I have a couple of positive friends, but . . .
I’m suffering from education fatigue. One of the reasons I went so public about my status so many years ago was with the hope that I’d be able to make a difference for those who would follow. The rational thought was that as time went on people would become more educated and that lives for people living with HIV would get better.
The context then is different from today's. Back then hospital staff slid the meal trays into the rooms of patients on the floor for fear of entering. I was once not invited to a dinner party because of the old “you can get it from the dishes” stupidity.
Back in my Regina days around 1990, I had gone public in allowing my name to be on a Saskatchewan Health press release for a panel discussion that resulted in three days of media in English and French. Even though I was part of a phone-in radio show I was being filmed for the news.
A week or so after that I had gone to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. I didn’t know when or if I should disclose and I didn’t want to do it over the phone. I waited until I got there was no privacy. In the end I just got my teeth cleaned and I said nothing.
A few days later a pre-recorded interview I had done aired on the radio. The dental assistant heard it and gave my confidential information to her husband who called me at home. I was told about how they had to use condoms and get tested, which was completely ridiculous.
I explained that if his wife was a professional then she would follow universal infection control procedures. She called the agency I worked for. My greatest fear was that this would hit the media.
This is just one example of the irrational phobia of someone else becoming my problem. I’m tired of other people trying to make their problem my problem.
Some guys there would not go to see a doctor unless they were hauled there by ambulance lest anyone find out their status.
At a clinic I went to there, the technician was masked and gowned when taking my blood. I repeated asked why they were doing this, the answer: "You’ll have to talk to you doctor." I was looking at uneducated people treating me as if I had Eboli. I complained and the policy was changed to taking universal precautions.
What I had truly hoped is that the equation of time + education + treatment advancement would = less stigma, more rational thought and less phobia.
Instead the trajectory seems to be the further we go the more phobia is present.
Just look at this 21 year-old who was taken out of a basket ball game in Florida because of his status. Magic Johnson successfully played for years, and yet we still see this kind of shit going on.
Being in Israel where the infection rate has dramatically gone up is another case in point. The guys there are far more happy with their heads up their asses thinking it is some far removed thing, in denial that they are likely in contact with positive guys all the time. As long as nobody knows, it’s completely fine.
This has created a culture of driving positive guys mostly underground where status is not revealed. If you do the rejection rate becomes about 95%.
My favourite line is, “I have a couple of positive friends and I’m cool with that, but I can’t take the risk.”
If you have to say that then you are indeed phobic and have irrational fears.
The irony is that back in the crisis days I never dealt with such stigma as I do now, or at least experienced in Israel. A month-long Skype conversationalist suddenly disappeared when I got closer to coming to Tel Aviv. I didn’t want to fuck the guy, I wanted people with whom I could socialize.
I’ve written about him already, “So how does that work?”
“You know one negative and one the other not”
“Like it does all the time.”
They are so in the dark it’s as if I’m the very first person that has been open. How can that be in this day and age. I was told, “It’s been theoretical up until now.”
My response: “Honey the moment you start fucking it is no longer theoretical”
And this is why in a five or six year period the new infection rates there have gone up 55%. It’s not because of people like me, it’s because of willful ignorance.
Even back in the early days experience told me that HIV was not easy to get. Years of off and on relationships with negative guys who stayed that way was enough to demonstrate that.
Now we have the data on the impact of antiretroviral therapy and undetectable viral load showing HIV in these circumstances is very hard to transmit, I feel like I need a pamphlet to hand out.
Of course there will always be those who aren’t comfortable with us, but this consistent 1983 reaction is tiresome.
To be honest I’ve never felt the way I have in Israel in all my years. I say about it, “First world gay life, third world stigma”
I’m tired of the phobia. I’m tired of the irrational fear. I’m tired thinking that all this work might have really been for nothing.
People are being put in jail now, we are criminals. Guys are running away like we’re the toxic plague. Getting kicked off of basket ball. Drama trying to get a student into a boarding school in the North West United States.
It’s been 25 years of being public and I hate feeling this pissed off. It’s the one thing in Israel that made me feel somewhat isolated. Oh sure the guys were interested in getting together, only to tell me how scary it is and run away. I’m only good for hooking up, heaven forbid we might have a coffee or a dinner.
I felt I was lucky that I managed to get through it all relatively unscathed over the past few decades. This doesn’t feel good. It leaves one feeling unwanted, at times unloved, and ultimately aware of a barrier between myself and others.
I met one guy and I did not disclose. For me this is not a moral issue. One-offs? Who cares as long as it is protected sex. It’s when I get a message to get together again. What if I hear" I’ll come to Toronto to visit", which I did. Then what? I’ve taken a long road to be authentic. How can I be comfortable with someone when I can’t be myself?
I don’t want to be everybody’s teacher. I don’t want to feel like a sub-species of the human race. I don’t want to feel like a criminal.
Thanks for reading, as this is a rant I needed to get off my chest.