Félix Garmendía

Félix Garmendía

"I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in the 60s. Living in Puerto Rico, and growing up there was a bumpy process. I was very aware of my homosexual identity at a very early age, so fighting the stigma was a very intense journey in my native island.

I love art. The Ponce Art Museum was my shelter since I was in high school. As my first job ever, I guided bilingual tours for locals and tourists from all over the world.

In high school, I was introduced to music and theater, after that, I chose to pursue a B.A. in theater at the U.P.R. ( University of Puerto Rico ). Rio Piedras campus.

In college, I discovered many things about myself. My sexual identity became established, my religious beliefs changed dramatically and my awareness of my role in society became the first and biggest challenge of my life. I became a proud gay man, an atheist and an activist. The political climate in Puerto Rico was very far away from recognizing any kind of gay rights so I knew that I needed a community that I could call my own, and be myself. After several years in Puerto Rico, in my twenties, I moved to N.Y.C. to pursue a Master’s Degree in Art Education and Art Criticism at New York University. I decided to stay in Manhattan. Here I found myself. I discovered my passions, causes to fight for, and the strong community that I always dreamed of. I became a passionate man with strong convictions.

After graduation I became a N.Y.C. school teacher. I taught art in the South Bronx, Spanish Harlem and Upper Manhattan for 15 years.

Sometime in my twenties, I was exposed to HIV. I tested HIV-positive and after a serious depression, came out strong and victorious. I became an AIDS activist. My passions in life became the gears that fed energy into my existence.

Very early in my N.Y.C. years, I became a staunch liberal. All my causes were related. I was trying to survive in a world where not everybody cared if I did or not. Politics made clear who cared for me as a human being.

That’s why I’m very vocal about my postings. Not because I want to convince anybody, but I do it for those who, like me, once needed some direction in life. I want to share the "real" me with those friends with similar beliefs or at least respect for my beliefs.

Today, I still live in Manhattan. I’m legally married to my husband Denis Beale and I’m disabled. My life is not easy, I have several health related conditions that are a real challenge these days. This bring me to another one of my causes. From personal experience, I believe in the legalization of cannabis (marijuana). 

I consider myself a loving, compassionate and spiritual person. I have no patience for bigotry, especially the kind of sanctimonious bigotry that wraps itself in prayer and fake compassion.

This is a synopsis of who I am. It would be really helpful to start introducing myself with my favorite warning. Warning: I’m human, far from perfect, passionate about life, the pursue of difficult answers, and the conviction that we are all equal."

Felix has been featured in The Huffington Post’s Queer Voices; see the piece here.

You can follow Felix on Facebook here or here and on twitter @PozHeart.

  

Three vignettes from the past with lessons for the future

published: October, 27, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Aging, Social Media, Gay Men, International , Travel, Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía

Félix Garmendía shares three stories from different parts of his life, each of which taught him something

Three vignettes from the past with lessons for the future

Anthony I worked as an art teacher in the public school system of NYC for fifteen years. Thousands of children crossed my path. I have many pleasant memories or let’s say, I choose to remember the pleasant ones. For my last ten years or so, I worked in East Harlem, NY. It was an impoverished community and the children were for the most part African-American and Latino. Today for some reason I was thinking about one of those students. His name was Anthony and he was a very special child. I

Home base or jail cell?

published: October, 04, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Social Media, Aging, Activism, Gay Men, Mental Health, International , Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía

Our NYC guy,Félix Garmendía tells of the social isolation that often comes with disabilities and of what he did to beat that isolation back.

Home base or jail cell?

Isolation is a very common problem for a disabled person. Our lives changed forever the day we became disabled. Although I’ve been disabled for years, a turning point occurred when I became 100% wheelchair bound about four years ago. I have a progressive, degenerative neuromuscular condition called “Inclusion Body Myositis.” which primarily involves gradual destruction of the muscles in my arms and legs. Four years ago, I had a bad fall that rendered me unconscious and I ended up in the

My time in a gay paradise

published: August, 31, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Social Media, African, Caribbean and Black, Gay Men, International , Travel, Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía

You'll wish you were there as our NYC guy, Félix Garmendía, tells of his time in the San Blas Islands

My time in a gay paradise

Many years ago I visited The San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. This was a very beautiful experience. As part of a gay cruise we made a stop to see the Panama Canal to visit the Kuna people who live on the San Blas Islands. They came to pick us up in their canoes and in less than 10 minutes we were in paradise. On our way there, we even saw a beautiful baby dolphin playing around our canoe, greeting us in a very charming way. Once we arrived at the islands, the Kuna people greeted us w

Living with HIV, depression, Inclusion Body Myositis - and my lily

published: August, 02, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Social Media, Gay Men, International , Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía

It's sometimes possible for another living thing to support us just by being there, as our NYC guy, Félix Garmendía relates.

Living with HIV, depression, Inclusion Body Myositis  - and my lily

In the summer of 2006, I received a plant as a gift. It is a “Peace Lily”. The beautiful plant was a gift from the wonderful people from our local pharmacy when they found out that I had a bad fall that took me unconscious to the ER. In those days I was starting to show serious signs of muscle weakness and that fall put me in a wheelchair full time. The doctor sat me down and told me the truth. He told me that if I kept on falling my already brittle bones could get fractured very easily.

The Fire Island Invasion

published: July, 05, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Pride, Activism, Community Events, Gay Men, Festivals, International , Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Félix Garmendía

Felix Garmendia says, "This is how we do it in Fire Island. Happy 4th of July!"

The Fire Island Invasion

“Invasion of Normandy”= World War II “British Invasion”= The Beatles “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers”= epic horror movie “FIRE ISLAND INVASION”= ship full of men wearing dresses The communities of “Cherry Grove” and “The Pines” on Fire Island have been the summer playground for gay people for many decades and these historic “gay communities” are an integral part of New York’s vibrant gay scene. People from all over the world flock every summer to enjoy the be

Cult of Trump

published: June, 24, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Social Media, Activism, African, Caribbean and Black, Gay Men, Youth, Current Affairs, Newly Diagnosed, Women, International , Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía

Felix Garmendia addresses the angry bigot who would be president of the United States.

Cult of Trump

Mr. Trump Your vicious, virulent, incessant campaign message to the American people is based on instilling fear, loathing and suspicion of just about anyone who isn’t rich, white, straight, and male. You have been guided by nothing but your insatiable, pathetic, egocentric needs. You have become an expert at consuming the fear and ignorance of some Americans, only to regurgitate your hateful sexist, racist, homophobic, bigoted insulting rhetoric. You do this with the pride of a coward who

New York City’s Felix Garmendia on The Orlando Massacre

published: June, 13, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Activism, Gay Men, Current Affairs, International , Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía

“Early yesterday morning, at a popular gay nightspot in Orlando, Florida, the deadliest shooting in American history took place. It was Latino Night, the busiest night of the week, at the club called “Pulse””

New York City’s Felix Garmendia on The Orlando Massacre

In 1982, I was young and freshly out of the closet. The gay club scene in Puerto Rico was vibrant and exhilarating. I have long accepted the fact that just about ALL of the music from those “club days” was totally fabulous.  I remember that members of my generation of Puerto Rican gay men were hard working, either already in the workforce, or, like myself, full time students. We all looked forward to going out on Saturday night. It was the universally accepted ritual after having put up

Medical marijuana activism in NYC

published: May, 26, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Activism, Alternative Therapies, Gay Men, Mental Health, Health, International , Treatment, Lifestyle, Population Specific , Félix Garmendía

Our NYC guy Felix Garmendia recalls with affection and pride his days with the NYC Buyers' Club

Medical marijuana activism in NYC

"I wouldn’t say the weed made me HIGH, but it did manage to wrap me in an aura of relaxation, comfort and serenity. My mind drifted to a peaceful place, far from the horrors of working in a putrid system that just doesn’t work." I have used the “herb” for decades now. It was introduced to me by my “paraprofessional” (teacher’s helper) when I was a New York City school teacher, working in the Bronx in the early 1990s.  One Friday afternoon Miss Rodriguez saw me resting my head

Living with HIV in New York - and the people you meet

published: May, 02, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Gay Men, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Félix Garmendía

Our prolific writer Felix Garmendia introduces some of the characters that intersect with his daily like – and what they mean to him

Living with HIV in New York - and the people you meet

Introduction On our way home from the doctor, four years ago, when the issue of marriage equality in New York was still controversial, another New Yorker taught me a lesson. This pocket of Manhattan is a village of diversity. The area is known as Washington Heights and has been the home of a vibrant Jewish community since the 1930s. The area is also the home of more Dominicans than Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. It was a typical crisp autumn day, getting chillier as the sun was get

On the value of blogging for PositiveLite.com

published: April, 27, 2016 Categories // Félix Garmendía

A testimonial from our NYC guy Felix Garmendia who recalls a year of blogging and the positive changes it has brought to his life

On the value of blogging for PositiveLite.com

 A year ago today I started writing for PositiveLite.com  with an article called, “Husband and Husband”. In that article, I talked about my wedding to my now husband Denis. I talked about the importance of using the term “husband” within a LGBT context. My intention was to educate people about the recent marriage equality developments in New York State.  Twelve months have gone by and writing for PositiveLite.com has become one of the most healing and cathartic experiences of my li

Combining life with a disability with LGBT pride

published: April, 21, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Activism, Gay Men, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Félix Garmendía

Out NYC poz guy Felix Garmendia says “For the longest time, I wanted an LGBT symbol to decorate my wheelchair”. So he did it –and immediately got noticed.

Combining life with a disability with LGBT pride

For the longest time, I wanted an LGBT symbol to decorate my wheelchair. I thought about a pink triangle, in the tradition of paying homage to all those LGBT concentration camp victims of WW2. For those of you who are not familiar with the pink triangle history, it was the Nazi's way of “tagging” LGBT people. LGBT prisoners in concentration camps were identified by a pink triangle sewn onto their prison uniforms.  Another very well known symbol of gay pride is our rainbow flag. “The r

Living poz in New York: when a disability is noted by a stranger

published: April, 19, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Félix Garmendía

Our NYC guy Felix Garmendia has a casual encounter with a stranger at KFC curious about his disability which teaches Felix a valuable life lesson

Living poz in New York: when a disability is noted by a stranger

Today was a beautiful spring day in NYC. We decided to succumb to the alluring sin of Kentucky Fried Chicken. We took the bus to 150th street and reached KFC in 15 minutes.   When we arrived at KFC, an African American man in a very gentle manner opened the door for me as I was in my wheelchair. Once inside, I order three pieces of dark meat, original recipe and Denis and I sat next to the man who opened the door for us. When he looked at me, I smiled and said hello to him. The man told me,

I did it on my own

published: April, 12, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Gay Men, Spirituality, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Félix Garmendía

New Yorker Felix Garmendia has rejected organized religion in favour of his own code of ethics and says this has given him “the liberty to experience things I would have never experienced if I remained chained to their strict ethical codes"

I did it on my own

I don’t have any use for any influence in my life that will dictate what’s “right” or “wrong”; I have been in that place many times.  Organized religion has been one example where that simplistic dichotomy of life has been presented to me on a silver platter. I refuse to partake in that ritual of archaic or synthetic codes of ethics that point out and expect me to blindly follow flawed judgments of what they perceive as “good” or “bad” in life.  I was always a free thi

Choose life

published: March, 24, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Gay Men, Health, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Félix Garmendía

Felix Garmendia faces an uncertain future due to medical challenges aside from HIV and says “I'm an optimistic fighter that will face adversity with a smile and hope that at the end, everything will be OK.”

Choose life

Sometimes I become a bit anxious about my health. After almost 30 years fighting HIV and 15 years suffering from “Inclusion Body Myositis, I have my dark days where I get scared of what is going to happen to me in the near future.  It is in those times, that I can look back at my life and realize that I have lived it to the fullest.  I have no regrets about anything I did in the past or anything I am doing in the present. After all, I’m a very lucky man. I have the love of my life, my

Mea Culpa: the role of guilt in being poz

published: March, 14, 2016 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // African, Caribbean and Black, Health, Sexual Health, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Sex and Sexuality , Félix Garmendía

Felix Garmendia doesn't sweat it but says "It was probably guilt that drove me to an early promiscuous period in my life that opened the doors to my HIV infection"

Mea Culpa: the role of guilt in being poz

It is always interesting to me to listen to a person's version of the alleged events around how they contracted HIV. I have discussed this issue in my life more than a few times - with friends, therapists, doctors, potential sex partners, even post sexual liaison conversations. Personally, I have always thought that, for most sexually active people, it is frustrating and futile to obsess over the specifics of “who, what, where, why”. Also, over the years, I have he

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