"Talk to me like you talk to your friends when no one is around."
That was my only request when I sat down with each of four HIV-negative gay men to create a short film about their lives and attitudes.
They held back nothing, sharing details of their sex lives, their fears of becoming infected, and, perhaps most surprising, what they really think of HIV-positive guys. I couldn't believe their candor, and have worked to distill two days of explicit conversations into 10 minutes of brutal honesty (the language is sometimes NSFW [not suitable/safe for work]).
They don't speak for every gay man, only for themselves, and the differences of opinion between them is really striking. It really is a snapshot of what it means to be a negative and sexually active gay man these days. No matter which of these men you might relate to the most, there's no doubt they are all just trying to carve out a satisfying sexual existence during a pretty confusing time.
I couldn't help thinking of The Golden Girls when I was editing, because all the archetypes are here: the reserved one, the sensible one, the endearing one and the man-eater. Just saying this makes me guilty of the very thing the video is meant to address: how easily we label ourselves and others, and how we try to assign the same perspective to entire groups of people.
I deliberately produced this without any particular context. No one is presented as right or wrong. It is meant to provide a forum for these men to speak their truth without interruption -- and perhaps help us see them as men stumbling through life as we all are, trying to make the best decisions they can with the information they have. I refuse to judge them for that.
If there is anything to be learned from this video, it is that there is no monolithic HIV-negative perspective. Gay men are far too diverse for that. That's a lesson our community seems to have to learn over and over again.