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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 09:19 AM

HIV-Positive, Unapologetic and Fabulous

The decision to come out of the closet as HIV-positive was one that required many long and somewhat uncomfortable conversations with my bathroom mirror. I would study my reflection, trying to see if I could tell the difference between the person staring back and the guy that now only exists in pictures. I still wore his face, his clothes still fit me and I could still manage to emulate his same outward demeanor, but it was a farce. Something felt different. A thick vein of fear and insecurity now ran through my body. It pulsed through my blood and sat defiantly behind my eyes. It managed to cast the oh-so slight shade of gray that only I could see. For the first time since coming out as a gay man, I felt like I was hiding.

Still, I managed to escape the reflection and lose myself in the comforts of old habits. I spent time with my friends laughing, dancing, drinking too much vodka and sneaking cigarettes when no one was looking. We talked about sex and dating and I managed a good front for a couple of months. But the mask was getting heavier, and my conscious had started to sag underneath my Botox.

Although my secret identity was acceptable, and maybe even preferable to some, I had never been very good at keeping up a poker face. While eating lunch with my sister or sipping wine with my friends, my truth was beginning to thrash about like a pissed-off fish out of waterógetting more and more desperate to breathe. Sure, I had experienced my share of hardship. We all have. Break-ups, make-ups, disappointment and rejection, but this was different. This was permanent. I realized that the longer I kept my mask on, the deeper it cut into my skin. I was drifting deeper and deeper into depression. So I dug in my heels, fixed my hair, threw on a smile and braced myself for the turbulence.

I came out of the closet as HIV-positive. Not only did I come out, I used enough explosives to blow up my little door so that only a few ashes remained. There was no hiding space left to retreat, no turning back, and thatís the way it had to be.

http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2012/12/21/op-ed-hiv-positive-unapologetic-and-fabulous

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Reply HIV-Positive, Unapologetic and Fabulous (Original post)
William769 Dec 2012 OP
closeupready Dec 2012 #1
Fearless Dec 2012 #2
closeupready Dec 2012 #3
King_David Dec 2012 #4
Fearless Dec 2012 #5
pinto Dec 2012 #6

Response to William769 (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 02:00 PM

1. Coming out, both in HIV terms and sexuality terms, is a function of age, IMO.

Coming out as anything is a function of age, really.

As children, we are all indoctrinated - what to think, how to live, what a real man is/says/does, what duties woman is expected to fulfill, etc.

Later, as adults and independent thinkers, particularly as gay people, we waken to the harm such indoctrination caused us, and rebel against it. Witness people like Jim McGreevey or Meredith Baxter or George Takei or Elton John.

Young people ideally hope that they can hide long enough so that their careers will not be harmed by society's disapproval. When they realize they are too old for it to matter anymore, then they come out.

Obviously, many of us are exceptions to that rule, and there are complexities to the how, when, and who of coming out.

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Response to closeupready (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 04:57 PM

2. Generally I would agree although undoubtedly some would find it controversial...

For instance in my case, I came out to my family after I was no longer beholden to them financially or for a place to live. While I understand that for a great many people this isn't an option that is suitable, and believe me I fully understand, it was for me.

My thought process was that being gay (i.e. who I am) should not have a negative impact on my livelihood. I would and do to this day use my sexuality to my advantage. It is an asset.

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Response to Fearless (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 05:11 PM

3. Totally with you there.

I knew I was gay from childhood, and vowed almost from the beginning that when I grew up, I was going to be as openly gay as possible, and if that meant I needed to sacrifice (in terms of career or social circle or whatever), I was going to do that, period. It was that important to me. And it seemed a simple matter then.

But now in hindsight, with the benefit of experience and time behind me, I see that it's a complicated decision and very personal for every gay person. That is, look what happened to Matthew Shepard.

And to be fair, people like Meredith Baxter claim they honestly didn't realize it until later in life.

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Response to closeupready (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:16 PM

4. 'didn't realize it until later in life'

I guess it is possible because I know a few people also making that claim.

But I just can not see how that works.

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Response to King_David (Reply #4)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 09:48 PM

5. I can to some extent...

I find truly not knowing after a certain age to be difficult... but people could easily be in denial.

To take from my own story, I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school and Church and the whole shebang. When I was a child the only understanding of "gay" that i knew was the pejorative. It wasn't until I was a teenager and was able to break away from that upbringing did I realize that it meant so much more, that it meant genuine love between two people. So for the first decade plus of my life I had no idea at all. Even to around 14 or so.

In middle school for instance, guys started looking at girls and so on and I thought they were silly and childish. Who would make such a big deal about a girl after all??! Really, because of my upbringing at that point, had I had words for it, I would have been asexual. As in I just didn't want to have sex with girls and really wasn't even remotely interested in them. Of course that's not what asexual is, but that's the best definition I could give myself at 12-14ish. I mean what else was there?

Of course, as I said, I began to realize, particularly when I went to high school and accepted myself and was happy and proud of who I was by the time I was in college. Early on I can see how someone may not "know" they're gay. But, honestly you have to be extremely sheltered to have that happen past the age of 15-18 IMHO. But maybe it happens, who am I to judge? I would hazard to say that for most people who "don't know", they really do know but don't want to admit it to themselves. Again IMHO, and not necessarily true of all people, just in my experience that's what I've seen.

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Response to William769 (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 11:48 PM

6. Thanks for the post. Coming out as a PWA was swift for me.

Gay was more gradual. Awkward in some ways, like growing up. Yet, thankfully benign all things considered. Supportive family, friends.

AIDS was a different kettle of fish. Sudden in some ways. My partner's ER admission was pretty blunt. The course of his illness was short, brutal and lethal. That's when I came out.

And as the author of the piece here says, "thatís the way it had to be." It became a new world for me. The good, the bad, the ugly. The ups and downs. The fabulous, often decidedly inappropriate comments shared, and the life we lead. Just as anyone else. And I remain unapologetic.

I'm not a victim. I'm not a survivor. I am simply exactly who I am.

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