How a Missed Romance Led Me to Becoming HIV Positive
By C.L. Frederick
I was over love. I wanted no part in trying to find it. Dating had become so convoluted and meaningless. I found myself in successive relationships that were empty. They ended up more about being an extension of a social group rather than about love or building a real and genuine bond between two men who cared for each other. Truth be told, I had never truly been in love until then. I had never experienced those moments of electricity amongst two men that I had heard described so many times; the gay fairy tale. I found myself settling for partners that looked good on paper. I never did play the role of boyfriend well either. Whether it was because the exes never tried to see past the sex symbol and see the real me or because I resented being with someone who would rather try to change me to fit the obligatory boyfriend mold.
My exes seemed to quite frequently feel the need to rein me in. The boy that was bold, brazen, had a brain, the bombshell, and the one who didn’t give a damn about what popular gay social circles would ever think. I’ve always lived according to my convictions; a blessing and curse in the gay world when it comes down to it. To be seen, but not heard or understood was no longer acceptable. Then pool season came along just a few months into my ‘to hell with boys’ phase. I say that with tail firmly planted between legs. In my defense, I had no idea I would meet someone who would be the first to send those volts of electricity throughout my body.
I noticed this guy at a standard pool party. He was obviously from out of town because I had never seen him before and the rest of the gays were all over him. Their eyes locked on him with laser precision. He was their prey. I sat at the edge of the pool and watched the circus unfold with a very strange sadness. At that moment, I realized attraction was a competitive game and very few ever won. I decided I was in no way going to compete for his attention. I was proud of myself for that. Proud that I let go and didn’t cave into the urge to make myself visible. Deep down I was aching to talk to him, but I passed up every opportunity. I was holding onto hope that someone someday would come into my life and see past the gay trappings and superficial. A rebel who lived on his own accord and wanted to take on the world with me. Not exactly an easy connection to find, but this was the man I dreamed of having in my life. As I left, I figured it didn’t really matter and that he was just another boy in the world. I didn’t need his attention. I didn’t know anything about him anyway.
I never expected to hear from him. The next day he began blowing up my social media and I was flattered. I didn’t realize he even noticed me. I remember reading his first messages and being taken with his words. His messages caught me off guard. It was obvious he put a lot of thought into them and that meant the world to me. We jumped right into texting then phone calls that would last for hours. It was exhilarating! I was smitten with our conversations. Deep, intelligent, humorous, open, and meaningful. It was an intense interaction and we both went with it. We wore our vulnerabilities on our sleeves, which is a rarity amongst gay men. I had become enamored; he had this way about him. He never was too concerned with making himself out to be someone he wasn’t or to look normal. Nothing was off limits and we bonded talking about our good, our bad, and everything in-between. He was my type of crazy and I cherished our connection.
Soon we were visiting each other and our first time together was absolutely the most innocent and vulnerable sexual experience of my life, maybe his as well. For some time after he felt compelled to apologize to me for his performance. He was nervous and intimidated and the sex was tender. It wasn’t porn star sex, it was vulnerable and I loved every minute of it. It was in a way like the first time for each of us. We were both guys who were considered different, crazy, or socially unacceptable in our proper gay communities. We both were the sex object, which, in itself was a tremendous burden to bear. This connection continued for several months, but overtime the intensity burnt out. Our kindred spirits went separate ways. For whatever reasons contributed it was difficult knowing we would never be that close again.
Months down the line I was in full starlet mode and was fully immersed in the LA model/actor life. I was growing serious traction in that world and was living my dream. I had attention from men the world over, some celebrities at that, but it was a return to superficial. I would think often of my last connection and how I wished for that back. Before I knew it, I met a new guy, a guy that would change my life forever. I’ve never talked about this experience in this way before. I remember the first time I saw him; he was a near physical replica of the man I had such a powerful connection with. It’s unfortunate to come to the realization that I viewed him as a replacement.
Our decisions in life, in the gay experience are many times over made based on emotion and familiarity. I found myself making poor decisions to keep a man in my life that reminded me of a lost connection. Reckless decisions that eventually caught up with me. I ended up HIV positive because I chose to be with a man I settled for. Inside I craved for my lost connection to come back into my life.
Why share THIS story? We are seeing near daily articles about the possible HIV/Aids vaccine. We have been inundated with pieces on staying healthy while living with HIV. Countless stories about treatment as prevention are available for reference. I rarely find stories from personal experience. I believe our shared stories go hand in hand with the more clinical articles aimed at informing our LGBT community on living a healthy life. I figure if I have gone through something then odds are many others have or will as well. The essence of my story is that after losing a connection you don’t have to lose yourself. You don’t have to keep it in and you don’t have to seek out replacements. Maybe it will help inspire our LGBT youth to become stronger individuals and to know that we will all lose something or someone we valued. It is possible to move on and it’s normal to feel whatever you are feeling. It is never acceptable to lower your standards or convictions because you want to fill what is missing in your life. I ended up HIV positive because I wasn’t strong enough to ignore filling the void in my life. It’s a mistake that no one else should make.