While preparing for a discussion tonight on stigma with a group of positive guys, I decided that perhaps I’d focus on the stigma website as a template of what kind of issues to covers.
Thank god for this website as they’ve done all the work for me. Plus it’s in French and the site has everything available translated giving me any vocabulary I might have been missing.
Under one of the sections speaking to examples of stigmatizing behaviour the subject of gossip came up.
This is a HUGE problem. You don’t know how many stories that have been recounted to me about someone pulling a prospective fuck in a bar a side so they can be warned of the fact the guy is positive.
Once again, I know what gay men can be like, and beating them to the punch by disclosing to the world has always blown the sails out of anyone’s gossip wings.
I do though have to recount one story from the days I lived in Winnipeg, which I thought it was actually funny.
My 6-foot Jewish drag queen friend, who had a razor sharp wit, one night, went out to “The Club” as we called it. This must have been 18 or 19 years ago.
He wasn’t in drag at the time. While sipping on beer, someone, I can’t remember who, came up to him and said:
“I didn’t know that Brian was sick.”
“Sick” he replied back making a squishy as in I can’t believe you just said that look, and continued with, “Depraved maybe, but not sick.”
And don’t think that this doesn’t go on today. This is an Ontario-wide campaign so lets not get GTA-centric here. The realities of gay men in smaller centers are very real. Even still the gay community is still a small community within a large city.
What does this mean? Well many guys don’t want to disclose because they are afraid that they will lose control over their ability to choose who they share this information with, and who they don’t.
Even though I’ve very public, it still pisses me off is someone decided that he has the need to discuss my status with someone else. It’s simply bad etiquette and says to me this is not someone to be trusted on any level.
Once a friend told me about being in Woodies to meet a guy for a drink. He went to the washroom, then upon he discovered that potential date had gone through his little “man purse” only to find this Abacavir reaction card, or something alike.
Again, for those who think it is always our responsibility to disclose, I challenge you to tell my way in the face of such horrific behaviour why we wouldn’t think about protecting ourselves first when faced with these kinds actions.
What I’m trying to do is slowly peel off the layers of complexity that exist for gay men living with HIV in our community.
There are a few people who need to get off their ivory tower of judgment and see what our lives are really like.