Positively Sexy: Volttage Provides an Online Space for Dating and Expression
May 28, 2013
Mathew Rodriguez: What had you been doing before you came on to Volttage?
Jack Mackenroth: I had been a fashion designer for 20 years and, more recently, I decided to really concentrate my efforts on HIV activism and education. I was also the spokesperson for a national HIV education campaign called "Living Positive by Design" for four years where I toured the country at big events and spoke about HIV issues. I still travel extensively and speak at events and universities.
David Duran: I'm actually a freelance writer. I've been writing professionally for about three years now, full time. I write on different topics from business to entertainment, HIV, anything LGBT related. I write about travel, as well. I'm well-rounded in journalism, and I've always liked writing about HIV-related topics. I'm HIV positive; that's important to me, to be able to reach out to the community to discuss certain things, even personal things.
Jack approached me -- I had written for him before -- and he asked me to take over the blog. It was a good fit and a good combination; I was excited to do it.
Mathew Rodriguez: David, in your writing career, when did being positive become a topic you felt comfortable writing about?
David Duran: I'd say less than a year ago is when I started writing about my personal story, and I had a published piece that came out called "Coming Out for the Second Time." That's when I came out to the world that I was HIV positive. My friends and family had already known, but this was being published and it was a big deal. Everybody read it, everybody knew, and that was my introduction to being comfortable and being OK with discussing my personal life and my being HIV positive.
Mathew Rodriguez: David, you are a pretty consistent contributor to Huffington Post, and we have been talking about your pieces, "Truvada Whores" and "I'm Sorry My HIV Offends You." Obviously, it's a very mainstream audience when you write for Huffington Post. What do you think about writing for a mainstream audience and the reactions you get, versus if you had written those pieces for a more HIV-focused audience?
David Duran: You have to have a thick skin when you write about topics like that. And the reason I wrote, for example, "Truvada Whores," was to start a dialogue and start a conversation. There was a lot of negative feedback from that particular article, and even the one that just came out, "I'm Sorry My HIV Offends You." It's shocking, the backlash I get, even within the LGBT community. Yeah, it's tough, but I have a thick skin, and if people are talking negatively about it, at least they are talking about it, and it's starting a conversation. Those posts on Huffington, those particular ones, they do very well, and they get circulated. This latest one has been read on the air in Australia on live radio; it's been sent out to a client list of an HIV center in Canada; and, recently, it was translated into German, and sent out to clients who are part of a German organization. It has a wide spread, which is great. Yeah, it's a little controversial, but I'm OK with that.
Mathew Rodriguez: In your piece, "I'm Sorry My HIV Offends You," you spoke about dating while being positive, and that related back to Volttage. Volttage is reacting against the positive-phobia that permeates a lot of dating apps and sites for gay men. For those who haven't read the piece, can you talk about that stigma?
-- David Duran
David Duran: The stigma that my piece was about was mainly about using these online dating apps. On the Web, there is a lot of backlash when I do disclose my status. When it gets to that sexual nature, within the conversation, I'm very open about it. I don't have it on my profile, but I usually bring it up pretty quickly. And the piece was just talking about how people have a really negative reaction to it, or they automatically block me, and they don't even give me the opportunity. They don't even say, "Hey I'm not interested," they just delete me or tell me, "Don't want to deal with it." It was dealing with that, or dealing with the tag lines that say, "Hey, I'm clean, you be too," which is one of the most offensive things on dating websites, because that's insinuating that I'm dirty. It was just about what it's like to be dating on those websites, and being HIV positive and dealing with disclosure on those sites.
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