For Jay, the Dr. Peter Centre has been a place of acceptance – and a place where he learned to be himself again.
The acceptance Jay found at the Dr. Peter Centre was a rediscovery of his past. Jay is from the Piikani Nation and grew up in the countryside outside of Pincher Creek, Alberta. His grandfather raised him in the Blackfoot way of life.
It was also his grandfather who first explained to Jay the meaning of the Two-Spirit tradition. His grandfather taught him that there is not a right way or a wrong way when it comes to sexuality. However, this was a tough path for Jay to follow in practice.
“At college in the early 1980s in the US, I tried to fit in by going out with women,” Jay says. “After I graduated, my girlfriend came back to Canada with me. I was so afraid of telling her that I didn’t feel the same way. I drank and did drugs to push her away, but I didn’t realize the monster I had raised inside of me. Alcohol took a hold of me. I hated it but because I was so afraid of being who I was, I kept going back to it.”
Jay found sobriety, then he met someone new and romance blossomed – briefly.
“One night after we had sex he told me that he was HIV-positive. My whole life flashed before my eyes. The next day, he dumped me.” Jay got tested and discovered he was HIV-positive. It was 1987.
Lacking effective medication and support services, many people with AIDS passed away in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thankfully, Jay survived.
Today, he is flourishing. In the last seven years, Jay has come to rely on the Dr. Peter Centre. “I’ve become really comfortable with the counsellors. And when the Centre opened for weekends, I could see what an opportunity it was for me to continue my journey with HIV and AIDS in a positive way."