This article previously appeared on the website of OurAgenda.ca here.
As a 35 year old gay, Asian HIV+ man, I have only had two serious relationships: one that started more than 10 years ago and lasted only three months, and one which I am currently in.
For many years, I believed love was out of my reach. At one point, I thought the path of monkhood was in store for me as the elusive love I was so desperately looking for never came or lasted. Now that I am in a stable and loving relationship with a 2-Spirited man, I can only say I am grateful for all the tough lessons “love” has taught me through the years so I can now sustain a healthy and satisfying relationship.
My experience with love was like chasing the love bugs: I was hooked on it before I knew what love was. I was a fairly awkward child who was made fun of quite often for acting “girly” and did not really have friends growing up. I escaped by listening to sappy love songs, romantic opera arias, and day dreamt about meeting my prince charming whom I would spend the rest of my life with.
My loneliness and exclusion from my peers only heightened my yearning for love: I thought love was what would make me happy and whole. Somehow, I had thought finding that person would give my life meaning…
Though I had not kissed anyone or held someone else’s hand in high school, somehow I knew learning about safer sex was important. I became a peer safer sex educator at school, and I remembered I would go into classrooms as the geeky Asian kid putting condoms onto bananas with my co-facilitator. I had learnt about HIV and how to prevent it, and at that point in my life, I really did not think I would ever catch the HIV love bug.
When I went to university, I started my journey as a late-blooming young gay man. I think my internalized homophobia had somehow prevented me from joining the on-campus LGBTQ group. As opposed to seeking out service agencies for queer youths, I started chatting and connecting with men through the gay chat lines, IRC and pre-photo era version of Gay.com. Not only was I needing to meet that special love whom I had always wanted, I was also actively having quick, anonymous sex to satisfy my increased sex drive as a horny, young gay man. Though these encounters were not truly the love I was seeking, such anonymous hook-ups filled my emotional void. Soon, I was addicted to meeting men just to get off.
The first time I got fucked, I was with someone whom I barely knew. What I appreciated was that he used a condom, and he specifically told me never to let another person fuck me without a condom. Yet such advice seem to have gotten lost somewhere: it probably happened when I started becoming depressed, the first of the many cycles to come in my young adulthood. I was not a confident person to begin with, but being turned down for being Asian repeatedly made me feel even worse. In time, I would just do it with whomever who would have sex with me, and negotiating safer sex would not enter into such a mix of social exchange.
Though I knew about HIV prevention, I did not know how to put such knowledge into use. I was pushing my luck time and time again while I tested negative.
In 2003, I tested HIV+ and my world came crashing in.
It would be more than 10 years before I finally started talking about my experience of how I had put myself at risk for HIV because I was searching for love. Through my quest to seek for human connection and validation in the midst of facing sexual racism and depression, I had somehow put myself at risk for HIV. It was a love that I had paid dear price for, yet nonetheless also something that had taught me great lessons and humility in life.
Through learning how to love myself, today I stand as a proud gay, Asian poz man. And it is through learning to love myself that I have learnt to love my partner and others.
About the author: Christian Hui has lived with HIV since 2003 and had undergone a successful treatment of HCV in 2011. He is currently a steering committee member of the Toronto HIV/AIDS Network and a board member of the Canadian Treatment Action Council. His work as the community engagement worker at Asian Community AIDS Services allows him to engage various communities and agencies within and outside the HIV sector to raise awareness on the specific issues facing ethno-racial PHAs and LGBTQ community members.
As a community-based researcher, he is currently examining the resiliency pathways for Asian MSMs. He is currently pursuing his advanced standing Bachelor of Social Work degree at Ryerson University. His first article for Qi Magazine, “Our Agenda: My Freedom” was reposted on the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance’s OurAgenda.ca site as well as PositiveLite.com. You can follow Christian on Twitter @chui108