While surfing on a popular gay site a couple of weeks ago, I was messaged by someone whom I have seen online but never contacted for reasons not necessary to mention. The exchange started with an opening compliment as usual, which I initially ignored, but his following questions quickly turned to my ex-partner and our breakup. This person, to my surprise, seemed to have some accurate knowledge about the breakup with my partner.
Now, for reasons mostly guided by curiosity, I engaged this person in a conversation. I thought if he was going to recount the details of the end of my relationship to others in the community, he should get it right, or at the very least, win a few points of sympathy for my version of the events. I didn’t know this guy, but he had the clear advantage of knowing things about me. He was aware of the time frame of when my ex started seeing his new boyfriend. He even knew the name of his ex, so it was not hard to tell that someone had been talking.
One thing that I have to mention here, which came as an unpleasant, nasty surprise to me, is that my ex hasn’t kept my sero-status a secret since we broke up, even though he knew clearly it was information that I did not want shared. He admitted it to me when I asked him point blank if he had disclosed my HIV status to the new boyfriend. The facial expression and lack of words was all I needed as an answer. I believed he shared that bit of juicy information just to garnish some sympathy or points with this 35-year old he is now involved with.
Anyway, the online chat eventually took on the usual sexual nature, as most of these chats do, as always, for the determination of “will I do?” or “am I to your taste?”
I quickly confessed that it was rare that I was attracted to younger guys, but given the fact that we had other desirable qualities, it might work. Now that possible mutual attraction was determined but no exchange of sexual preferences, fetishes or tastes being discussed, there was no way that I could foresee the next question that he asked me. He wanted to know if I was HIV positive.
I was stunned by the question. I started to wonder why he was asking this question so early in the conversation and at this point. The question that instantly ran through my mind was that if he knows about my breakup, does he also know about my HIV status? I don’t know this person, and I don’t want to disclose because nothing has been established, and frankly, it’s none of his business. I was certainly not going to confirm any gossip or anything that he might have heard.
Initially, I didn’t know how to answer the question, so I evaded it. What I needed was a politician’s type of response where you address the question without answering it.
After calling a friend for advice, we decided that the best way to bypass the question was by my expressing a diminishment in sexual desire after having thrown cold water on the situation by posing that inquiry about HIV status and also, going on the offensive by asking why? Was he looking for (politically incorrect) bareback sex? The sort of bareback sex you have when you ask if someone is positive and rely on their word? The asinine answer that I got was yes, he would consider bareback sex if he felt he trusted someone. Seriously, how do you trust a stranger online, but that is a topic for another discussion at another time.
This isn’t the first time that someone has disclosed my HIV status to other total strangers. About two years ago, I had met someone, we’ll call him Dave - while I was in the open relationship phase of my relationship with my now ex-partner. I was strongly attracted to him in a rare way, though I didn’t approach him at a concert in a park. I did by pure coincidence find him on line on a bear site that I frequented that same night. We chatted and decided to meet and see where it would go. To fast forward, we had a fuckbuddy friendship for about nine months, but eventually he decided, for reasons unclear to me, to no longer see me.
A couple of months ago, I decided to go out for drinks with a friend. I saw Dave but he pretended not to know or see me. It was pretty clear to me when you avoid eye contact, or don’t say hello, this person doesn’t want to see you or talk to you. I thought it was really sad that here is a guy that I liked, had chemistry with, and this was the end result of our involvement. That night, while out for drinks, he was surrounded by friends and acquaintances, but I didn’t know them. The strange thing that started to happen after I stood in his view was, his friends started to turn around looking at me and turning away with each taking turns and doing it repeatedly. Now, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what he was saying to them. It was juicy enough to turn and look repeatedly. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my Abercrombie t-shirt or my muscular shape, but rather my dirty little secret, my HIV status.
Did we accomplish our task? Did we make him feel uncomfortable by our talking, turning and staring? Yes, you have made me uncomfortable, but I will not give you the benefit of seeing it. I will not give you that satisfaction. I hope one day I will not care and maybe be able to write “HIV positive, proud, and equal” on my profiles.
I just thought Dave was better than this. Anyway needless to say, people have started to talk. Maybe it’s more fun to gossip about a guy who stands out in the crowd, it’s more juicy and exciting to run with, it will at least make you that centre of attention among your so-called friends who will also stab you in the back when you decide to party one weekend and accidentally get infected with HIV and then blame the HIV positive guy, wondering why he did not disclose.
I also wonder if other people I have disclosed to have discussed my HIV status with others. I guess I will never know, but I know it’s happening; to what extent, I’m not sure. I guess with that first disclosure you have or will have, you are no longer in complete control of that information. It’s out there for people to respect or disseminate as they see fit.
About the author: "Residing in Montreal, newly single and starting to face the challenges of single life after a decade of being in a relationship. The protective veil of my relationship is no longer there and I have to face the world, but as whom? This is where I am now.... "