12/01/2011 12:51 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

World AIDS Day: Cesar Galindo: 'I Had Lost Over 100 People' (VIDEO)

I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer stories. Earlier this year, founder and Executive Director Nathan Manske and two companions successfully completed a four-month, 50-state Story Tour collecting LGBTQ stories from towns and cities across the country. They're pulling some of the most relevant, important and sometimes just enjoyable stories from their archives and sharing them with HuffPost Gay Voices.

To commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, we spoke with Cesar Galindo, a fashion designer who created his Rojo collection of red dresses to be auctioned off for an AIDS charity in his hometown of Houston. Behind the glamour and fashion, though, is a sobering life of losing those he loved to the disease.

When I was really young in Texas, I remember talking to my mother about this and telling her that I had lost over 100 people. And I was a teenager. She didn't understand it, she couldn't wrap her head around it. She didn't know what was going on, and honestly, I didn't know, either.

Being around his LGBT family that was dying, though, is where he learned to have his optimistic view on life.

I do remember being in people's hospital rooms, and these are like my gay mothers and fathers, and telling me that I needed to live life to its fullest and live for them because they weren't going to live any longer.

Being surrounded by so much death in his teens, Cesar couldn't help but wonder why it was all happening.

Are we supposed to experience that much death at a young age? I didn't think we should have. But we didn't have any choice. That was the path that we were existing with.

As Cesar grew older, he continued to witness AIDS ravage the lives of those he held closest to his heart.

[My partner] Brian Nelson and I were together for 11 years, and he was diagnosed with HIV, and it became full-blown AIDS. At that time it was a whole different era. ... We weren't so educated or aware, or maybe we were just in denial of the situation. ... We actually had it diagnosed as if there was something wrong with his spine, his lower back. So we dealt with it that way, a chiropractor, everything else you could imagine besides going to a real doctor.

It was after Brian became extremely ill that the doctors finally diagnosed him with HIV, but there was nothing they could do about it.

His situation was pretty rapid and in an advanced stage and, well, his diagnosis was death.

Using what he learned as a teenager, Cesar brought as much life, light and happiness to those who needed it around him.

When someone can't talk to you because they have everything put in their mouth and they're looking at you and all you're doing is dancing around to make them roll their eyes or kind of put a grin on their face, it's the simplest things one can do. ... Body dialogue. You walk in the room as happy as you can be. It's a bittersweet moment.


Cesar also spoke with us in depth about the dresses he designed for the World AIDS Day charity event. He talks about the design and more about the inspiration behind the dresses.

It's all inspired by the red ribbon in remembrance for World AIDS Day. Of course I have a lot of personal experience with that... and sharing that with people I've lost. Being able to do this is all in their honor. ... A friend of mine told me before he passed, "Never forget to remember me." And that's really the statement of the whole collection. Never forget the people we had in this world.


Submit your own story at

Subscribe to the Queer Voices email.
Get all of the queer news that matters to you.