“I remember my cousin Tony and I being surrounded by loving people that were in the same situation as he and I. It was a place we looked forward to going to each week, and he made friends, so did I. We both learned so much there. He learned to love himself and to be more accepting of himself, and I learned so much about what young people went through on a daily basis coming to terms with their sexual identities. I really loved the kids there and I was amazed by their bravery. So did Tony (who went by Tawana at the time) and eventually he emerged a stronger person. He was fifteen and had just been diagnosed as HIV positive. Tawana, my young cousin, passed away ten years ago of an AIDS related illness. Tony, as he returned to later, was a very passionate person and lived life to the fullest. He took every opportunity to be happy and lived life on his terms. He never did have the surgery he so desired and unfortunately I didn’t live in DC anymore, so when he succumbed I wasn’t aware. But I will never forget that vivacious little boy he was or the crazy, wild girl he became. He was unforgettable, and I only stopped by here to mention to you all how much SMYAL transformed his life. So, thank you.”
An excerpt from an interview with Wenona Nelson about her time at SMYAL with her cousin, Tony.