Enclosed by Disclosure
By Tree Alexander
May 12, 2010
Should we disclose 100 percent of the time?
In the HIV community disclosure is a controversial topic right now. "Tell. Tell. Tell," they say. I feel before we can tell our status we must consider three things: Why am I telling, who am I telling and am I ready to tell.
People reach out for many different reasons. Some for support, some for sorrow. Some for prayer and some for pity. No matter the reason, if it is important to you then it is indeed valid. Should you tell your partner as soon as you find out? Should you tell your bed buddy before you lay down? Should we disclose to our partners 100 percent of the time?
I say yes because of the person that I am and the work that I do. You may put someone's life in danger; silence really can equal death. Don't think that I have always been so forthright about my status. Stepping out of the "HIV closet" was a huge process and if it wasn't for my support system I don't know what I would have done.
When I found out my status, it was right after my partner (at that time) found out about his. He was completely afraid of HIV and wanted to keep things just between us. I told my sister before I got tested and after I found out, so already I had two people to talk to.
I remember being asked did I want to attend any support groups. The last thing on my mind was going to sit in a room filled with people crying about something that I wasn't fully ready to admit to myself. It wasn't until I broke up with my ex that I start to tell my family and friends.
Some people enter this fight alone, and have no one to talk to. No one's shoulder to cry on and hear the words, "I'm here for you!" Many times these people have little knowledge of the culture that comes along with the red ribbon. Now that I have experienced support groups, I tell everyone I know about some in their area. They are a great resource to find out how others deal with everyday life and disclosure.
When I started to date, disclosure brought a whole new nervousness into my life. I wondered should I tell right away. Should I tell on the third date or should I wait until we are ready to take our relationship to the bedroom. Will they stay regardless? Would they stay because they feel sorry for me and wait for me to "kick the bucket"? Or would they completely dismiss me and tell everyone my secret?
I took a step back and had to think long and hard about disclosure. The main reason why I wanted to tell everyone is for LOVE. I am accepting to everyone and had I met someone and we dated without disclosure -- Falling in love as the months rolled past, until I build up the courage to tell. Thinking they would love me forever with no doubt because we have developed the love for one another -- but I find out that they no longer want to even look at me? I feel in order to find a true person I need to be truthful and throw fear of rejection out the window.
I tell 100 percent of the time. I actually saw one guy toss my number less than 15 feet from me. It didn't hurt, because no matter what his status was, if he or anyone else couldn't handle me being so straightforward about mine, then they wouldn't be the kind of person for my life, period.
In terms of anyone disclosing to family, I think that this should be done when you're mentally ready for their reactions (whatever that may be). Also if you don't trust your family or feel they can handle it, then you should search for support elsewhere. If you feel like an outcast because of your sexuality, just telling your family about your HIV status would not create the balance of acceptance you may be looking for.
You would need to have a long conversation with yourself before you can do that with those you want to know. Let them know that HIV is a part of you and not who you are. Remember self-love comes first.
Thanks for reading my blog -- and if you want to help me get to Vienna for the International AIDS Conference in July, check out my fundraising page!
Tree House Talk (All Strength No Shade)
Tree Alexander, born in Chicago, Illinois, now living in Brooklyn, New York. HIV-positive AIDS activist and Case Worker. "I am the change I wish to see." Motivational speaker and youth advocate. Tree's target is to empower the youth and reduce stigma. Tree found out his HIV status one month after he turned 20 and HIV has changed his life completely. Tree travels and tell his story, letting people know that if we continue to conceal and fear this disease, we shall never overcome.
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