These are the beautiful stories why people bike across California in the AIDS/LifeCycle

Michael Cox, an AIDS/LifeCycle rider

Every year, thousands of people get on their bicycles for an unforgettable journey. They bike 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, all to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS.

The AIDS/LifeCylce first began in 1993 as the California AIDS Ride. Since then, the ride has raised more than $200 million for the cause.

Photographer Cedric Terrell recently published portrait book about the ride.

Why We Ride is an intimate look at the people who participate in the AIDS/LifeCycle, their stories, and what motivates them. Terrell granted GSN an exclusive look inside this stunning gallery, and some of the stories featured in it.

Victor Jones

Victor Jones | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

To help save lives

‘I ride because we still live in a world with HIV/AIDS,’ Victor Jones says in the book.

Jones, who’s from Washington, DC, believes there is still work to be done and stigma to end.

‘I ride to help save lives and give so many a second chance.’

Madonna Cacciatore

Madonna Cacciatore | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

A personal connection

For Madonna Cacciatore of Los Angeles, it’s a personal matter. Her brother died of AIDS in 1991 and she began riding in 2013.

Last year, she became a Road Manager, meaning she helped keep the route safe for bikers.

‘Today, I still ride for my brother, Johnny, for all who died in New York in the early epidemic, and because I love the staff, riders, charities, and mission of AIDS/LifeCycle.’

Marc Malkin

Marc Malkin | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

Riding to never forgot

Entertainment journalist Marc Malkin revealed his HIV-positive status earlier this year. He never thought he’d participate — that was more of his husband’s thing.

Then, in 2017, he volunteered with the media team for the event and decided he’d ride in 2018 (which he did).

‘Both of my mother’s brothers, my uncles Arthur and David, died of AIDS early in the epidemic. As a gay man now living with HIV, I owe it to my uncles to do what I can to help continue the fight against the disease,’ he explains.

‘I’m riding in honor of my uncles and all of the people we have lost. We must never forget.’

Christopher Interdonato

Christopher Interdonato | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

For gratitude

The Los Angeles LGBT Center is a co-producer of the cycle and a big reason why Christopher Interdonato rides.

‘I ride because I know what it’s like to be positive with no resources to get medication. The LGBT Center saved my life,’ he recalls.

The Center gave him shelter, clothing, resources, and help when he was at one of his lowest points.

‘This agency has impacted my life in such a deep and profound way that I am willing to go to any lengths to give back to this amazing organization so that they can continue to help those in our community with their work.’

Michael Cox

Michael Cox | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

To heal

Michael Cox has been living with HIV for 30 years, and it’s because of the LifeCycle that he’s been able to heal from the shame and pain. He calls it the ‘direct antithesis’ of the disease.

‘Helping to ends AIDS by doing a superhuman bike ride has been very healing for me. I am happy and healthy and thriving and my life has more purpose,’ he says.

‘I love the ride and the community and the love, and could not imagine life without it.’

Jill Dannis

Jill Dannis | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

For a beautiful queer life

‘I ride to honor all of the queer people who came before me and made it possible for me to have the beautiful queer life that I have,’ Jill Dannis gives as her reason.

‘Knowing that HIV/AIDS is still a devastating disease in our society, particularly for the LGBTQ community and communities of color, and that this work will actively change the quality of life for thousands of people, gives me the drive I need to conquer the fundraising, the training, the hills, and the ride itself.’

To get the book and read more amazing stories like these, go here. More information about the ride can be found here.

California becomes the first state to stand behind intersex rights

California politician Scott Wiener

California’s state legislature passed a new resolution today (28 August) affirming the rights of intersex people. This makes them the first state in the US with such language and protection.

Senator Scott Wiener (D) first introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 110 (SCR-110) at the end of February. interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth and Equality California co-sponsored the resolution.

Other states have made moves to support intersex rights, including Indiana, Nevada, and Texas. This resolution in California, however, is the first to pass.

According to the language of the resolution, the purpose of it is to ‘foster the well-being of children born with variations of sex characteristics through the enactment of policies and procedures that ensure individualized, multidisciplinary care’.

Freedom to choose and be celebrated

The language of the resolution is telling and broad in its support of intersex people and specifically minors.

One element of it resolves to consider ‘intersex children a part of the fabric of our state’s diversity to be celebrated rather than an aberration to be corrected’.

Further, the resolution also recognizes that ‘intersex children should be free to choose whether to undergo life-altering surgeries that irreversibly—and sometimes irreparably—cause harm’.

Wiener celebrated the passage on Twitter.

Intersex people have surgeries performed on them as infants without their consent around the world.

Amnesty International revealed last year that babies in Denmark and Germany face up to five surgeries in their first year alone.

More and more people, however, are revealing the traumas these surgeries can inflict and asserting their pride being intersex.

Sara Kelly Keenan became the first person in the US to have intersex on her birth certificate last year.

It’s also the latest in a string of progressive LGBTI policies out of California, including bills for senior citizens and beyond.

More from Gay Star News

A new report from Human Rights Watch reveals traumas of unnecessary surgeries on intersex children

California becomes first state to recognize LGBTI military veterans

California Senate declares conversion therapy a ‘fraudulent practice’

California passes a bill supporting LGBTI seniors for ‘social needs’

Eldery hands

Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a bill on Friday (24 August), mandating more care for LGBTI seniors in the state.

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin wrote AB 2719 seeking to amend acts administered by the state’s Department of Aging.

According to the bill, an existing law already dictates the Department work with certain Acts. Some of them include the federal Older American’s Act in California and the Mello-Granlund Older Californians Act.

These Acts ensure funding and assistance for older Americans ‘in greatest economic or social need’.

Irwin’s bill includes ‘cultural or social isolation caused by sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression’ to factors that can impede an older person’s ‘capacity to live independently’.

She first introduced her bill in February.

Earlier today (27 August), Irwin took to Twitter and thanked Brown for signing the bill.

‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer #Californians will now have certainty that the State will continue to take into account their unique circumstances as they age,’ she wrote.

A state with progress

This is the latest in a string of actions California has taken to recognize LGBTI people.

Most recently, they became the first state to officially recognize LGBTI veterans. They also declared conversion therapy a ‘fraudulent practice’.

Another recent report named three California cities — Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and San Francisco — as some of the best retirement cities in the United States for LGBTI senior citizens.

More from Gay Star News

There is now a magazine for gay people over 50

Senators introduce new bill to help elder LGBT Americans

LGBTI elders give advice to their 18-year-old selves in moving video