Vivienne: “There are people out there who understand first hand, people who want you to talk to them. To be a shoulder to cry on or to catch up over coffee”

Vivienne I’m sure introductions aren’t necessary but would you mind introducing yourself to our readers please for those that don’t already know who you are? Where are you based? What is that you do?

Sure, my name’s Vivienne Lynsey and I live in Manchester. By day I work in travel however by night I’m one of the many cogs that make up the UK’s drag scene.

Well this is one of the reasons why we think you’d be a great influence within our campaign. You’re the third Manchester queen we have on board and I’m delighted that it’s you! I interviewed Misty Chance a while back and I believe I asked her about how LGBT+ youth really look up to drag culture in this generation. Would you agree we way say we think drag has evolved so much in this generation that everyday they’re becoming role models for your LGBT+ people all over the world? If so, how do you handle this sort of responsibility?

I definitely think that the increase of exposure that the UK, and the rest of the world has had to drag has made a huge impact on LGBT+ youth and how they look up to the drag scene. I personally see this as something we should appreciate within our community.

I think there’s a lot of conflict between queens who have been working the scenes for years and those who have discovered drag through the world of Rupaul’s Drag Race and how newer kinds of drag aren’t as valid. I don’t really get how someone has the right to stop someone from being creative and showing their art. I have young audience members come and speak to me on a regular basis after my shows especially in Nottingham as that’s where I really started to find a name for myself. And I’m more than happy to speak with them at anytime no matter the subject matter because ultimately they see me as someone they can talk to and share their experiences with.

Very admirable words – I also believe a congratulations are in order as you’re now engaged to Dan Murphy who also recently took part in our campaign. What did you think of his interview?

Thank you very much! We’ve recently moved so can finally start planning for it, he’s a bit of a bride zilla… but he’s still adorable though. I thought his interview was incredibly heartfelt, I think everything Dan does and says is heartfelt though. He’s a very emotional person so it’s nice to read his opinions on different subject matter. Having said that we talk about everything and anything so a lot of what I read I already knew how he felt.

Kicking off the New Year together; Vivienne and fiancé Daniel Murphy

He did a great job, please pass on our extended thanks and whilst we’re getting soppy I have to say how adorable it is to have you come forward too. This article will technically make you two the first couple to take part in our campaign.

Like Prince William and Princess Kate…I’m fine with that!

Shall we talk HIV? Is there a particular reason that you have decided to speak out against HIV stigma?

HIV is always a subject I found difficult to talk about. My parents knew I was gay from a young age and whenever I’d talk about dating someone they’d always say to me “stay safe” or “make sure you’re being careful”. I always knew that they were referring to HIV and having grown up in a small market town being one of the only out gay teens there I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. I know people who have openly spoken about living with HIV and some people who tell those that they feel need to know, both of which I totally understand and respect however holding a platform within the drag community and knowing that kids in their early teens are speaking to me for advice I feel that if people saw that I was a comfortable person to talk about the stigma with and that there was no judging or preaching I feel more people would feel at liberty to discuss HIV, and currently I don’t think enough people do.

Absolutely. Just talking about HIV and what it really is today can really make an impact. The more people that talk about HIV whether we are negative or positive, I believe this will help contribute to the elimination of HIV stigma.

I agree, very much so. 

Lot’s of talk right now about PrEP…
Have you heard of PrEP? If so, what are your general thoughts?

Yeah I’ve definitely heard of PrEP and I think it’s tremendous. I’ve not had any direct contact with it or anyone I know who has taken it. I’m sure I know people who have but I guess it’s not something one discusses over brunch.

Amazing to hear your positive thoughts towards PrEP, especially after the negative UK press it had initially received last year. 

Where do you think we stand here alone in Manchester today with HIV stigma? Do you think we’re making any improvements? Even with projects like ours and great, leading HIV and LGBT+ charities such as the George House Trust and the LGBT Foundation, perhaps sometimes we need more interaction with people who are willing to stand up to HIV stigma no matter what your status is. This is where you come in! 

Speaking solely of Manchester do you think we are improving our outdated attitudes towards HIV and how do you think we can get more open minded individuals such as  yourself to come forward and stand up to HIV stigma?

I still honestly think people see HIV as something it isn’t. Year after year we stand in Sackville Gardens and hear the voices of those brave enough to speak out and explain that it is not a death sentence anymore, I feel however that even after we hear those words there is always a voice in the back of our heads posing further questions that we may not be brave enough to ask on a one to one basis and that’s where I feel if people were to openly stand up and talk about the stigma of HIV maybe those still scared, confused or even uneducated might be more inclined to divulge in conversation. 

I was fortunate to stand tall on the George House Trust float at Pride last year and I still have my sash. I wore it with pride performing at Via for World Aids Day on December 1st last year and was shocked how not one person came to speak with me about the HIV stigma. Our preconceptions and fears need to stop holding us back and we need to speak out and stand together as a community.

Yes I remember! I also joined the George House Trust last year and in 2015, it really is my favourite part of the whole weekend. Last year especially was touching, the support this charity was receiving from the general public in the streets was very heartwarming.

Vivienne showing her support for George House Trust at Manchester Pride 2016 – Image credit: Misty Chance

Our main target audience is the newly diagnosed and also those who aren’t yet educated about HIV. Just stick with our readers who maybe newly diagnosed and need some reassurance, do you have any words of encouragement for them?

I’d say… Don’t be scared, don’t feel alone, you are not alone and you will never be alone. There are people out there who understand first hand, people who want you to talk to them. To be a shoulder to cry on or to catch up over coffee. Regardless there are people there for you. Please don’t stop being your fabulous self ever. I know there will be times you don’t feel like being yourself or facing the general public to pop to tesco and grab a pint of milk but believe me everyone has those days, and anyone who denies that isn’t being truthful. If you’ve seen me at one of my shows and have a preconception of my attitude or personality, talk to me when I’ve not got a microphone in my hand and get to know the real me because I most definitely want to get to know you.

Thank you so much! Is there anything else you would like to say before we wrap up our interview?

Honestly, I think my last answer covered everything.

If you’re not in the area you can interact with Vivienne via multiple social media platforms;

Instagram – Viviennelynsey 

Twitter – @vivienne_lynsey 

Facebook: Vivienne Lynsey 

Want to take part in our #STIGMAWARRIOR campaign? Have your say on HIV stigma and get in touch: stigmawarrior@destigmatizehiv.com

We are also working in collaboration with ‘But I Like It’ a local photography company who are a major contributor to our campaign. For those in the Greater Manchester/West Yorks area, you will be eligible for a free photoshoot with our good friend Johann who will be happy to give you a free photoshoot for those wishing to take part in our campaign.

If you’d like to check out ‘But I Like It’ tweet them here or visit Johann’s website here