This is an excerpt from an article by Bruce Ward that first appeared on POZ here.
Through my thirty years of living with HIV, there has been one consistency.
Relationships and friendships have come and gone, illnesses have brought me to the brink of death and back to full health, medications have changed, many deaths have been mourned, careers have been thwarted and reimagined, hope has changed to despair and back to hope, often multiple times on the same day.
But I have always kept a gym membership.
When I arrived in New York City in the summer of 1980, at age twenty-two, I was more than ready to embrace my true self. After denying my sexuality all through suburban Massachusetts high school and wholesome Midwestern university, dating women and believing that there was something deeply wrong with me, I could reinvent myself in a city where I was a blank slate and virtually anonymous.
I knew that I if wanted to attract the kind of masculine jocks I lusted after during my college years, I had to become one of them. I ate a lot of tuna fish, lost twenty pounds of fat and began lifting weights at a local Jack LaLanne.
This was the perfect activity for me. I wasn't a particularly athletic kid, but I did enjoy the challenge of sports that I could practice on my own: shooting hoops in the driveway, slamming tennis balls with my racket against the garage door. I was competitive with myself, always trying to score more points, return more backhands, do more pushups than the week before. Going to a gym was something I could do on my own and at my own pace. And I could mark the progress.
Gyms in the early '80s were pretty basic, consisting mainly of free weights, Nautilus machines and treadmills. At first, I didn't know what I was doing. But I learned through observing and asking questions. I kept a notebook with me and I thrived on the challenge of increasing my levels and my weights each week.
I began to see immediate results, transforming from a slightly pudgy duckling who never put much thought into his appearance into a sleeker, more muscular swan. I became aware of my body for the first time, and I was proud of it.
To read the rest of the article go here.