Archive for December, 2008
Monday, December 29th, 2008
I don’t think it’s the time of year when people are thinking about Holiday HIV stigma out there. Boxing sales, despite the crowds, are so much more interesting.
However, I put in a few words to wish everyone well while this festive season is still upon us to indicate that there is still life on board this site.
Here’s to a good New Year.
Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
Christmas time is here, along with all of the other holidays. It’s not such a big deal for me since all of my family lives in Winnipeg. A simple phone call or two, getting passed around from person to person at grandmas or my sisters usually suffices, along with a quick chat to my dad.
Voila, Christmas done in under ten minutes.
However, it does make me reflect to the days when I did live back there. First of all, reading the temperatures on the weather channel makes me really glad not to be there. It’s somewhere in the -20s today, not to mention the windchill factor.
Beyond freezing my ass off, I never really like being forced to be around family that I never really saw most of the year. I purposely kept my family at a distance. Initially it was because then I didn’t have to deal with being open about being gay. But it wasn’t much later in my life that I learned that I was HIV positive amidst all the SARS-like hysteria going on at the time.
I felt as if I were apart from the rest of the world, from another planet. I had no connection to my family. I had told my sister, and my mother. My father eventually found out through a series of interviews I had done.
Everyone else was on the periphery. It was easier to be apart from, the face my own internalized struggles of oppression I had taken on. Since I was very young, I was never apart of any group. With bad asthma I was hospitalized frequently and participated in my first drug trial when I was thirteen.
I wasn’t the geek; I wasn’t the brainy guy, and definitely not jock. I saw how ridiculed the “losers” group were, so I just stayed on my own with few friends. Everyday I went through self-esteem squashing harassment. All of this I internalized. I was worthless. People could never hear me speak as I mumbled. This was the result of daily mocking of the way I spoke.
Why and tell you all of this? Because being HIV positive is not a singular issue. How do you think I felt within this context now knowing that I had the very virus that was causing people freaking out? It was a physiological confirmation of what I already knew, I was a leper, a freak.
Now I had to sit quietly with what I call my Pollyanna persona, the one that is kind of like a chattier smiling version of a Stepford Wife. I’d think, “If they all really knew……”
Many of us have grown up in toxic environments, and then we find out our status. It’s an emotional mind fuck on a level that only those who’ve experienced it can understand.
I’m reminded this because last week I freaked out on an obnoxious girl who called me faggot on the bus. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
That incident awoke those old feelings. Maybe it’s because of my past that I’ve reacted in a rebellious way. I just reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore and by going public in the 80s. It was my way to give my finger to the world that was heaping even more shit on me.
Anyhow, I digress. I think this is why I have such an adverse feelings to these holidays. I prefer to make my phone call, and then head out to a movie.
Thursday, December 18th, 2008
The other day while looking through Tim’s post, I like a suggestion of his, that may or may not have been tongue in check.
Has it come to be the time to hold a Poz Pride Day. Since we are a rainbow, and just as gay men were supposed to be hidden from society, so are we, maybe we need our own sort of Serological Stonewall.
This brings up an interesting parallel. Thirty years, or more gay men were supposed to hide, now we are supposed to hide. Interesting that we have created in internal dynamic that we fight against.
In any case, I’d certainly attend this Poz Pride Event, dorn myself as my alter ego at time when I write, Ms. Retro Virus, and throw those miracle once-a-day pills 7 day trail pack at the onlookers.
Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
This must be the season of lurking. My last post and comments where meant to highlight that there are two sides of the coin of having to protect oneself, and how tired I get of negative guys only talking about themselves, and how they if they could only stay away from “us” or at least if we only disclosed to them so they could avoid “us” then it would be such a perfect world.
I jokingly said maybe we need a system by which to protect ourselves that included a public notary on for on the spot encounters at the bathhouse.
Jeeez, now would they complainers be willing to give their real and full names on a document to be held accountable for their behaviour, I doubt not.
Nonetheless, I’m not suggesting, recommending, nor endorsing not disclosing. In these posts I’m not telling anyone about anything they have to or should do. You’re all adults out there, and everyone has to find their way, and often that is fluid.
And let’s face it, if someone rejects me because he is sero-sorting, really in the end, he will potentially screw himself far more than his desire to screw anyone else. My hurt feelings will not compare to the heightened risks, or the embarrassment of bumping into me at the pharmacy.
For me it took a lot of experimenting. Twenty-years later I’m still not sure I have all the answers, and how I’d proceed if I were living a life that wasn’t public.
I’ll recount a fleeting thought process I took note of yesterday.
At the YMCA yesterday, I took a soak after my yoga class. I always try to sit with my back in front of the jet on the side facing that opposite wall of the space so I can watch the semi-and naked guys walk past.
One guy walked by, quite cute actually. And let me preface this by I’ve never picked up anyone at the Y, and I knew that this was not about to change.
This fellow looks over my way and heads into the showers. I was feeling as if I had enough of the whirlpool but held off heading out as I didn’t want to appear as if I were chasing the guy.
A few moments passed and he reappeared and came into the whirlpool. I sat there for a few minutes, and ran the movie in my head of us actually talking etc. Then I thought, “Ah I can’t deal with energy of disclosure.” And for me disclosure is not just about HIV status, although that would be the most immediate one. The others I leave for dating situations.
Even so, I ran that little situational featurette in my head, and realized how much I hate that process and it’s far better to either 1) pick up gays at the ACT reception area - this is what happened with the last guy I saw, or 2) stick to those I meet in person or via internet profiles.
Friday, December 12th, 2008
SoYou know, I have to bring this up yet again. I always hear about the positive guy, what he may or may not being doing.
But what about the negative guys. It comes across that they are all so virtuous, pure victims of random sexual acts over which they had no control.
The culture of negative guys being the victim of the positive predatory malevolent behaviour.
Has any negative guy out there given the thought that maybe “us” positive guys have to protect ourselves from you?
I told the story of the hot guy being rejected at the baths for disclosing all the time. Let’s pretend one day one of those hyper-paranoid guys says, “Fuck it, he’s hot, I’ll just suck his dick for awhile, what’s the harm in that?”
Then afterwards, Mr. Neg gets freaked out and goes back to his ways of rejecting anyone that would mention his status, thus leaving himself to the head up my ass approach of preferring to fuck positive guys who either do not know their status or do not reveal it, among of course the ones that are truly neg.
Lord knows what he does in his false sense of safety, and one day a positive test result comes back. Instead of accepting it, and taking responsibility for his status he runs to public health and fingers the one guy who had to balls to divulge his positive status.
It’s one guys word against another, and that’s the reward he gets for his telling. As they say no good dead goes unpunished.
I know situations like this that really did happen, and in fact a negative ex-boyfriend was fingered to public health by one guy, even though he was negative.
So tell me, why in the face of crazy negative guys who want to run to public health or worse the police, would we [in the context of use of condoms] disclose to someone our status in a casual sexual encounter?
I counter act crazy negative guys be being so bloody public that if I had to court this would be my defense.
We are damned if we don’t, and sometimes worsely damned if we do!
Thursday, December 11th, 2008
One of the reasons I get a bit burned out on the stigma front is a bit like when I worked for a very popular cosmetics company. Every time, all dressed in black, wearing one of their product campaign necklaces, I’d be stopped relentlessly on my breaks by sales women who exclaimed they used this companies products and started naming their favorite shades.
At times the stigma campaign can be like this. My time is normally spent immersing myself in the positive aspects life has to offer. Suddenly with World AIDS Day upon us, and just like Christmas, New Years Eve, and Pride, I just want to either stay in bed with the sheets over my head, or find a nice sunny get away and spend my days at a beach.
It was in this context, combined with the onset of a good dose of winter depression that I was getting a bit tired of it all. With WAD over, I feel much better. Now I can focus on avoiding other things.
While brunching last Sunday the stigma campaign came up by this really how beefy positive man I know. He started to explain that he discloses to every partner at the baths.
To be honest I was surprised he did that, as I don’t think I’ve ever had one person disclose to me at the baths.
Come to think of it, I’ve never ever had someone disclose to me first before I took the leap and told him no matter the circumstances.
To my even greater surprise I learned invariably every time he is rejected. Here’s this really hot guy telling me he’s always getting rejected. I felt like I did when I first watched the movie Jeffery when the main character was all in turmoil because this extremely hot man was positive and couldn’t deal with it.
Just another example of what goes on in people’s lives that we are not aware of.
Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
This is how I fight HIV stigma, and at the same time accusations of causing it. I dress up my 1.75 pound Chihuahua puppy, and take her for a walk with me tucked away in my coat.
What’s your strategy?
Oughh thank god I seem to be coming out of that recent bout of tipping into the land of depression.
I wrote a piece for FAB’s holiday dinner party season, which happened to fall on World AIDS Day (WAD).
Originally I wanted to write an open letter apologizing to the community for having lived with this virus for so long that I have become a consummate professional at making being positive look so effortless. Of course only someone with a lot of experience at this should attempt this, many have become positive, tried and failed.
Thus, resulting in barriers created in the gay community to others knowing the true realities and struggles of living with HIV because not everyone can pull it off as graciously as I can.
This was my response to comments such as “[positive] Gay guys have got it easy…”
Instead I wrote a short quip on tips for those suffering on anti-retrovirals to make it through the dinner party season to better suit the theme if the issue.
Every situation I discussed has personally happened to me, so I’ ain’t making this shit up.
It was irreverent humour that is my evolved form of activism for the new century. The gay community has become so numb, so tuned out, so uncaring for the most part (if you doubt go onto Gay Guide Toronto’s message board sponsored by ACT and check out what unmoderated voices have to say), and so out of touch with our lives that I have had to resort to what I call guerrilla dark humour (irreverent - for those who are offended at any notion of visual reference).
After having stooped to doing a public access interview two WADs ago, sandwiched between some dancers and a guy selling Scorned Woman Hot Sauce, I declared myself the Kathy Griffin of AIDS.
Today I am happy, because I cannot be the Kathy Griffin of AIDS without offending someone. It took three long bloody years, four blog posts shy of 600 later, I finally got a reaction. Even on this stigma website there has not been too many hateful comments.
Unfortunately, some are too blinded by the edginess of the material to see the very serious message behind it. When you go out, or entertain, or just hang with friends, not everything is what it may appear to be.
Therefore, don’t be running around proclaiming how easy it for us when many don’t have a clue.
The irony is that I’m a relatively shy guy who hates conflict. Must be the Gemini in me.
What struck me about this complaint was that the message was “it’s better to shut up, don’t ‘rub people’s faces in it’” It’s not everyone’s reality what I portray but its mine, and that shared by many others.
So this makes it official, I have finally arrived. When I spoke to my sponsor (12-step) about this he asked me rhetorically, “How many people gone about their lives without ever having solicited a reaction out of anyone?”
My final realization was: I worked really hard for the letter damn it! Thank you!
Thursday, December 4th, 2008
When I write my on blog or elsewhere, I usually write in a very personal way. I think this stems from the days when I used to do a lot of public speaking about very private aspects of my life. When I was getting tired of it I began to call it “emotional stripping” It’s hard for me not to discuss what’s going in intimately with me. I do this so much that people I know sometimes say, “I’m a bit embarrassed when we meet as I know so much about you.” Buy I write everything that goes on…..
Why explain all of this, well, I’m just feeling post- World AIDS Day, kind of sick of stigma. I’ve never thought about it so bloody much in my life, even when I was going through it in the most intense times. At least I never thought about it in an analytic way. It was something that was out there; I was fighting it the only way I knew how. Never did I think about the academic theoretical aspects of this through a sociological lens.
I begin wondering exactly how many ways can I take this subject and turn it on its head, inside out etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an important subject, but I’m suffering from stigma fatigue. Do people suffer from stigma fatigue in other ways? When it’s such a low level constant in our lives, running in the background in the same manner spyware operates without us noticing in the background causing all sorts of havoc, does this subject become like the sound of a fridge either tuned out, or assimilated into the other sorts of noise in our lives.
Sometimes I just want to take the subject and put it back in the box and store it away at a comfortable distance.
When I agreed to this campaign I didn’t realize that there’d be points where I’d find it challenging. The only aspect I feared were hate comments. But how self-centered is that to think that I could generate hateful comments with a mere few posts when it’s taken me three years to finally get one with my writing. That took a lot of work, and I haven’t invested nearly the same amount here.
The difficult part for me is to constantly have to put my mind into the mode of stigma, an inherently negative subject, when I just want to go on and live my life and feel good about things. It’s like I have to get up every morning and meditate on starving children in Africa or something. I know an extreme exaggeration, but it gets the point across. If this example is deemed too much then substitute starving children with poverty, lack of housing, food banks whatever.
Just as my example goes to the outer limits to make a point, the way I live my life goes to extremes as well with regards to how “out” I am. I begin to wonder am I really in touch with the reality of those living regular lives going to their jobs, hanging out with friends, and just plain going on to live their lives.
This post has no particular point, other than it’s hard to not want to find a way to shut it off. On that note I ask, Do others ever get this way even though your lives may not be conducted in such a public way?