When we are seeking love, most of us will risk becoming infected with HIV.
While some will think this is a gross exaggeration, I can speak from personal experience. Many times during my younger days, I traded safety and acccountablity for delusions and unearned trust. More than once, I opted to have unprotected sex because it would keep some dope happy and would not force me to deal with standing my ground and risk losing someone who I thought loved me or at the very least cared deeply.
In my late teens and early 20’s, I was not running around having unprotected sex all day everyday with strangers.
I only make this point because lately I have been hearing some very gruesome assumptions and flat out stupidity from folks who ought to know better. December 1st, World AIDS Day, provided me with some interesting insights into the types of thinking that are being bandied about and the blatant unmitigated ignorance and stupidity regarding something that should have been eliminated at least twenty years ago.
A physician and an intelligent friend implied that one becomes infected because they are dirty, common and will sleep with anything. It was shocking to hear these individuals speak with the same punishing, venomous tone that people spewed thirty years ago.
As an avid facebooker, I am amazed at the things that people highlight and find interesting.
A fellow college classmate posted a very touching and poignant statement regarding her late brother. She reminded us that her brother succumbed to AIDS in 1996. According to her, he contracted it by doing something that every sexually active person has done at one time or another. Her brother and anyone who has ever been infected has had unprotected sex.
During the course of one of my initial gay male relationships, I spent absolutely no time discussing or negotiating sexual practices.
I was told by my first long term partner that he was negative and being isolated and stupid, I didn’t dare challenge him. To be 20 and so trusting. What we now refer to as barebacking had no name then. It was called blind trust, delusion and isolation.
My concern about this new phenom,”barebacking”, which is anything but new, is that nobody is talking about the fact that it is still going on. Just because you or your friends are not admitting to it doesn’t mean it isn’t going on. I discussed the inordinately high infection rates among young black men in earlier posts but neglected to really dig in and tell personal experiences and the reasons that people will agree to this most deadly and life altering experience.
When I was very young and closeted, I was willing to do anything to be accepted, to not feel alone and most importantly to be loved.
In my opinion, not much has changed within the gay community. So many of us not finding acceptance or support or dare I say love in our families of origin, enter adulthood without a clear definiton of what love is and is not. We, myself included, blame ourselves for our lack of love via our families and seek to replace and compensate for this deficiency by allowing sexual interaction to simply occur.
There is not room or the right to demand and have honest conversations if it appears realistically or not that a conversation and honest communication might cause an argument, a debate regarding trust or the unthinkable, abandonment.
So much of our lives from the time we notice that we are different is steeped in isolation.
We learn to isolate because of difference. When difference appears(in the form of a remotely attractive guy) we can falsely assume that we are no longer alone and should do absolutely anything to make sure that isolation never returns. My initial full fledged relationship occurred when I was living 600 miles away from everyone and everything that I had ever known.
It is difficult to take a stand for your life when you have spent damn near twenty years hiding, not wanting to be found out and knowing that if you are found out it would be better if you were dead.
Somehow with this as your option, having unprotected sex with someone who says they care and whom you care for doesn’t have the death knoll it might otherwise have.
In M.Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, he points out both our ways of establishing our value and the many ways that the disturbing but well meaning trolls that raise us manipulate us into certain behaviors that have nothing to do with being loving.
“If you don’t do exactly what I want you to do I won’t love you anymore and you can figure out for yourself what that may mean. Peck p. 28
As a result of this psychological abandonment and manipulation, we enter adulthood believing that being loved is a negotiable and earnable privilege.
Like myself at 20, we delude ourselves with the welcoming distraction that is people pleasing at its best and deadly and stupid at its worse. For the sake of love, we offer ourselves on the sacrificial altar hoping that this person who says that they love me/us will not disappoint.
In my troubling case, it was keep my mouth closed and hope for the best or speak up and be ostracized and lose what little position I had in my family i.e., the world. This was not an acceptable risk to me. Having unprotected sex with someone who was psychologically disturbed seemed like a better use of my time. I never wanted to have unprotected sex. I never wanted to have bareback sex.
The message ws clear and unrelenting : “If I speak up , I might be alone. ” Although I’d like to say that I was wiser then, I wasn’t. Like so many people who place their trust in others because it seems like the right thing to do or it is just easier, I was love hungry and willing to do anything to feed that beast.
If it meant death then so be it.
My actions screamed :Love me ! If you love me all of these years of isolation will disappear.
Because many people consider HIV / AIDS to be merely a chronic condition treatable with medication the equation becomes less tilted towards protecting one’s life and health at the expense of foregoing the immediate gratification.