ashes in the wind, I felt grief like I did not know existed. The funerals kept coming, and the last one I attended was for Carlos. I was a pallbearer and I cried through the whole ceremony. This was so unbearably painful that I had to stop attending funerals and wakes for my own sanity.”

    He continued, “I turned 60 this year, and I have lived 1/2 my life with HIV. When I was first diagnosed, the only treatment was monotherapy with AZT. Luckily this did not kill me, and I lasted until the cocktail came out. I have survived HIV/Hepatitis C related liver cancer and a liver transplant. As a long-term AIDS survivor, I know that I am only alive because people raised money to support AIDS research and treatment. It isn’t just the medical care. The support around grieving and surviving that I received from the SF AIDS Foundation (SFAF) literally saved my life. Today I am healthier than I have been in 25 years, and it is time to give back. I ride for Chris. I ride for Carlos. I ride for all the other men and women we lost during the darkest days of the epidemic. I ride to show my immense appreciation for the SFAF. I ride to show the world that we are strong and resilient and we take care of our own. And most importantly, I ride so that SFAF can continue to provide life-saving support, treatment and prevention to our community.”

    ALC is co-produced every spring by the SFAF and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. It supports the goals of reducing new HIV infections, improving the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS, raising awareness and reducing the stigma of HIV. Every year, more than 2,800 people from all over the country and the world gather and make the 545-mile journey down the coast, from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Last year, 2,300 cyclists and more than 650 volunteers raised a record $16.6 million for critical HIV/AIDS services.

    But as a gay psychotherapist, I’ve long been impressed by the fact that, in addition to being a fundraising event, ALC is also a healing event, on so many levels, for so many in our communities. Queer communities are communities of outsiders. We are the ones who have been marginalized, cast out, told we aren’t wanted and don’t belong. We migrate to urban centers in the hope of creating community with one another, and it should be no surprise that we don’t do it perfectly.

    The ALC comes closer to perfection in creating an experience of community than almost any other event of which I’m aware. Those who participate, both in the months of training, and in the ride itself, say they find themselves immersed in a “love bubble,” and often say it is unlike anything that they have ever experienced. I have seen this immersion transform the lives of many riders every bit as profoundly as years of psychotherapy can accomplish.

    Many of the riders were here (as I was) in the years between 1981 and 1995, when there were no effective treatments, and thousands of young gay men died horrible and painful deaths. The survivors of that nightmarish time in our history suffered repeated traumatization, and carry bottomless wells of grief. In the ALC experience, their grief is witnessed and held in the loving embrace of a community that is strong and resilient and takes care of its own, as Tom puts it. It is a community that not only remembers its past, but also is resolutely creating its future. It is a community that manifests the truth that, in the long run, life and love win.

    Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. For more information, please visit his website