- So...as I mentioned in a previous post, someone (a former friend) whom I had no intention of telling about my HIV+ status found out without my telling them. It's really not important how this person found out, just know that I didn't tell them.
- Below is a series of e-mails that we exchanged about the whole affair. I'd like to say I was the bigger person throughout and handled this perfectly. I did not; I did the best I could in making my feelings (the stronger of which were anger, hurt, & disappointment) known. I've decided to share this, because I want to make everyone aware of a really important issue when dealing with HIV/AIDS -- really ANY medical/health issue, actually -- be careful.
- So, here goes. First, from me to...let's call them 'Senor MindYourOwnBusiness' (or MYOB):
- Dear Senor MYOB,
- From discussions with [our common friends] I know that you've surmised that I am HIV+. I don't like the way you found out, but you know and I can't make you "UN-know" it. This is exactly why I've been afraid of telling people in my life that I'm HIV+. Now, because you know, and I have no way of knowing to whom you've spoken, I'm forced to worry about other people's possible reactions, without any chance of giving them the full story. This shouldn't be about anyone other than me, and yet you've managed to worm your way into it.
- I don't mean that in a selfish way, as there are several people who have known about my status since I was first diagnosed, and I've told people at various points along the way...on MY OWN TIME. I should have been able to tell anyone when I was ready for them to know, not after someone went slithering around me, talking behind my back to the people who mean so much to me.
- I need you to understand how much you've infringed upon my life with this, Senor MYOB. [...] The issue at hand is that you have weaseled information out of our common friends just to make yourself feel as though you have power over me, that you can get any news you want about my life whenever you want it.
- And the really sickening thing is...you do & can. By getting this information about me in such a surreptitious manner, you've stolen from me the opportunity to share an incredibly important part of my life with my loved ones on terms that I'm comfortable with and that I feel is best for, not only myself, but them as well. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive you. You snuck around and pestered my friends until they told you what you wanted to find out, rather than just talking to me.
- So, now I'm forced come to you for two reasons...
- 1) [Our common friend] mentioned that you seemed very concerned about my Mother not knowing about my status. Not that you have any right to know this, but I haven't had an opportunity to see my Mom, face-to-face, since I received my diagnosis. As I would hope you'd understand, this is not news that I feel appropriate sharing over a phone call with her, mostly because I know how scared she's going to be and I want to be there for her then. I've been desperate to be more disclosing with my status, but feel it wouldn't be fair to my Mom, should she happen to hear it someplace else, even inadvertently. [I've since told my Mother, FYI.]
- 2) I would appreciate it if you'd tell me whom you've told, or whom you've even discussed the possibility of my seroconversion. There are people who are going to be upset, or possibly feel hurt that I didn't share with them sooner, without knowing the full story, and I'd like to do what I can to help them deal with this news. I'd say you owe me at least that much.
- I'd appreciate a response as soon as possible.
- (917) XXX-XXXX
- Senor MYOB's reply:
- I don't have the time to spend days drafting some elaborate response so here's a quick bit...
- i have never gone around you to get details about your life. they seem to come to me no matter what i do. and no weaseling was necessary - between the posts of yours I see on facebook and the number of time(s) people have come to me with sordid stories about your life, I know MUCH more than I care to about your life. this is just another example - nobody told me. it didn't take much to come to my conclusions and for them to be confirmed. no sneaking around or pestering was involved. if you really think I want to know about you to have power over you, you are beyond wrong.
- I was concerned [...] you can believe whatever you want but i am not interested in this as a good bit of gossip. i am sorry that it came to this and that you are upset. i do understand how difficult this must be and i was worried that you were alone but you wont ever believe that so no use trying to persuade you.
- i was wrong to discuss it and i am sorry.
- You would have thought that would be the end, but then I got this message from Senor MYOB, addressed to me and our common friends:
- I knew I would end up under the bus on this and it is fine. No matter what I do, when it comes to Jim, I will always be viewed as the bad guy and I came to terms with that years ago. I fully expected to get blamed for my knowledge of the situation and it's okay. I can't win for losing so this is one big lesson...this bridge is burned and I officially throw in the towel. I will keep my concern to myself and will do everything in my power to make sure I never hear a peep about Jim's life again. We can resort back to ignoring each others existence.
- Needless to say (I hope!), I got pretty good and mad at this point; angry because I couldn't believe Senor MYOB was becoming "the victim" in this. Also, I was upset that this exchange was still happening in e-mails (though I had included my phone # to actually talk this out), so I replied:
- Really, Senor MYOB? Are you kidding me with this?
- Really?! REALLY?
- 'Cause, first of all...we're all damn near 40-years old. I'm just laying that on the table (as a placemat, if you will) for this dish of ridiculo-sauce you've put down in front of us. I mean, did you write this with "Bitter Betty's Book of Tired Ol' Clichés" standing by?! With all the towel throwin', bridge burnin', & winnin' for losin', it's a wonder you actually had time to write at all!
- Second...you're far from "under the bus". I would recommend you go back and think about that one because...there's no way you can be both UNDER the bus & DRIVING the damn bus at the same time! To be under the bus one must be 'thrown' under by a co-conspirator...or possibly a fellow ninja. It's just you. No ninjas, no "partners in crime" (see, I've got the "Bigger, Bitchier Billy's Book of Banal Bullshit")...it's just you who asked our common friends about my HIV status specifically, without me being present to join the conversation.
- Go ahead and stamp your feet, point your finger at me, and scream "He started it!", all you want; the fact remains -- you discussed a very personal, intimate detail about me with people who are not me. I'm not sure how else to get it through your head that doing that is not only wrong, but also dangerous.
- [...] this is a pattern for you, talking about me with others to avoid talking to me directly. It's what my therapist calls a "repetition".
- And, I could have very well just kept my hurt & anger all to myself in an effort to save everyone discomfort (my own repetition) or take a moment to try to help correct a rather unfortunate habit you have of embedding yourself in others' lives to the point of losing perspective on where you stop and the other person begins.
- I know you meant me no harm, and I'm aware you think this entire issue is you being overly-concerned, ever-attentive Senor MYOB that Meanie Jim, and his "sordid" HIV, are just picking on. But see? There's repercussions to not dealing directly with someone. *ahem!* LikeAnADULT! *Cough!* Hence, here we are.
- You've tried to jump behind a shield of our friends, avoid actually speaking to me directly (you said you didn't have time to write a draft, so wouldn't a phone call have been speedier?), and stubbornly cover your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and sing, "I won't hear you! I won't hear you!"
- Oh, wait! There is one thing, and I'm begging you on behalf of HIV+ people everywhere (Uh huh! Hells yeah I played my POZ card! What am I, an idiot?!) to please pay attention to this, if nothing else.
- While I know you "meant no harm", the fact is -- Senor MYOB, you could have caused a lot of harm, pain & tears simply by ASKING about not just mine, but anyone's status like that. And that's why I felt I had to be so harsh in my original message. I need to make it abundantly clear that *NO ONE* should be talking about another person's HIV status.
- Now, as far as all this "ignoring each others' existence"...I honestly thought that was how we roll. I think you're a damn fool if you think it's even remotely possible, but I'm not telling you what to do. Nor am I remotely interested. I said what I needed to say and feel better for the doing.
- P.S. Thanks for totally ignoring the one and only response I asked of you in my original message, by the way. You're one classy act!
Wow. Just read this: “There’s a problem with the way we accept Charlie Sheen and condemn Lindsay Lohan.” (@sarah_ross)
It’s sad, because it’s true. Look no further to see the proof of the advantages provided to men in our (unfortunately) patriarchal society. Lindsay got caught acting out, was jailed, sent to rehab, and is essentially raked over the coals in every tabloid across the world every single time she messes up. She even had studio heads sending memos publicly reprimanding her, possibly killing any hopes she has of returning to an actual acting career.
Charlie Sheen, boozing it up with porn stars in a coke-fueled sexcapade in the Eloise suite of the PLAZA HOTEL (Good God!)? Yeah, he “had an allergic reaction to medication” is all. He’s quickly jetting back to LA where he’ll return to the set where studio execs & show producers have bent over backward and thrown millions of dollars at him to keep coming to work.
Uh…yeah. “Houston? We have a problem.”
One of my closest friends in college was a man named, Earnest Straughter, who was older than the typical college co-ed and yet, actually doing the whole “college experience”, living in student apartments next to us, getting scholarships. It was all kind of odd, but he was such a kind, generous spirit, and all-around wonderful guy that you didn’t think too much of it.
In the summer after my second year, Earnest got a strange cold that bothered him, and my friend, Liz, and I took him to the doctor ourselves to make sure he took care of it. He was always bad about that sort of stuff. He died the next day.
It was so sudden and really shook me up pretty bad, along with everyone who knew him. It was weeks later that Liz heard some gossiping people at her waiting job talking about “that drama major who died of AIDS”. We were livid! Just so convinced that it was another example of the small-town Texan mentality of bigoted assumptions that these assholes were jumping to such a horrible conclusion (Drama Majors Are Gay ergo Drama Major Dies of AIDS) about our friend.
But, it turned out that Earnest had, in fact, died of AIDS-assisted pneumocystis pneumonia. Earnest had actually come back to Texas to go to college, from living in New York City (he told the most AWESOME tales of partying at Studio 54!) because he got diagnosed with AIDS, and the school was close enough to his family that he felt like it was the most reasonable and enjoyable way to live out the little bit of time he thought he had left. If I thought I was floored by his sudden death, BOY was I completely knocked for a loop by learning all of this! Suddenly, all of these little clues started making sense in hindsight; his constantly having a new credit card every other week, his seeming lack of ambition when we all were so amazed by another performance he gave and told him he HAD to go back to NYC and audition…it all made perfect sense when you realized he was simply riding out his days at this college theater getting to act, doing what he enjoyed. It was so sad and so, SO hurtful that he didn’t tell us, but I could appreciate his reasons and certainly respect him for the courage it must have taken for him not to scream at all of us ignorant children every other day, “I’m sick! THAT’S why I’m not planning my “big break” like you, ya’ fools!”
There were a few other people that were “before my time” at the theater department, but that I met those first two years, who very quickly withered, shriveled, and died. I actually was one of the first recipients of a directing scholarship at Sam that the family of one of those alums lost to AIDS started in my last year. So, HIV/AIDS has certainly been a part of my life for many, many years.
Especially now…I received my HIV+ diagnosis in November 2008. I’ve only shared this information with a few people in my life, for all kinds of reasons, but it is certainly a major part of why I’m as passionate as I am about the disease, it’s prevention, and raising awareness.
It’s been tough for me, navigating the waters of disclosing, dealing with, and generally living with HIV. Now, almost two years in, I’m starting to see that I can really do more good for the world by telling people rather than trying to hide it. I guess it’s another facet of my activism, maybe? Or maybe simply the strong need I have to live my life as honestly as possible after spending so much time ashamed and lying to myself and everyone who cares about me by living in the closet? Regardless, it’s time “my secret” is no secret any longer.
Please know that I’m glad to answer any questions you might have, or tell you about my treatment, or whatever I can do to help you not feel uncomfortable about my disease or worry about me unduly. I was really lucky to have found out I was positive very soon after infection and have had an undetectable viral load since January ‘09. My T-cell numbers have actually been that of a normal, healthy, uninfected person since back in May, so I truly am doing well.
I would like to make a single request: please, no one tell me, “it’s not the death sentence it once was”. Honestly, I think it’s going to be a new mission in my life to put a moratorium on that. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that of the…let’s say 12, people I’ve told about my status, 10 have used that exact line verbatim. I mean, yes — it’s uncomfortable and no one’s really sure what to say. But that line doesn’t really help me feel anything but condescended to and a little bit patronized.
In the past few weeks, the news of my positive status got out to someone that I’d wished it hadn’t (I’ll be writing more on that experience later), and just this morning someone on Twitter called out one of the pills in my “Meds Photo” as an ARV drug for HIV, so I felt the time had come for me to start my “full disclosure” policy. At this point, my family and closest friends have all been told about my status, so no one needs to feel that this is a secret to be kept to protect me. I would ask that you all, my friends, consider the stigma that’s associated with HIV/AIDS though, and realize it’s what I’m trying to fight against in disclosing my status in such a public way.
Take care and be well.
This little exchange was in my Twitter timeline:
A: “being pro-dadt does not always equal homophobic #fact #DADT”
@Clarknt67: Yes, like being pro-Jim Crow doesn’t mean you’re racist.
I think this highlights one of the fundamental problems the gay civil rights movement keeps encountering; people aren’t seeing the relation between how all this hatred is legislated against us. I’m certainly dealing with it in my personal life, as members of my family say, “I don’t have any problem with your being Gay”, followed by, “Gay marriage is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed.”
I know this doesn’t seem like it should be so “black & white”, but…it kind of is, I’m afraid.