There's such a negative stigma that comes along with identifying yourself as gay. I don't like feeling like I have to participate in a certain set of actions because of who I sleep with. It's the same thing as identifying yourself as black or white or Baptist. There's a set of standards that people automatically are gonna put in your face -- that this is what you do because this is who you are. There are so many things that come with the gay stigma that I just don't want to be a part of. I have a good friend who feels the same way -- he avoids labels.
This all began when I was 12 and my best friend was 15. It just started with, "Oh, do this," or, "How does that feel?" and then kind of progressed into full-fledged sex. When I was 15 we got it on, on the floor of my bathroom in the middle of the night. He topped me. But that was it -- that was the first and last time I had sex with him. I felt disgusted. I thought that it would be different. There wasn't anything good about that situation for me.
So I stopped having sex and started looking for stuff online. I googled "gay porn" and pretty much went through all the previews and free stuff I could find. I was more curious than anything else. I wanted to know what it was about. I lied about my age in chat rooms, told everybody I was from California -- stuff kids do. It was interesting and exhilarating and all this good stuff, but after I began having sex again and started dealing with guys on that level, it changed and I found myself not enjoying it as I thought I would. It was a lot of, "I'm going to do this because I want him to feel this way," or "This is what I think I should be doing." It wasn't stuff that I wanted to do myself. I felt like I had to do it for the other person -- like, if I do it he'll like me or be friends with me.
In high school, we only spent a few days on STDs and HIV in Health class. It was as broad as they could make it -- you learned about everything: the reproductive system, hygiene, brushing your teeth, and then they'd also tell you some stuff like, "You need to use condoms and birth control so you won't get pregnant." They skidded over some stuff, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, but they never said anything about oral sex or about two guys having sex. Anal sex wasn't spoken about at all. The face of HIV was gay men -- I guess it's easy to push it off on gay people cuz "that's where it came from," but they need to teach teenagers that this is real. It affects everybody.
I ended up learning a lot of stuff from TV. They had this one thing on MTV a long time ago. They had everybody in the TRL studio and they had an open forum for an hour. People could stand up and ask questions. That's where I learned the whole oral sex thing -- that there are certain variables going on that can make it riskier. I didn't know that. I also saw a lot of ads out there that said things like, "I'm gay, I'm HIV positive and my partner isn't, and we play safe." But ads that aim directly at gay people are difficult for me because I think it's not about: "You're gay, you have to be safe." It's about: "You're having sex, you have to be safe." Like, if you go to hang out with a guy, and you're taking condoms and lube because you're expecting to have sex -- that's gay. But if it's like, "Oh, we're just going to hang out," and then we just happen to have sex, then it's just sex. If me and a guy have had sex before, that's just what we do. It's not: "I'm gonna come over and we're gonna have sex." It's like: "We're gonna chill, watch some movies, play some video games," and then if we have sex, we have sex. So it's hard to plan ahead sometimes.
Now I'm 23 and I couldn't even tell you how many dudes I've had sex with. I think I lost count three years ago when the number reached over 100. And with that has come some scares, but I'm lucky enough to have never caught anything serious. One of the biggest problems is just finding a place where I can get tested for free, anonymously, and not have all these people in my face asking me who I'm sleeping with. I went to this testing spot in Harlem a couple months ago. It wasn't terrible, but I knew it was a spot specifically for gay people. If that wasn't the case, then everyone who worked there was gay, and that made me a little uncomfortable. I don't have a problem with anyone who is gay or anything like that, but I just don't connect with them on that level. Maybe there could be some kind of "H.I.V. isn't G.A.Y." campaign -- haha.
I see leaflets about HIV, but you get one and you put it away and then when you get home you forget about it, find it two months later and throw it in the garbage. I don't see people reading stuff like that. It has to be something you hear, something you see, or somebody telling you something. Online, it's so easy to find whatever you want. If you have the intent of, "I'm not gonna use a condom," then you can find 1,800 people who don't use condoms. At the hookup sites, you see profiles that say, "Anything goes, HIV status unknown and don't care," and these other guys who claim they're negative but have raw sex and bareback, and it's like, "You can't possibly think you're negative and you're doing all that with all these random people." And then they have bareback sex parties -- and it feels good, I know it feels good. We all know it feels better, but I can't. Not with strangers. Sometimes I feel guys just don't care.
I say just be real and put it out there. You have ads for straight people, you have ads for gay people, you have ads for everybody -- put the message out, no matter who you're having sex with, no matter who you're having a relationship with, no matter who you're in the bed with, you still need to protect yourself. And make it as serious as it is. You can't sugarcoat it. Sometimes you just need that real good smack on the back of your head to make you obey. Like, this is really serious -- you see TV shows about it, you see movies that say, "Oh, he made a mistake, he didn't use a condom, now he has HIV, end result." But people don't talk about it, like, "This is how he got HIV. He got so wrapped up, you know -- he was at the club, he got high off of this, and went home and made a really bad decision." Make that kind of stuff available -- real stories: "This is my life, this is where I'm coming from. This is how I got HIV. It could be you." It's not about: "Oh, I'm gay, I'm straight." It's: "I'm human, I have sex, I could put myself at risk."