Alphonso King Jr., aka. Jade Elektra / Canada
“My HIV Story
Written by Alphonso King Jr
To tell my story I should start with I came from addiction and alcoholism. I’m speaking of my parents. My mother had a drug problem and my father had a drinking problem. They were both seventeen when she got pregnant in the late 60’s. How I made it this far is miracle but I am extremely appreciative and blessed. I don’t do drugs or drink. I think I learned from my parents’ mistakes. But unfortunately I did follow in one of their patterns…I am HIV+.
Living with HIV has been a curse and a blessing. If I had not become HIV+ I probably would have lived my life completely different. I probably would have stayed in my hometown and in my job in journalism. Learning that I was HIV+ became my wake up call to go live my life.
When I was diagnosed in 1990, finding out you were HIV+ was a death sentence. I literally thought I only had a short time to live. And I began planning to take out a huge loan to go do all the things I thought I wanted to do. And I would have gone through with that plan but I woke up one day and thought to myself “You’re probably gonna be healthy as a horse and be in debt for the rest of your life.” So, I scrapped that idea. But I didn’t want my family and friends to find out that I had tested positive.
Today I am a female impersonator, vocalist, recording artist, DJ, actor, writer and out HIV+ activist.
My name is Alphonso King Jr. I’m 53 years old and have been living with HIV since 1989. I didn’t know at the time I became positive but my mother had died of the disease the year before. My family chose not to tell me how she really died. It wasn’t until this year during the COVID epidemic in 2020 that my aunt who thought I already knew mentioned her demise. In 2005, unbeknownst to me, my father also died from HIV/AIDS. I did not know this until 2013, when my stepmother found me on Facebook and told me.
I am originally from Tampa, Florida but in 1992 I decided to move to New York City to distance myself from family. My father hated that I was gay and the last time I saw him he said “You’re running around with those faggots…you’re gonna die of AIDS.” My stepmother told me that she believed that he was bisexual. I believe his being upset with my sexuality was his anger over not being out himself.
So, I began my new life in The Big Apple where there were so many people that my being HIV+ wasn’t going to be big news like it would have been back in Tampa. No one was going to gossip about me and even if they did, I didn’t know anyone anyway.
Don’t get wrong…I had my share of discrimination because of my diagnosis. Hell, being HIV+, black and gay was a perfect storm in the LGBT community of one of the largest cities in the world. But my 17 years in New York City taught me a lot and I grew a thick skin…thick enough to come out publicly and not live in fear of someone finding out.
When I was single in the city I had this diner I would take my dates to disclose. This place had a headshot of me as my drag persona, Jade Elektra. I would point out the photo first. If the guy was uncomfortable with me doing drag, he probably was going to have a problem with my status. It was my way of gaging who to tell and who not to. I have always felt disclosure was important.
I had several serious relationships while I lived in New York, but it wasn’t until I visited Montreal a few times that I met the man who would become my husband and my inspiration to use my talents to better the lives of those living with HIV.
I met HIV+ graphic artist and archivist, Jorial (John Richard Allan) in 2005. We tried to keep in touch but him living in Toronto and me in the states was difficult and by 2007 things had faded. But one day I was online and came across his profile on site called TAGGED. We started chatting and visiting each other in the fall of 2009. On World AIDS Day that year, he proposed. I had never had such a connection with someone before and I said yes. I relocated to Toronto. We were married on April 30th, 2010.
After moving to Toronto, I noticed that the HIV+ Community was hidden away or completely in the closet. My husband had already created a Facebook group called POZPLANET. So, I started a monthly event called POZ-TO that served as a social event and a fundraiser for local AIDS organizations. POZ-TO was created to not only fight the stigma associated with being positive but also to fight depression by building community. In these events I used my disc jockey skills as well as hosted in drag. And in January 2019 I began publishing POZPLANET Magazine so we could feature people who are HIV+ and making a difference in their community.
By giving back to the community I have found my purpose in life. I use my voice and talents to help others live better lives.”