We have some great contributing writers that will send us a thoughtful, newsworthy, entertaining, social commentary, or some other type of piece once in a while. This most recent piece we just received from C.L. Frederick came at a very timely point. I was taking a couple of days to get to it and in the meantime, we posted 43% of LGBs Not Comfortable Kissing Someone HIV+ (July 6, 2018). We had a great amount of comments on Facebook about this UK-based Terrence Higgins Trust study, but it felt like there was a narrative missing. What about those that want to be kissed, but are HIV+? Don't we all deserve some love? Here's C.L. Frederick's piece.
Some people believe in love at first sight, I didn’t until I met him. Men had always been my kryptonite, but now I had become immune to their charms. At this point in my life and history, it takes a rebel with a heart of gold to cause a blip on my radar, but those men are a rarer find than the Hope Diamond. I had given up on ‘hope’ that men like this exist in the world. My greatest fear was that I was doomed to date men that bored me. I also dreaded the reality of being HIV positive and still trying to swim in the dating pool. After a handful of let downs related to being positive and dating HIV negative men, I thought I was scared to the point of no return. That was all about to change.
The first time we met was when we were both shopping for jock straps. Our shared ‘showgirl’ mentality brought us together. I noticed a figure stand next to me. I wanted to be indifferent and not give him my attention, but something came over me. I gave into temptation and I am glad that I did.
His boyish smile greeted me as I said hello. It didn’t register to me at first that I was smiling right back. Our eyes never shyly looked away. He was a beaut! Taller than me and an athletic, meaty body. Breathlessly, I wanted to be held by him. His face displayed his sly charm. Those beautiful, big brown eyes and curly, light brown hair further reinforced the smile on my face. He had me hook, line, and sinker. We shared a brief, silly conversation then, with sore cheeks, parted ways. Here is the sitch, he left without giving me his number and I was too proud to ask for his. I cursed out Jesus in my head. “Why the fuck did you bring him into my life only to have him disappear as quickly as he came into it?” My apologies to Jesus.
At times, the universe is a cruel bitch of a matchmaker. She allows us to cross paths with people that we want to keep in our lives forever, only to have them stay for just a moment. Maybe I was having one-sided feelings and he did not feel the same way or maybe our interaction was flirty and he was into me as well. I couldn’t count the number of sighs that I gave as I headed home. I was trying to build up the strength to not think about him again. I failed.
Months went by and I never forgot our chance interaction. Thinking about him always put a smile on my face, but pained my heart. Then, as fate would have it, we met again. I was ‘box meat’ at the dick dancer bar he was having drinks at. He watched me dance my entire set as he sat with a ‘friend.’ I jumped off the stage, my pearly whites on full display as were his. We had our reintroduction and with my hand firmly feeling his shoulder he introduced me to his boyfriend. Cue the Alanis Morissette song “Ironic.” I returned to cursing out Jesus in my head. “You fucking kidding me with this Jesus?” Again, apologies to Jesus.
When his boyfriend stepped aside to use the restroom, it was on. There couldn’t have been a pair as flirty as us in the world during ‘boyfriends’ pee break. We touched, pulled close, exchanged numbers, added each other on social media, and confessed our affection for each other. The soon to be ‘ex-boyfriend’ must have taken an eternity to pee, isn't it ironic indeed.
As we got to know each other he made me feel like, in his eyes, I was the most beautiful man alive. We both had a touch of crazy in us and that was a comfort to me. I don’t bat an eye when I disclose to potential love interests my HIV positive status, but I found myself nervous to tell him. When you care about someone you don't want to disappoint them and you find that being vulnerable is a loving act. It was never a concern for him. He valued my humanity without limitations. No one had ever made me feel that safe and unashamed. It is an overwhelmingly happy experience when the man you care about doesn’t play into the stigma of being HIV positive. We were both damaged people who just ‘got’ each other. At last, I had found my equal. It didn’t hurt that seeing him in a jockstrap always took my breath away.
Here is where things got complicated. We had an intense chemistry and our sex was deeply intimate. I found him to the be most perfect man there has ever been for me, but we weren’t to last. Our personal struggles did us in. Deep down we wanted to love each other, but we both needed to work on ourselves. The curse of damaged people is timing and this just wasn’t our time. Our hearts were both broken, but we cared enough about each other to make some tough decisions. Losing ‘the one’ has been the greatest loss of my life. We remain as close as ever and he is my ‘constant,’ and always will be. We are still very much in each other’s lives and our affection is just as strong now as it was then. The love we had for each other didn’t die when we parted ways and I am thankful we did not give up on our connection. I am proud of us for acting like adults.
Some might ask why I chose to share this story. I believe that relationships are the most important aspect of the gay experience. In gay culture, relationships, both friendships and romantic, have a tendency to become disposable which can create residual emotional scars that add to mental health struggles in gay men. Even if a cherished relationship ends, it is possible not to lose the connection. A healthy and solid friendship can still survive. Value the person you were close to and if you loved them don’t throw them away like trash.
Layered into this realization is that there should never be shame when dating and being HIV positive. Sometimes within our community we practice hypocrisy and that needs to change. I will always cherish this past relationship because it was the first to help me realize I was worthy and that my status doesn't define my worth. I do not know what the future holds for the two of us. All that I know is we want to remain in each other’s lives. When we both feel capable, reconciliation may become a possibility that we both would welcome with open arms. Even if we do not end up together as a couple I am comforted by the fact that we never chose to say good bye.
Words by C.L. Frederick
Art Work by Clarione Gutierrez
www.clarione.com IG: @clarione Twitter: @clarione YouTube: /Clarione FB: /byclarione
C.L. Frederick is an internationally published columnist, reporting on social issues affecting the LGBT community. His articles have been published by numerous national and international publications. A few of the outlets he has written for include The Phoenix Newsletter (Kansas City), DNA Magazine, Prism Magazine, Homoculture, Impulse Group, The Dallas Voice, and The Windy City Times (Chicago). As a writer, he is known for sharing his personal experiences dealing with being a HIV positive gay man and for documenting his journey from addict to being in recovery. He has had several featured acting roles on t.v. shows such as; Modern Family, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, LA Hair, and Empire. As a male model, he has been featured in campaigns for Joe's Jeans, Quarter Homme, and Andrew Christian. He is single in his personal life, but has his Dimaggio. His greatest dream in life is to have a family and he will build that 'white picket fence' with his own two well manicured hands if he has to.