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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Lessons Learned

By Brandon Lacy Campos

May 14, 2010

The last couple of days are ones which I would never like to repeat. Ever. The great thing is that I can control whether or not I will have to relive this kind of experience. Of course, anytime I believe that I have control over anything, the universe has a direct and sometimes cruel way of dispelling that illusion. This list of lessons is by no means exhaustive, but it is what I have learned so far.

1) There is an ugly price to pay for fear. Much of this could have been avoided. If I had been sober, if I had been honest from the gate, if, after the first incident I had disclosed, if I hadn't lied, if after the second incident I had disclosed, if I had disclosed within the first four days, if I would have disclosed before being directly confronted, all of these would have made this experience less hurtful, less painful, less shameful, and less complicated. Each day that I failed to confront my own fear and shame made matters worse. If I had the mind and spirit to be brave, this would have been a better situation all around. I can control the impact of fear on me, I can be brave, because, frankly, facing my fear from the gate, despite the circumstances, would have been better than anything that has happened thus far.

2) I am only responsible for myself. Over the last couple of days, I have struggled to think my way through my responsibility instead of feeling my way through it. The more that I lost myself in my head, replayed the events, replayed the conversations after being confronted, the less able I was to see, clearly, where I was at fault and where my responsibility ended. The itty bitty shitty committee in my head, and the Great Judge that sits at the head of that committee were trying their best to rip me apart and lay the entire experience on my shoulders. Last night, I stopped thinking and started feeling. I asked my spirit if I thought I had done absolutely everything I could to handle the fall out of this situation up to this point. I have. My head needs to shut the fuck up. I am listening to my spirit from this point forward. The truth is that in the absence of rape or assault the responsibility is split evenly down the middle no matter the substances involved or the fact that I lied about my status after our first encounter. I have to live with the fact that I created a false sense of trust in another person and that person acted on the trust. In the end, the choice to act was taken by both of us. The responsibility falls on both of us.

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3) I get to be a a human with flaws. I made a mistake. It was a huge and terrible mistake. It could have far reaching consequences. But there was no maliciousness. There was no intention to do harm. I can and will learn from this. I have learned from this. And I get to be flawed. I will not be held to a higher standard or responsibility because of HIV status than any other person having consensual sex. Every day people make stupid ass mistakes involving sex. People make even more stupid mistakes when drugs and alcohol are involved. Yet, the fact remains that mistakes happen. There are consequences that can come from them. But I am NOT a bad person for making a mistake. I am human. It comes with the fucking package.

4) The outcome is now out of my hands. I have spent hours trying to deal with my emotional baggage from this and the rage and hurt of the other party. The truth is that until the test results come out, there is a limit to the comfort that either of us can receive. I spent an hour at the SGI Buddhist Center last night chanting and asking the Universe to create healing from this and to limit the impact of my mistake and his. As a person of faith, I now have to believe that no matter the outcome, there will be healing to this, though the timeline for that healing may be outside of my control. By being active in my faith, I can send out the healing energy that I hope to get back. I will be returning to pray tonight.

I will not lie and say that I am at peace with what has happened. That would be a huge fucking lie, and I am done with lying out of shame, fear, or as a way to comfort myself. Its a false comfort. There remains active work that I can do to create learning from this. Last night, I was contacted by a health educator in San Francisco that trains youth to be HIV, STI and Sexual Health Advocates. He asked if he could use my last blog as an education/discussion tool for the youth with which he works. I consented. Ultimately, I write about my life experiences in the desperate hope that someone, somewhere will learn from my experience and not repeat my mistakes. I don't believe what I have written about is an act of bravery. It is an act of community preservation. I know that I am not the only person that has had this experience. I know I am not the only person in New York City that is having this exact same experience right now. But we all walk around in a cloud of self-delusion thinking that good people don't make bad choices. We believe that making a bad choice makes us a bad person (that's the difference between guilt and shame...guilt says I made a bad choice, shame says I am a bad choice). We walk around believing that we are the only one going through what we are going through, and so we keep out stories to ourselves. We don't admit our mistakes or our own responsibility when responsibility for mistakes are shared. We don't talk openly about sex and our own bad choices. We, and I include myself in all of these, start with trying to blame/shame/point the finger at everyone but ourselves. We try to demonize, hurt, break down, and otherwise spiritual crush the object of our anger. We also run away from our own responsibility and hope and pray that everything works out for the best when honesty, up front, is the way to guarantee that it will all work out for the best. We take refuge in our own sense of self or sense of shame.

I know my responsibility. I know my culpability. I am no longer willing to feel ashamed. I feel the guilt as a tool to help me remember the possible tragic outcomes and the real emotional toll when I make a mistake. I am human. I am a good person. I make mistakes. I am loved. Thank you to all of you that have been real with me over the last few days, given me love when I have been deep in my own pain and shame, and pointed out that I remain a good person and that my contributions to this world and my community far outnumber the mistakes I've made. Thank you for reminding me that I do have a responsibility here but that doesn't include tearing myself apart nor to allow myself to be torn apart in order to mitigate the pain of anyone else.

Send Brandon an e-mail.

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

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Brandon Lacy Campos (New York, NY) Mon., Jun. 21, 2010 at 10:35 am EDT
Thank you Pete. I appreciate your words and thank you for reading.
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Comment by: pete (london, uk) Fri., Jun. 18, 2010 at 9:09 am EDT
Phew! - Bon Courage Brandon -

( et enfin les bontemps continueront a rouler ! )

I too have been dealing with the disclosure issue - as i'm sure do many others - and your blog is most helpful.

It sounds as if your encounter may have been fairly innocent and therefore entailing minimal risk ( for one must surely accept but also adjust to that lurking possibility as part of one's responsibility to oneself and others)

Mistakes do happen and we can none of us do more than we can in the struggle to uphold the highest standards to which you allude, and to which we may all aspire .

Thank you . .and Best Wishes
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Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos is a 32-year-old queer, poz, African-American, Afro-Puerto Rican, Ojibwe and Euro (smorgasbord) poet, playwright, blogger, journalist and novelist (that last one is slowly coming along). In 2009, MyLatinoVoice.com named him the #2 queer, Latino blogger to watch. In 2006, the Star Tribune named him a young policy wonk for his political shenanigans. His writing and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies including, most recently, Mariposas, edited by Emanuel Xavier and published by Floricanto Press. This fall, his work will appear in the academic text Queer Twin Cities, published by the University of Minnesota Press. And, one of these days, Summerfolk Press will be publishing his first solo book of poetry: It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt. Brandon is hard at work on his first novel, Eden Lost, and he lives in New York City with his partner, artist David Berube, and his boss, Mimzy Lacy Berube de Campos (their dog).

It's with heavy hearts that we share that Brandon passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. He was 35 years old. Read memorials by Brandon's friends and colleagues.


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