As the year comes to an end, I think about all the things I meant to write about, but for one reason or another, didn’t. Maybe, I didn’t want to be judged, and subject myself to criticism and stigma. But I’ve come to the conclusion that that there are always going to be people who will never understand the choices I make because their minds are already made up. So be it.
I need to confess something. Ever since those early days of the AIDS crisis, I have been attracted to guys who are HIV+. My expectations for a boyfriend, I think, have always been somewhat average. I wanted someone with a job who was able to support himself, a place to live other than his parent’s basement, a sense of style and humor that most people would appreciate, and above all, someone who sees the whole picture. By that I mean, someone who can see past their own nose, a good deed doer, in other words. Those are the guys who, I think, have the potential to make the best chemistry.
It just so happens that many of the guys I started dating in the 80s and early 90s turned out to be HIV+. Coincidentally, they were also real and unpretentious. Think about it. Just for a moment, put yourself in someone else’s shoes. After weeks of running a low grade fever, an occasional bout with thrush, and some nasty skin rashes, you decide to get yourself checked.
After a grueling wait period, the diagnosis comes back. You are HIV+.
You let this unwanted stranger sit with you and follow you everywhere. What goes through your mind? Josh Robbins who writes the blog, “I’m Still Josh” seems to expect the news, but still needs to stop and catch his breath. Then he moves forward and says,
“Well, I got some work to do to bring that viral load down.”
Another blogger, Patrick Ingram, “The Pos Life of Patrick,” admits to leaving the clinic feeling scared and alone after he was told he tested positive, but then immediately offers to help anyone who suspects that they might have the virus.
“I’ll go with you if you live in my area. Please, please don’t do this alone,” he says.
You can’t get any more real and compassionate than these two guys, and they put my other friends to shame who seem more concerned about where to travel for vacation than they do about the greater good.
Yes, I know some HIV+ guys who keep their illness at a distance, compartmentalizing their life, and pretending like everything is ok. My former partner Robert, who was diagnosed with AIDS in November, 1994, first told everybody, including his family that he had “a blood cancer.” He thought it would get him a little more sympathy than an AIDS diagnosis. He was right, but in the end, his denial only delayed his healing.
I’m sure that my HIV positive friends have some down days like everybody else. But what I see in them is a passionate push to move forward, get past the bad stuff. There’s a courage, an optimism, and a strength, oddly coupled with a sweet vulnerability that quite frankly, I find attractive. These are the kind of qualities I want in the person I grow old with.
The first week of November, my boyfriend and I attended the wedding of one of my friends, Jay, and his new husband, Angelo. To me, there was no discernible difference between this wedding and any other. There was love, excitement, apprehension and all those emotions that come with the ritual celebration of marriage. This wedding also marked a victory of sorts. Like so many HIV-positive men I know, Jay wondered whether he would be seen as lovable with his HIV-positive status. I suppose Angelo saw the same kind of thing I have seen so many times in Jay; flawed like the rest of us, but a guy who is always real, and kind, and with a clear eye focused on the future, laughing and crying like the rest of us.