Print this page    •   Back to Web version of article

Alfredo

2002

My name is Alfredo. I'm a 54-year-old HIV-positive Latino. I lived in Peru until 1972. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 25 years old. I have been living in Los Angeles since.

When I was in Peru at the age of five, more or less, I remember feeling different and that I had lost my sense of belonging in the world, like a yellow carnation may feel in a bouquet of red roses. I didn't know then what it was all about. Much later I found out it had to do with the disclosure of my homosexuality. I felt insecure and inadequate. I remember my first year in school with the Christian Brothers. I became friends with Luis and we used to play doctors and nurses, naked. I was attracted to Luis. I shared that experience with my Mother and she told me something like this, "Don't tell this to anyone and much less to your father." I learned then how to keep secrets. I kept secrets in my monologue with myself in my mind. I didn't like that feeling of not sharing feelings with others. Later in life secrets came to visit me and again I did not know how to deal with them. I was an adult with unresolved secrets of childhood.

At the age of seven or eight, I heard things like "Boy's don't cry, queers are perverts, be a macho man," etc. I call them today "filters" of my Hispanic culture and my Catholic upbringing. I started eating a lot to numb and hide my feelings.

Breaking the Silence... Rompiendo El Silencio: Alfredo
At 17 I wanted to be a priest. Basically, I couldn't deal with life. My mind was hearing a lot of voices. My close friends found out about it and gave me a good-bye party. They hired a prostitute to entertain me that night. Carmen was her name and she was very caring, benevolent and sweet. That first sexual experience blew my mind. A week later my friend Coco took me on his motorcycle outside the city and in the middle of a cornfield with a full moon shining in the Andean sky I had my first sexual experience with a man. I really liked it. I really did. I didn't want to be a priest anymore. Coco and I became "silent lovers." Later Coco got married to a woman and my heart was broken in a 1,000 pieces. I managed to finish college, but I needed to numb my feelings. Alcohol did it. I'm not proud of it, but I believe it saved my life then.

In 1972 I had the opportunity to move to Los Angeles to study English as a second language and to work on my advanced college degree. I took the opportunity, thinking "If I do this geographic move, all my feelings and secrets will stay in Peru." I arrived in Los Angeles on February 20, 1972. I got very busy.

Shortly after my arrival to Los Angeles I married an American woman -- life became busier. Our first son was born in 1976 and our second a year later. They are the light of my life today. We bought a house, got good jobs, and life was fine. However, on the inside I was very sad, like a clown in a circus making the audience laugh but dying of loneliness.

I started going out at night looking for men. It didn't make any sense to me. Here I was with a beautiful wife, two handsome boys, a home, cars, and all that jazz, but empty inside. In 1983 I shared my gay nighttime excursions with my ex-wife. I was still married to her. She suggested for me to go to therapy at my HMO. I did. Early in 1986 she asked me to leave the family to find who I was. I didn't want to do that. I felt scared like a mouse in front of a hungry lion, very scared. To make a long story short, on my 39th birthday I left the house and my sons. Until today, I hear at night the cries of my children for the pain I was causing for that action.

So, in 1986 I entered the gay life in secret. No one knew about my sadness. I didn't ask for help nor did I share with others about it. My sexual activities were in parks and bathhouses mostly in the dark. I didn't know that gay men could make love in any other place. They were dangerous, exciting and painful experiences.

Shortly after, I started to lose weight, and I took the HIV test. On October 10, 1986 I was told (over the phone, that is the way doctors often shared the news in the mid-1980s) that I was HIV-positive and would have two to four years to live. My life ended right at that moment. I behaved very irresponsibly and I didn't care much for others or myself. I drank like a sailor and had many sexual partners. Around 1989 I fell in love with Joe, and after practicing safe sex for a while he introduced drugs into our lives. I started using drugs recreationally and later became addicted. It was very difficult to admit it, but finally in 1993, I did.

I found out that if I start sharing my secrets with others I would not be feeling what I was feeling inside. It was suggested that if I do that, drugs and alcohol will not be needed to numb pain. When I shared my secrets, I felt freedom. I started disclosing my gayness, my HIV status, my addiction to drugs and alcohol, and I found out a great tool in life: sharing my secrets with others was like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I may not get to see the light at the end of the tunnel; however, the journey became less scary and more pleasant.

My ex-wife knew about my HIV infection in 1986. Not until ten years later did I share this with my sons. I was afraid to be rejected and abandoned by them. I was very wrong. They became a little sad and angry at first. "Dad, why didn't you trust us?' they said to me. At that moment I realized that the payoff of breaking my silence to my loved ones was the deeper relationship that I now have with my sons. We are more intimate now and our relationship has never been more enhanced since I disclosed my deep, dark secrets. The lesson that I learned is that disclosure with wisdom is a great gift because now I have a great group of supporters and friends who love me with all my spoken secrets and grant me the gift of being Alfredo. And, I do the same to them. Life has become a never-ending process of disclosure. It never ends; there is always one more to come out. But as long as I used wisdom to know the difference and a loving God on my side to tell me his plans for me, I will be in better hands. I feel blessed and I have not had bad feelings against my Mother, society, or Catholicism for my past filters. I have a new vision and it's called being honest to the best of my ability.


Back to the Table of Contents.


This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).




This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio). You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:
http://www.thebody.com/content/art32526.html

General Disclaimer: TheBody.com is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through TheBody.com should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.