As I was ringing in the new year, I thought about all the things I meant to write about but, for one reason or another, didn't. Maybe I didn't want to be judged and subject myself to criticism and stigma. But I've come to the conclusion that there are always going to be people who will never understand the choices I make because their minds are already made up. So be it.
I need to confess something. Ever since those early days of the AIDS crisis, I have been attracted to guys who are HIV-positive. My expectations for a boyfriend have always been somewhat average, I think. I wanted someone with a job that supported him, a place to live other than his parents' basement, a sense of style and humor that most people would appreciate, and, above all, the ability to see the whole picture. By that I mean the ability to see past one's own nose -- a good-deed doer, in other words. Those are the guys who have the potential to make the best chemistry, I think.
It just so happens that many of the guys I started dating in the '80s and early '90s turned out to be HIV-positive. Coincidentally, they were also real and unpretentious.
Think about it. Just for a moment, put yourself in someone else's shoes. After weeks of running a low-grade fever, an occasional bout with thrush, and some nasty skin rashes, you decide to get yourself checked out. After a grueling wait period, the diagnosis comes back: You are HIV-positive. You let this unwanted stranger sit with you and follow you everywhere. What goes through your mind?
Josh Robbins, who writes the blog I'm Still Josh, expected the news but still needed to stop and catch his breath. Then he moved forward and said, "Well, I got some work to do to bring that viral load down."
Another blogger, Patrick Ingram, who writes the blog The Poz Life of Patrick, admitted to leaving the clinic feeling scared and alone after he was told that he'd tested positive, but then he immediately offered to help anyone who suspects that they might have the virus. "I'll go with you if you live in my area," he writes. "Please, please don't do this alone."
You can't get any realer or more compassionate than these two guys, and they put to shame my friends who seem more concerned about where to travel for vacation than they do about the greater good.
Yes, I know some HIV-positive guys who keep their illness at a distance, compartmentalizing their lives and pretending like everything is OK. My former partner Robert, who was diagnosed with AIDS in November 1994, first told everybody, including his family, that he had "a blood cancer." He thought it would get him a little more sympathy than an AIDS diagnosis. He was right, but in the end his denial only delayed his healing.
I'm sure that my HIV-positive friends have some down days like everybody else. But what I see in them is a passionate push to move forward and get past the bad stuff. There's a courage, an optimism, and a strength, oddly coupled with a sweet vulnerability that, quite frankly, I find attractive. These are the kind of qualities I want in the person I grow old with.
The first week of November, my boyfriend and I attended the wedding of one of my friends, Jay, and his new husband, Angelo. To me, there was no discernible difference between this wedding and any other. There was love, excitement, apprehension, and all those emotions that come with the ritual celebration of marriage. This wedding also marked a victory of sorts. Like so many HIV-positive men I know, Jay wondered whether he would be seen as lovable with his HIV-positive status. I suppose Angelo saw the same kind of thing I have seen so many times in Jay: a guy, flawed like the rest of us, who is always real, and kind, and with a clear eye focused on the future, laughing and crying like the rest of us.