March 15, 2013 - 11:30 pm
Met a guy last night online who was visiting LA for the weekend. We meet up this evening and found we had more than just a simple mutual attraction. He's newly POZ (just six months) so when he got an eyefull of the tattoo he was a bit confused but being in the medical field he quickly connected the dots. His reaction, like many, was supportive yet I got the distinct feeling it wasn't for him. Coming from a more traditional background I think being openly gay and now POZ was more than enough for him to deal with though he did have a nice tribal tattoo. I wonder if the tattoo would have been an issue for him if we wanted something more serious or maybe he would want one as well ... there's a thought.
March 17, 2013 - 12:30 am
We decided to meet up late this evening but because I presently have roommates and like my privacy we chose a more ‘interesting’ venue to hang out at, the local gay bathhouse. To be honest I have avoided the bathhouses for many years as they no longer hold much appeal. But lacking a place, seeing how he had never been to one before and me desiring to gauge the reaction of people to the tattoo in a sexually charged environment, the bathhouse on a late Saturday evening was the perfect place.
We did the grand tour of the smallest bathhouse in LA and while he was filling his eyes with the sights - bathhouses by nature defy description so I will not attempt - I was focused on the patrons and their reactions … which was nothing. That said, we were never approached, nor did we approach anyone to get any sort of reaction. After a thorough once over of the place we retired to our room and later headed out to West Hollywood.
March 17, 2013, 2:30 am
We arrived at one of my old haunts, the now remodelled Mickey’s bar for after hours but instead of dancing we found ourselves on the patio talking. He attended small high school where he was openly gay, a handsome guy who was into weightlifting at the time and had the respect of his fellow classmates. Now in his early 30’s he was having to quickly come to terms with being HIV+, something he was having issues accepting and this caused him difficulties disclosing.
Knowing he came from a small southern community I asked if he had told anyone of his family he was positive, something I have yet to do. Upon his diagnose he called his siblings and told them, “I am HIV+, I need you to go on the web tonight and learn about it because when I call you tomorrow I am going to need your support!” and hung up. He called back the next evening and when they answered the verdict was unanimous “you are not going to die!” I have to be honest, this was one of the most simple yet powerful disclosure stories I have ever heard.
March 17, 2013 - 4:30 am
We spoke some more and being the night was still felt young to us we decided to retire to LA's largest bathhouse to round out the evening. If I was going to get a reaction to the tattoo I imagined it would be at this location. Though it was late, there were still lots of people awake and looking to connect. We got a room on the ground floor and made a quick tour of this location; it had changed a bit since my last visit years earlier but the general layout remained the same, with a basement, ground floor and upstairs.
My guest had a mind to get a third to join us, so we set out on a search. There was no shortage of guys and though we made several attempts, whether being a couple was too intimidating or the tattoo worried the players or the general luck of the evening, we were unsuccessful. Neither approached nor shunned, without actually interviewing someone I couldn't say for certain what was the root issue, if any. So much for testing the tattoo at the bathhouses.
March 24, 2013 - 10:00 pm
Yet another in my series of my trips to the Korean spa with the tattoo, one guy struck up a conversation about it saying it looked like the Olympic symbol (it does have three semi concentric rings), I corrected him saying it was actually a biohazard symbol and left it at that. I was not particularly interested in informing him of my status as this was still the Korean spa and I didn't feel entirely comfortable just announcing my status randomly, sort of defeats the idea of limiting disclosure. However if he pressed me I would have willingly explained why I was wearing the tattoo as it’s purpose is to promote discussion and it definitely empowers me to disclose.
March 26, 11:45 pm
Sitting in the spa at the gym before closing, just myself and another guy (seen him before never talked to him), when out of the blue he commented on the tattoo saying it looked like a gay symbol. (In fact the biohazard tatt is rainbow coloured so it serves to ID me as gay to the observant). In context this was the day of the US Supreme Court hearing the arguments regarding the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the following day they were scheduled to hear Proposition 8 arguments and he was curious how I felt about it as well as the possible outcome. This was fascinating, as the tattoo appears to get people talking about things that are close to my heart other than just my status. This was a great and most unanticipated result.
March 30, 2013 9:00 pm
Arrived late to the Korean spa. I had problems applying the tattoo that evening; the skin seems oddly irritated but I ignored this and off to the spa I went. Only ten minutes into my visit I notice the tattoo, a thin sheet of acetate glued to my skin, was bubbling up. Argh! I pressed hard to get it to adhere and thought it would just stick ... it didn't. The temporary tattoo that I usually wore for three to five days without any issues was coming unglued. By the time I was done with my 70 minute session it had peeled up to the point that once I returned to my locker to change I needed to remove it. It appears my skin has built up an allergic reaction causing the temporary tattoo to not only bubble up but actually cause physical pain to the application site.
So no more temporary tats, the universe has spoken!
April 1, 2103 10:45 pm
In the shower at the gym the following evening, a sexy young black guy is one shower over and is clearly looking for some action. Never been one for public play but without the tattoo I felt oddly more naked than I already was ... interesting that the tattoo appears to work for me both as a shield as well as a warning.
April 6, 11:30 am
Finally I made contact with Jill Jordan, a highly respected and innovative tattoo artist! Set an appointment with her for April 14th at 1:00 pm. My gym buddy Alonso is so excited he also wants to meet Jill (he has a tattoo of his own in mind).
April 7, 2013 9:00 pm
I meet up with my first former bf David while he was visiting LA and being that he was one of the inner circle of people who knew I was poz I wasted no time telling him about my desire to get the biohazard tattoo. Why open with the tattoo? David and I have also had a very deep connection on a spiritual level and I wanted to hear him ask "what is your intention?"
I gave him my canned answer - it will make it easier to disclose, show solidarity to the HIV+ community, etc., yet I was merely buying time to really look deeper and see if I could find an even more tangible answer. This was always the way with us because of our connection and frankly it's quite refreshing to speak about life in terms of spirit and action. Oddly I rarely avail myself of such opportunities anymore ... makes me wonder why.
We had both been through some serious life events, broken relationships, health and financial issues, yet we seemed to be better off for it all. By the end of the evening I was feeling very comfortable with David again and was ready to give him a better answer with regards to my intent of getting the tattoo.
First, I wasn't branding my soul, only the body. It reminds me to be mindful of the infection but not overwhelmed by it. A few years ago I might have found such a reminder very disturbing, a constant reflection of a mistake I made and was unable to undo. But now much, like knowing I will die, I am coming to terms with it. The tattoo reminds me my life and time on this earth is precious as well as short and to embrace life at every opportunity.
Second, the tattoo is a method of communication of not just my HIV status or that I am gay (the rainbow flag has many people identifying as a gay symbol) but purely as an art form with a language all its own. I trust many will appreciate it on many levels but haters will hate and how I deal with such situations will be a measure of my own growth. Most reactions have been good and I predict that though this seems like a bold act now it will be passé in 10 years but no less important to me!
Lastly, it memorializes the freedom of my mind if not body from HIV (my spirit has always been free and I am beginning to appreciate that more and more). David applauded my intention and asked me to meditate further on this act. II told him I would and let him know what conclusions I reached.
April 10, 10:00 pm
Over the following days I considered what David and I talked about and we shared more messages over FaceBook when it dawned upon us - damn this tattoo really does get people talking. That’s when it hit me this was an immerging aspect, not just to communicate to other people but to get people talking - about HIV, about gay issues, breaking down the barriers we put up in our daily lives. I am not so naïve to think this tattoo will change the world but getting people talking is a great start!