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Shame

By Brandon Lacy Campos

May 13, 2010

I am ashamed of myself.

I am choosing my words very carefully right now, because there is a difference between guilt and shame. And right now, in this moment, I am struggling to keep ahead of the shame.

I have written here before about my HIV status. I have written about the responsibilities of HIV positive people to disclose and also the responsibility of negative people to be accountable to their own behaviors which put them at risk. My conclusion, and I still believe this, is that each person in a sexual situation has the ultimate responsibility for his own sexual health.

Recently, I failed at my responsibility as did the person with whom I had sex. Twice. Further complicating the matter was that I was not truthful between the two sexual experiences, and I wasn't honest until I was confronted with the truth.

The person with whom I had sex was, rightly so, freaking out. I did my best to communicate the facts to him about my own health, likelihood of transmission, and specific tests that he can get done NOW that would alleviate most of his fears, while also being honest about the window period. No fluids were exchanged in our sexual exchange, but there is still risk. That is the truth.

He read my blog post last night and asked me why I would write it and so openly. My reasons were very simple: accountability, transparency, and ownership.

1. By admitting publicly that I fucked up, that I failed to follow through on my own beliefs, and did not live up to what I have publicly written and spoken about, I needed to return to that same forum and own my behavior. For me, to do otherwise, would be hypocritical.

2. Though all of my inner tapes are blasting me right now, telling me that I am worthless and a 'bad person,' I refuse to lets those tapes win. I am a human and made a huge mistake that could have significant consequences. I do not go out and make a habit of having unprotected sex nor does it thrill me to put another person in harms way. I am not a predator. By admitting, publicly, what happened, I am owning to my community that I failed to uphold our collective and my personal standards.

3. I am not a superhero, an angel, a saint, or a God. I can't navigate this on my own.

Last night, I was on the phone with this man for quite some time. I listened to him express his anger. I answered his questions the best I could, and I was as honest I could be including saying that fear and shame kept my mouth shut. Is that an excuse? No. It is the reason. Was it the right and best thing? No. I can't change the past, but I can manage the future differently.

And the truth is that I am having a hard time separating out my responsibility in this and his. I am not wholly to blame nor am I guilt free. I made poor choices, and he did as well. But, regardless of the reality, the truth is that I feel as if the responsibility is wholly mine to bear. Feelings aren't right or wrong but they can be needle sharp and debilitating.

This is a situation that words can't fix. I can't make things better, though I am skilled at making things worse. Thank you for those that reached out and offered love and support last night.

This blog is my apology to him, myself, and my community.

Send Brandon an e-mail.

This piece originally appeared in Brandon's blog My Feet Only Walk Forward.

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