This post is inspired by and dedicated to a friend who has been recently diagnosed with HIV. I feel his pain, his anger, his confusion and his strength. I vow to stand with him in what ever way he needs me to. It’s also the first poem I’ve ever shared like this, so be kind… SB this is for you.
A death sentence
Nothing can be the same again
Denial, anger, blame
Anything but acceptance
Acceptance would mean dealing with mortality and the truth about the fluids we share during sex
Acceptance would mean acknowledging the fragility of our human bodies and the fleeting nature of our existence
Denial allows us to go on living a normal life until our bodies begin to outwardly show the scars of the battle within
A fight for survival
It’s amazing how three letters can change the course of your life
How your body can become a battleground
Every cell for itself!
Every cell fighting against an enemy so deceptive, it hides in plain sight
An enemy that snuck in during a moment of careless abandon
An enemy that could have been held back by a thin latex sheath
But in those wanton moments of ecstasy, the last thing you wanted was to stop and reach for the rubber
Instead you let that hard pulsating spear penetrate you and leave a scar that will never heal
Three letters can turn your sexual past into a map of betrayal and accusation
Three letters will turn each orgasmic moan into screams of shame
Three letters can turn every dick you sensually stroked into weapons of your destruction
Three letters turn your normal life into a life of doctors and tests and pills
Three letters and your sex life becomes a carefully orchestrated routine of disclosure and negotiation
Three letters that now define you
Three letters that turn you into a statistic, a cliché, a tick in a box on the endless array of forms that run our lives
Three letters that turn you into a tool for the global machine built to combat the disease
A machine that now gorges itself on donations and government subsidies
Three letters and your choices are now dictated by memos and reports from faceless agencies a world away
They tell you what to eat
They tell you what pills to take and when to take them
They tell you what’s safe for you to do
They tell you what sex you can or cannot have
H I V
Three letters that I refuse to become me
Three letters that I do not blame anyone, including myself, for making a part of my story
I acknowledge them
I accept them
And I shall live
And I shall love
I’m an educated, free-thinking, sex-positive liberal. I’m sure that’s been apparent to everyone who’s been reading my blog. Nothing really unsettles me. Until a few nights ago. I met a guy online and we hit it off really well. We’ve met a couple of times and our chemistry is really good. Our last date was intense and we were going to take it to the next level, until he stopped and looked into my eyes and announced that he’s HIV positive.
I never would have thought that about him. And I never could have guessed my reaction either. I was visibly stunned and remember recoiling away from him. The first thought that went through my head was “OMG, we were kissing, do I have it now?” Stupid, I know! He must have read all of that on my face because he promptly stood up and put his shirt back on (yes, we’d gone that far). I immediately started apologising again and again, blaming my reaction on shock and nothing else. But the mood had changed and there was no way we were going to pick up from where we left off, even if I’d wanted to. We chatted for a bit about nothing in particular, doing our best to avoid the issue we should have been discussing. I left after about half an hour later and made my way home. We haven’t seen each other again since then, but we are still talking and chatting online.
That incident really got me thinking about stigma. I had convinced myself that I was a part of the population that didn’t stigmatise based HIV status. I had convinced myself that my years of working in HIV, sexuality and sexual rights education had left me unable to discriminate. I had convinced myself that having colleagues and relatives living with HIV in my life made me a shining example to the rest of the world. But, I have learned that I am just as bad or even worse than the people I called ignorant for their prejudices. Because I was teaching others how to overcome their prejudices, I thought was automatically free of bias and intolerance; my intellectual snobbery masked my own prejudice and allowed it to fester unchecked and unchallenged. Nothing could ever make me more ashamed of myself than that. Now that I’m so keenly aware of it, it’s now something I can work on.
As for the mystery man… Perhaps I’m not ready to be in a relationship with someone who’s HIV positive. I just hope that my reaction doesn’t discourage him from disclosing his status to potential sexual partners. It was really brave of him and I applaud him for letting me know his status. I would love to still be friends with him and I hope that will happen. And who knows where that may lead.
I’ve been blind-sided. My boyfriend, remember him – we’re calling him Kay, told me last night that he thinks he’s not gay. Oh, but he still loves me! How the hell am I supposed to respond to that? We’ve been together for nearly a year and half and he springs this on me right at the moment when I was ready to ask him to spend the rest of my life with him. It’s something we’ve gone through before and something we got over before. But am I supposed to go through this again and again? Am I supposed to believe that he really loves me or is he just staying with me out of pity? I don’t want to be that guy. I know I said before that I would let him be with somebody else as long as I knew that he loved me. But now, I don’t know. Living in this country means that there’s nobody I can talk to. I mean, he’s my best friend as well as my lover. How am I supposed to discuss this with him? I feel so lost and alone right now.
I have a confession to make. I always talk like I don’t fit the stereotype of the young gay man, but alas I do. I love wearing jewellery! I can’t leave the house without at least one accessory hanging round my neck, dangling on my writs or adorning my fingers. I feel naked without them. My family, friends and bf have all come round and accepted it as part of who I am. The other day though, a new guy at work saw my rings (I wear two) and asked what they meant. I know he wanted to ask me if I was gay, but I let him struggle and stumble with his words as I played dumb! I probably should have just told him what he wanted to hear, but it was hilarious watching him squirm. But then again my policy has always been, and I’m sure always will be, ask and you shall be answered. So to those out there who want to know something, take your heads out of the sand and ask me already!
It’s been a while since I started this blog and a lot has happened. I’ve been frustrated by the job market and living in my parents’ home has been challenging. It’s not like they don’t know I’m gay, but knowing and knowing are two different things – if you get what I’m saying. I’m starting to feel like I did when I was 16 and that was not a good time for anyone. And going back to that time in my life is not what I expected.
My other big frustration is my relationship. My boyfriend, let’s call him Kay, is sexy, smart, funny and so full of life. He’s also younger than me. I’ve never been the older guy in any relationship and that puts so much pressure on me. I guess I just don’t know how to deal with that. He’s also still questioning his sexuality, and hasn’t fully accepted who he is. When we started dating almost 6 months ago, he said he was gay, although he’d been with a lot of women… but then so had I. Now he’s saying that he’s bisexual. I’ve never wanted to date someone who was bisexual or still questioning. I think I’m a supportive partner and I always want the best for my partners. I want Kay to be happy and if that means that I have to watch him enter into a relationship with a woman then that’s what I’ll do. I love him dearly and the thought of him with someone else is breaking my heart, but it’s something I’m willing to do. I sound like a glutton for punishment. But then again, why should anyone care…