Marni's China AIDS Walk Page

I have this crazy idea that I got from a card my brother Jared gave me when I was in high school... "You can't make footprints in the sands of time if you're sitting on your butt. And who wants to make buttprints in the sands of time?"

Well I live by the not sitting on my butt part! I want to take an active part in changing our world. Two of the most important causes in my life are LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS.

In 2010 I did my first AIDS/LifeCycle and rode my bike 545 miles in 7 days from San Francisco to Los Angeles. On this amazing event I met three of the most amazing leaders in the LGBT movement in China. Xiaogang, Popo and David Li came to the US to work with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center to learn about LGBT work and they also got to come on the ride. Xiaogang decided he would ride and Popo and David Li did a lot of filming for a documentary.

The Center's Emerging Leaders Program allows for several groups of young LGBT activist from China to come to the US and do an internship at the Center. When they return to China they go back to their work and are creating change within the Chinese LGBT movement.

When Xiaogang returned to China after the ride he wanted to do something for the HIV/AIDS epidemic there. He decided he would produce the first ever China AIDS Walk on the Great Wall of China. No matter how crazy this idea seemed he pushed forward. In China there is a lot of discrimination, stigma and lack of support for those living with HIV/AIDS. Xiaogang wanted to create an event to help with each of these issues. He did. Against all odds, he got the permits, found funding, got people signed up to participate and fund raising and last October was the first AIDS Walk in China!

This October will be the second China AIDS Walk and I want to be there.

Why I do this work....

One of my very first memories is from when I was 2 years old. It was 1982 in Saint Augustine, FL and my family went to see my Uncle Fred conduct an orchestra at the ballet. I remember the breeze in the parking lot of the theater and the fresh ocean air. I remember the darkness inside the theater. I remember seeing a dim light from the stage area and then the back of my Uncle's arms moving and creating music. I remember the curtain coming up and white angels floating across the stage.

I was completely mesmerized and this was the beginning of my love for the ballet, music and art. For the next year I drove my mother crazy cause I wanted to take ballet lessons. She finally found a studio that would take a 3 year old. I danced for years to come.

Every time I visited with my Uncle Fred there was a magical gift that he left behind for me. In many ways he gifted me the world of the arts by opening the doors. I always knew there was something very unique about my Uncle.

Fast forward...

By the time I was in high school the AIDS epidemic was exploding. It was the early 90's and I was drawn to this cause. This was the first time I was passionate and on fire about the world around me. I was devastated by the things I learned; hospitals in fear and not wanting to treat victims of this terrible disease, the government ignoring HIV, the history of the epidemic and the prejudice towards gay people like calling it GRIDS (Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome as it was known before it was called AIDS). All of these things struck the core of my heart and I had to act.

It was during this time that I helped to start an HIV/AIDS awareness club at my High School and volunteer with a local non-profit that helped people who were HIV positive get the treatment they needed.

This was also the time in which I started denying to myself the long dark secret that would take years for me to confront, my own sexual orientation. In these years I had so much internalized homophobia which one might think is odd since I was really into helping out with HIV/AIDS because I really didn't understand the stigma. I mean it was okay for other people to be gay but not me. Right? Well I got over that!

In 1994 my Uncle Fred got really sick and eventually died from AIDS related complications. I was 16 and in the middle of the most confusing time of my life. The loss of my Uncle was not a surprise, though he was not "out" with his diagnosis and he was closeted with the family about his own sexual orientation, I instinctively knew he was gay and I thought he might be positive. Fred lost his partner at the beginning of the epidemic when it was still called GRIDS. Losing my Uncle filled me with sorrow. Such a beautiful man gone from this planet along with so many others due to this disease seems so wrong.

Between loosing my Uncle and slowly coming to terms with being me I have a very clear passion for doing the work I do on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to work with the Emerging Leaders Program at the Center inspires me to continue to do this work. If I can help one other LGBT youth discover that they are beautiful and worth love then I have succeeded. If I can help raise money for those who are in need of HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and awareness then I have succeeded. If I can help teach the world that LGBTQQIGNC..... people are family, friends and loved ones than I have succeeded. I want to be a part of creating the solution.

This is why I have decided to go to China and do the AIDS Walk on the Great Wall. It means the world to me to have this opportunity and I am jumping in.

So if you will please support me in my efforts to raise vital funds to help those living in China with HIV/AIDS get the treatment and services they need. All proceeds will be

About the walk....

The first AIDS Walk was organized in Los Angeles in 1985 to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS, reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, and raise funds for HIV/AIDS-related social projects. Since then, more than one hundred AIDS Walks have been organized in cities all over the world.

The 2012 China AIDS Walk held a total of 20 promotional and anti-discrimination events in different communities and venues. 45 fundraising teams participated in the 2012 China AIDS Walk, with 120 people participating in the Walk on the Great Wall. They included people of 6 nationalities. Approximately 3400 different people donated to the China AIDS Walk, which was widely reported on both in the Chinese and foreign press.The China AIDS Walk participants raised 164.705 RMB, which was mainly used to support HIV/AIDS advocacy events and the Tianjin Dark Blue Working Group, a grassroots NGO providing help to people living with HIV/AIDS with medical needs.While HIV/AIDS initiatives have multiplied in China over the last few years, only very few have called upon the general public to actively participate in creating a more informed, tolerant and harmonious society. The China AIDS Walk is one of the first large-scale projects aiming to transform the Chinese public from passive receptors of information into active participants fighting against HIV/AIDS and HIV/AIDS-related discrimination. The China AIDS Walk encourages every member of society to step up and take part in spreading awareness & understanding about HIV/AIDS and helping out those affected by HIV/AIDS. Everybody is invited to take part in an epic one-day hiking event on the Great Wall, which is preceded by an all-out fundraising drive. The funds raised benefit people living with HIV/AIDS with medical needs & Chinese anti-discrimination initiatives.

The Beijing Gender Health Education Institute (BGHEI) is a non-governmental and non-profit organization. It was founded in 2002 and constitutes one of the first Chinese NGOs to focus on issues of gender, sexuality and sexual health, thus fulfilling a pioneering role in Chinese society. Our mission is to raise awareness and understanding on issues of gender, sexuality and sexual health, and to promote and advocate gender- & sexual diversity and equality in Chinese society. We conduct educational classes, training's and counseling for different social groups in China, and provide a supportive platform for educational and informational initiatives.

So PLEASE make a donation and be a part of this amazing opportunity. It's easy and you will feel great about it!

Thank you so much for your donation and support! I can't wait to send you photo's and tell you stories about my journey to China and this amazing walk.

Marni Z

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." Gandhi
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Marni Zimlin 
Los Angeles, CA
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