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My Stages of PRIDE

June 1, 2010

Robert Breining

Robert Breining

So this month is Pride Month on TheBody.com and, after thinking about the topic, I realized that I went through many stages of Pride in my 31 years.

Stage 1. NO PRIDE

Like many young, gay men, I was teased in school all the time. I was called fag, faggot, queer and so on. So I always viewed being gay as a negative thing. Something people wouldn't accept. It was something I thought I couldn't accept either.

I came out to my family at the age of 17. I'd just graduated high school and thought that I had to hide my sexuality due to my Catholic school education. I was taught that being gay was a sin and I was going to hell. So I felt ashamed and hated being gay and, even worse, I hated being me.

My parents accepted and loved me, but asked that I not be so open about it to others. I understood that my parents grew up and experienced life in different times. They asked me to be myself, but not advertise it. I respected that, because they thought they were protecting me and, in a way, they were. People can be mean. So I didn't have any pride in being gay right away. There were no gay role models to look up to. I do remember watching Ellen (These Friends of Mine) on television and seeing her character come out as a lesbian. Shortly after that, the show was canceled.

I swore I would never be that gay guy that would have a rainbow sticker on his car, or attend a Gay Pride event. I thought these events and parades were all about flaunting your sexuality. I was too ashamed of who I was to do that.

Stage 2. Scoring Some Pride

In 2002, I was desperate for real friends. Most of the people I met at bars were never really interested in friendship. I quickly discovered it was usually all about sex. I was in a relationship for a long time and shut out most of my old friends at that time in my life.

I then discovered something that would change the course of my life completely. I was online one day and searched for gay soccer teams. The search results brought up the Philadelphia Falcons -- a gay soccer team in Philly. I was so excited to know that I wasn't the only gay guy who loved soccer.

I remember driving to my first practice not knowing what to expect. I arrived at the fields and had people introduce themselves to me right away. They asked, "What position do you play?" and "How long have you been playing?" I instantly had a new circle of friends by the end of the practice. These people were friends and teammates, but they also turned into a brotherhood and sisterhood of support for me. They let me see that there was no reason to hide my sexuality. No reason to not be me.

We even traveled as friends and teammates to San Francisco and then Copenhagen, Denmark, to play in the IGLFA (International Gay & Lesbian Football Association) tournaments together. I was shocked to discover that so many countries sent teams to these tournaments.

My team wasn't just about playing soccer, they also participated in community events, such as Pride and Outfest. I remember going to my first Pride event with the team. It was something I never experienced before. We set up a table with our club's info and recruited new teammates. It felt so good to be so honest for the first time. I don't even think my teammates knew how big of a deal it was for me to be there. I now had gay friends that were truly my friends. For the first time, I saw being gay as a positive thing.

I Got Pride

Photo courtesy of Robert Breining

Stage 3. I Got Pride

Now I see Gay Pride in a whole new light. At the age of 31, I see life with a new pair of glasses. After receiving my HIV diagnosis in 2001, I lived in a denial stage for five years. One day, I just said, "Screw it! I can only be the best me that I can be." This not only shifted my thoughts on my HIV status, but also my thoughts about being gay. I discovered that pride is a lot more than just letting the world know you're gay. It is about being proud of who you are and accepting your sexuality.

The purpose of the Pride movement is to remove the feelings of shame or fear that some have about their sexuality or gender identity. It is an event that brings the gay community together to discuss important issues like gay marriage or HIV/AIDS and find out about local events happening in the city. It shows those who attend that they are not alone.

I haven't been to a Pride event in a few years, but my work in the HIV/AIDS community will change that. I have already come out about my sexuality and HIV status publicly on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and POZIAM. The response from family and friends has been very supportive.

Send Robert an e-mail.

Read more of POZIAM, Robert Breining's blog, at TheBody.com.

Get e-mail notifications every time Robert's blog is updated.

This article originally appeared in TheBody.com's Pride 2010 special section.


This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Drew(Sydney AUS) (Sydney) Fri., Sep. 10, 2010 at 6:23 am EDT
Sport and being gay....oh dear ! :P

Great Blog.
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Comment by: Arnie (Norfolk, VA) Sat., Jun. 12, 2010 at 10:22 am EDT
Glad you posted your story. It bring back memories mostly bad about growing up in a small country town (parents very Catholic). Feeling alone, ashamed,and confused (this was in the 60's). Did the normal thing and got married, had kids, military, went crazy when I was 32 and had to find out what my life was about. Still had to hide for another 10 yrs to protect family, but found out what it felt like to be loved and feel love. Found out I was poz last year (long story) but today I don't care who knows or what they think. I am me and proud of it. Also proud of my children, and most of all my partner who is the greatest thing in the world to me. Yes things are better. Even with AIDS I am happier then I have ever been.
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Comment by: Robert Breining Sat., Jun. 12, 2010 at 9:09 am EDT
@Gilbert sure you can email using the link above or the contact page of www.poziam.com I look forward to your email and thank you everyone especially theBody.com for allowing me to express myself in a blog.
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Comment by: Didier (Antwerp Belgium) Fri., Jun. 11, 2010 at 8:28 am EDT
Oh guys am not out yet and resently tested HIV . am as healthy as the word no signs yet. But worried of letting known as HIV guy and as a gay. But is ok . Robert you are a brave guy . Am 40 not out .
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Comment by: Marcelo Lopes (São Paulo, Brazil) Thu., Jun. 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm EDT
Dear Robert,

I am really touched by your story!!!
I strongly believe that most of us(I mean gay guys), were in the same place that you were.
But you know something, life is so good and there are so many things to do, and people to see and learn something.
I hope all the best for you my friend.
You are a cute guy and I am so sure that life will bring you many good things!!!

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Comment by: Eric (Philadelphia, PA) Thu., Jun. 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm EDT
Robert, On the eve of Philly Gay Pride (LGBT) weekend thank you for the reminder of why we need to continue to affirm and reaffirm our unity and pride. We've come a long way since I came out in '91, the year I found out I was positive, and at the same time not very far. Life is too short to live it in the closet and ashamed.

Happy Pride,

Eric B.
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Comment by: Gilbert (Colorado ) Thu., Jun. 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm EDT
Robert--Thank you for the beautiful story. What an inspiration. I have been positive since January of 2008 and just this month started treatment. I would love to an email penpal with you if you are interested.
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Comment by: Frank (Roanoke,VA) Thu., Jun. 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm EDT
Your story...and willingness to share it...is encouraging I would hope to many,many who struggle with accepting "who they are". This is the ultimate coming out..truly accepting and celebrating the gifts we all have, that yes God gave to us, with our community.It is dependent on the acceptance of the world's diversity, in all of it's colors, as God intended it to be. Having been diagnose way back in '88...I am now a local activist of sorts with web sites and rally's and all that. My passion has become to fight the oppression against us, and I will never stop.Chronic oppression has led many of our community into complacency,fear based decisions,and a feeling that "what is wrong..?...there are no rocks being thrown through my windows...why are you guys complaining about not having equality..?" It is only through true realization,acknowledgement and acceptance of ourselves that we are then capable of being all who we can be...our buried passions rising up and forging a fire of new projects and ambitions. We are who we are...and I ask those who continue to use the word "choice" to consider the next time they are in a room or a setting where there are people they may find attractive...to tell themselves the opposite and look for those they find unattractive, to watch or pursue. How is that anyone can "choose" who they naturally find attractive?
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Comment by: Daniel (Eugene, OR) Fri., Jun. 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm EDT
I am 42 and still struggling with the self-acceptance of being a queer/poz guy. At times I feel like the only one on the planet. My introversion has become nearly crippling. Thank you Robert for letting me into your world a little bit, so I can remind myself that I am not as alone as I feel most of the time. Loneliness is the worst side effect of HIV that I've experienced so far.
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Comment by: David (Myrtle Beach, SC) Thu., Jun. 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm EDT
Hi Robert,

You truly are a brave soul the way that you've been able to come out about being gay and having HIV. I am 55, grew up in an era when being gay was a death ticket. I am still not out and on top of that tested HIV+ in 2008. It's been a tough life though you are an inspiration. Keep up the PRIDE.
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Comment by: Tree Alexander (Brookyln NY) Thu., Jun. 3, 2010 at 4:20 pm EDT
31 years??? NO! Stop playing! you dont look a day over 23. I love it Robert! Thanks for you blog! ttyl
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