It doesn’t take long to recognize there’s something more to George M. Johnson than good looks and debonair grace. Their words are thoughtful and forcefully delivered, whether written or spoken, and they don’t shy away from “all of the very heavy subjects that oftentimes people say kids are too young to understand.”
This urgency to tackle serious topics is evident in their recent book All Boys Aren’t Blue, which is as much a memoir as it is a primer for other Black queer youth. Johnson’s personal accomplishments, understanding of complex issues confronting society, and literary body of work are even more impressive considering their relative youth (Johnson turned 25 on Halloween).
This activist, author, and person living with HIV is driven to share their insight and story so they can inspire others and fight a system that marginalizes those it fears and does not understand.
Johnson last year told Out (a sister publication to Plus) they see HIV as not just a gay issue but also one rooted in the struggle for social justice. This observation seems all the more prescient today considering the global COVID-10 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests against ingrained equality and police violence. When Johnson spoke of Black people not just dying at the hands of police but also suffering disproportionately highter HIV infection rates, they might as well have been writing the script for 2020.
It’s this forward-thinking approach to confronting injustice and helping others that led them to write All Boys Aren’t Blue. The memoir covers Johnson’s life from their early days growing up in New Jersey and into their college years. They speak frankly about their lack of sexual experience and knowledge, and how this double-edged sword can place other closeted queer youth in danger much like they were.
All Boys Aren’t Blue was largely written for young adults at this same intersection of Blackness and queerness, Johnson says, specifically those lacking the tools and resources to safely navigate through adolescence and into adulthood.
HIV will always loom large for Johnson, but they hope their message and efforts can help other queer Black youth overcome a society that oten seems designed to ensure failure. Their goal is to help these marginalized youth see there is a way out and around the harsh inequalities of life.
“November 19 will mark 10 years of being HIV-positive,” Johnson tells Plus. “I’ve gone from playing out my own mortality to planning the next 50 years of my life. As long as I have a voice, I will use it to share my story, help others on their journey, and adamantly fight to end the epidemic.”