The (Signed)Language of Love

AIDS educators are targeting a new group -- deaf gay men

After the video, Jensen put on a safe-sex sideshow -- a blunt, sometimes confessional mix of anecdotes and grim warnings using the condoms, lubricants, and dildos heaped on top of the bar as props -- while interpreter Jason Southwell translated into sign language.

Jensen found a communication tool that worked even better: humor. He bared his shiny head and made a joke about baldness; he kept losing track of the very real-looking rubber penises he had on hand to illustrate condom use. He also got the audience's attention when he confessed that many AIDS educators themselves fail to follow the safe-sex prescriptions they give others.

"Is it hard to talk about safe sex?" Jensen asked the audience.
An audience member signed furiously: "It's hard to get the first date. It's hard to get your first condom at the store."

"What I suggest is for you to get two or three people together and talk about it," Jensen said. "Visit the condom shop together," he added.

An audience member suggested bringing out a magazine article that discusses condoms. "Whatever you do," Jensen urged, "just insist that the partner use safe-sex practices."

"If you're struggling to have a conversation about safe sex, it's better to leave the situation," Jensen advised.

"Myself, I use humor," Jensen continued. At his own house, he makes his visitors laugh by keeping a huge condom on a table. "It's the biggest condom in the world," explained Jensen, who calls it "Joe Condom." Once a visitor laughs about its size and weirdness, Jensen gets to the more serious issue of using a condom in bed.

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