I’ve had a crush on Zachary Quinto long before I knew that he was gay. My first thought? There is a god after all. He can almost do no wrong.
Emphasis on almost. While he was recently lamenting what he sees as the complacency around HIV in the gay community, I had to take umbrage with some of the commentary. This of course is a reference to his original interview in Out Magazine. Then came the Huffington Post response to all the blowback he got. It was good until I got to this part.
"I have had numerous conversations in my travels with young gay people who see the threat of HIV as diminished to the point of near irrelevance. I have heard too many stories of young people taking PrEP as an insurance policy against their tendency toward unprotected non-monogamous sex. THAT is my only outrage."
Guys in the 20s and early 30s are about as familiar with the crisis days and pre-treatment days as I am with the Vietnam War. As one said to me, “It’s all theoretical.” My response was, “Dear, as soon as you put a dick in your mouth it is no longer theoretical.” But that’s how they see it.
As they say, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Wagging our fingers at them isn’t going to help. I offer no answers here.
One time a post-sex disclosure happened by accident online. I asked the guy to read my profile which included my status and get back to me if he was interested. He said he had, and in reality he hadn’t. Much later, he read an article I wrote. The next thing I know I’ve got a surprised email full of concern. “For god’s sake.” I thought. He only sucked my cock. Not to mention he didn’t read my profile so I was just as surprised as he was.
This was the guy who said it was theoretical to him. I was originally quite harsh and very judgmental. Somehow at age of 28 I was the first person he’d known about with a positive status.
How does this happen? A carefully constructed system of willful blindness. It’s a system where those who are out about their status are the ones that are penalized and stigmatized.
Additionally, running in the background like malware is racism, unequal power dynamics, sense of self, HIV criminalization, stigma and social campaign fatigue; sprinkle a little crystal meth in for good measure and there is a subject for a PHD grad’s thesis somewhere.
I’ve also encountered another sub-segment of guys who refuse to use condoms. They are both negative and positive. Nothing I could say would change their mind. This is their choice. They have done their risk analysis.
"We’d rather seem to support HIV infection (by depriving men of access to PrEP) rather than accept that condomless sex is going to happen, no matter how much you scream and shout."
This is where my fellow gay men go all right-wing in their ideology. It’s as if we have been transported to the 1950s talking about birth control. We’d rather have unwanted pregnancies than recognize that teens have sex. Just like we’d rather seem to support HIV infection (by depriving men of access to PrEP) rather than accept that condomless sex is going to happen, no matter how much you scream and shout.
There is a deep routed fear that everyone is going to rush out and bareback when given PReP. Some guys will, some guys won’t. I don’t want someone telling me how to have sex. I certainly don’t want other gay men to label others as “Truvada Whores.” We are our own worst enemies. At times we are not much better than those we love so much to criticize.
Whenever I talk about the implications behind being undetectable and risk level in the latest research, the first thing that comes out of people’s mouthes is “It doesn’t mean you don’t use condoms.”
My immediate reaction is, “Where did I say not to use condoms?” Your need to control is so great that you have to get it out of your mouth and past your lips in record time.
I like the idea of redundancy; using a condom and being undetectable means that negative guys should not be freaking out. No need for the “Ebola-Reponse”. We need them to get with the program.
It’s time to stop the shaming, stop the outrage, and get educating.
Lately when I do go on a hook up site, I tend to go to one particular barebacking site. Everyone is up front about their status, sex-positive and stigma free. I have no desire to get together with anyone negative.
I’ve had enough of guys sero-sorting by stamping “neg only” to self-select out the virally suppressed undetectable positive guys. In the end they will be inevitably hooking up with a guy recently exposed and highly infectious during the initial acute phase.
The problem is that often I’m not that interested in barebacking as there are many other things I’d rather not get. But what does that say about the times when this is the venue in which I feel the most accepted and comfortable. (This is a long way of saying I don’t have sex that often.)
Now if we could only create that kind of dynamic off-line and in our broader community we’d be so much further ahead.
Zachary is still my heartthrob. When it comes to issues around HIV, he’s still a work in progress.