In my last post, I wrote about an experience I'd had some time back. To recap briefly, a guy I'd met at the gym asked me out for a drink one evening, and after we'd spent some time sipping beers at a local bar, it became clear he wanted to get physical. So I did what I always do and disclosed my serostatus. He panicked, and I ended up going home confused and frustrated. While such experiences have been rare for me in San Francisco, just last night I had another one. It's led me to ponder the issue of how HIV-negative gay men think about sex and HIV.
I had an experience a while back that I wanted to share because it involves a question with which all us poz folks must wrestle -- disclosure. Specifically, I want to discuss the most common and vexing disclosure problem I've confronted as a poz gay man -- revealing my HIV status to potential sexual and/or romantic partners.
Since June is the month in which we celebrate Pride, I thought it might be appropriate for me to address a question to my fellow members of the LGBT community, and in particular to my gay brothers. I want to talk about an issue our community used to think was really important, but which seems to have fallen off the radar screen recently. That issue is HIV.
People who know me well know that when I argue, I like to win. If I make a prediction about something, I usually like it when events later prove me right. Usually. Sometimes, though, I'd really much prefer to be proved wrong. This is one of those times.
If you follow the news about HIV at all, you've already heard about a controversial public service announcement (PSA) from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). Entitled "It's Never Just HIV," the PSA warns gay men that getting HIV will make them more susceptible to other diseases and conditions, like osteoporosis, dementia, and anal cancer.
The end of 2010 brings with it the first anniversary of my stint as a blogger for TheBody.com. When I started blogging, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into. I'd never done this before, and I had only a vague idea of what I might write about.
I hadn't intended to write about the topic of suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. The recent, horrific rash of suicides among young people bullied and harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation has already received abundant attention, all of it well deserved. But as a lawyer, I'm disappointed that there's an aspect of this issue that hasn't been much discussed. To me, an important but unmentioned factor in this is the relationship between homophobic laws and the psychological health of LGBTs. So after a little background, let me see if I can shed some light on what I believe that relationship to be.
I recently marked an anniversary. Unfortunately, it wasn't the kind you celebrate. No, it was instead a profoundly sorrowful occasion, the second anniversary of the death of one of the dearest friends I've ever had -- my friend R.
You almost certainly wouldn't notice it if you saw me, but I wear a mask. It's not the kind you buy at the novelty store for Halloween, though. My mask is actually extremely unobtrusive. In fact, that's its intended purpose, to keep me from standing out.
In 1994, psychologist Walt Odets published a scathing critique of what was then called "AIDS education." Writing in the now-defunct AIDS & Public Policy Journal, Odets examined the approaches used to educate gay men about HIV, and to put it mildly, he found them wanting. While working on my last post (Raw Emotion), I reread his article, entitled AIDS Education and Harm Reduction for Gay Men: Psychological Approaches for the 21st Century, and I was stunned to discover that almost all of what Odets criticized 16 years ago could still be said of much HIV prevention and safer sex education today. Sadly, 10 years into the 21st century, Odets's jeremiad remains both accurate and relevant.