“From diagnosis onwards this is one man’s – no My – story as it happens. I don’t know if this will be educational or funny or sad or all of those things, but on January the 10th 2015 at 4.22pm my life changed forever and this is perhaps the best way i know how to get through it.”
So it’s now nine days since I walked out of the clinic a gay man living with HIV.
There is no great slogan for how I feel, no great narrative has been laid down but I have changed. In nine short, odd, deafening days I have realised things about myself that I had perhaps hidden, never questioned or took for granted.
I always knew I had a steely resolve and now I am quite assured of it, friends sometimes use the word emotionless, I know that’s not true but I do deal with them efficiently and logically.
Last week I wrote “I feel keeping my demon secret will become routine” I know exactly why I wrote it, HIV lives with me and I was – am - still afraid of it and what it can do. However I know now even in this very short time that it won’t be my secret demon.
Fear has marked my life in so many ways for so many years in subtle and destructive ways. When I was 12 I didn’t fear the man who abused me, I was actually intrigued by him, curious even. The fear was discovery, The fear was my parents asking questions or that schoolkids might find out and beat me up while shouting "queer". Fear made me silent and introverted, Fear made me survive alone. Like almost all gay men fear made me hide who I was, fear of being rejected, fear of abuse. The stag in the painting by Landseer I have used (above) embodies fear, The stag has swam the loch to escape his hunter; he is exhausted yet he is alive.
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can save lives. But it also “robs us of our freedom” and undermines that essential social glue: trust. Bertrand Russell once said that “to conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom”
A Philosophy of Fear by Lars Svendsen; Reaktion Press, 2010
When I came out 15 years ago I feel I pushed fear aside and chose to fight in my own way for better way that involved being more open, trusting and well gay, and now with HIV, on day zero my instinctive reaction without a moment’s hesitation was to allow fear to rule once again. I am afraid again of rejection, of stigma, of casual insults, ignorance and discrimination, yet I choose now that fear will not be here for long.
We may not be able to completely master our emotions, but we can understand them and learn how they may be both exploited and moderated. My demons wont be kept in the closet and I will if I can use it to say something good.
Of course I don’t mean I am literally going to tell everyone I meet I have HIV, that would be ridiculous and inappropriate especially when I never do that with my sexuality. It will take time and will always be on my terms, I am me first and foremost, I am Gay and I am HIV-positive.
One thing I have learnt in this week is that trust of myself is at the heart of me. I know myself well and would encourage anyone to really take the time to become one with who they are, because when fear rises fast like a wall in front of you because of a stupid choice you made somewhere in the past you will know it and be able to push through it, because when we push through fear we can open up new opportunities we never saw before. It’s a hard road to choose and not the best one for everyone but for me it is the right choice because walking back into the closet is not an option.
As always I fight for equality – and I am Equal to anyone else, HIV or not.
This article originally appeared on the blog www.pythonwrestling.com here. Republished with the permission of the author.
You can also follow the author on twitter @therestofmylif.