10 - SEROPHOBIA
A funny word and a relatively new one.
But what does it actually mean? How is it expressed?
One of the first contexts in which I was confronted with it was obviously sentimental. I already had the opportunity to tell you about a situation of rejection. There were many of them:
- the one who rejects you without trying to understand ;
- the one who tries in vain to overcome his own prejudices, because the very idea of being able to reject the other just for that fact sends back to him an image of himself that he cannot tolerate, and finally behaves like a big asshole so that you decide never to see him again. He is the worst because he is the least honest with you and especially with himself
- the one who assumes his phobia and intolerance and who directly announces the colour, notably on dating apps: "Clean guy".
No need to go back over the discriminating value of the word. This same guy often assumes his racism: "Not attracted to asians", "Likes blacks and big d***".
And finally, he is also grossophobic: "Dude fit for sporty guy".
In my opinion, this one is the least dangerous in my case. Unfortunately, this type of profile is quite common on applications such as Grindr. I even feel like saying that the app itself encourages discrimination. After all, personally, I've never been really hurt by it, but it's important to point out that it's totally trivialized and uninhibited discrimination.
I often showed empathy in these situations of rejection: "Put yourself in his shoes", "He's young, it's normal", "He doesn't know enough".
I needed to find an explanation other than: "This guy is a big jerk".
These justifications were not necessarily very relevant, but at least they had the merit of distracting from the outright rejection I received. Understanding the other person is what I've always tried to do, often to the detriment of understanding myself.
Another context in which I was confronted with this serophobia was at the dentist.
As you know, most of the time when you go to a specialist, he or she asks you about your medical history, whether you are currently undergoing treatment, and so on.
Last year I went to a young dentist's practice. I hadn't had a check-up for a very long time. The doctor didn't ask me any questions. I asked myself: "Should I tell if they don't ask me anything? I didn't dare.
The dentist didn't wear gloves or goggles. Once again I said to myself: "Should I tell her? I didn't dare.
Being undetectable I knew there was no risk, but I felt guilty for not telling her myself. I must admit that this little questionnaire they give you before the consultation is very useful. But in this case there had been none, and there had been no oral questions either.
Then it was time to collect the money. She takes my health insurance card:
"Do you have an ALD? (Long-term condition)
- Yes, I'm HIV positive, on treatment and undetectable since the beginning.
- You could have told me.
- You didn't ask me any questions.
The dentist had been lovely before all this; everything had changed, suddenly. I left, feeling sick to my stomach, thinking that I should have said something about it myself, that it would have saved me the humiliation.
Just after 10pm that day, I got a call on my mobile. I was in the restaurant and I could feel what it was all about. I didn't answer. The same number called me the next morning:
"Hello, this is the dentist from yesterday.
- Good morning.
- I thought about what happened yesterday and went to the hospital to get emergency triple therapy. You should have warned me, I would have taken precautions. Can you send me your latest tests?
- I don't have the paper version, the hospital keeps them.
- Can you ask them to send them to you and send them to me by e-mail. After all, it's only your word that you're undetectable, and if that's the case it'll save me a month's treatment.
I remained very calm, after all I had been feeling guilty since the day before. I had probably done something wrong. I probably had to do it. I called the hospital and the Professor who is in charge of me took me on the phone:
"Didn't that dentist ask you about your medical history?
- No, but I should have told her I guess.
- I don't understand why she wants your results.
- She didn't wear gloves.
- But that's not possible. Give me her name."
I refused. The Professor initially refused to give me the results, saying that it was confidential and that if this dentist had done her job properly she wouldn't have put me in this situation. I explained to her that the poor girl looked really panicked and that I would like to avoid another late night phone call. She finally passed them on to me.
I felt guilty about this for a long time. I had never experienced this before. Even my ENT specialist a week earlier had made me fill out an information sheet, and of course I had mentioned HIV. No, I don't think this time I have any reason to feel guilty.
Recently a dentist refused to give me a scaling. I know from other testimonies that this unfortunately happens often.
In my professional life I have only been confronted with this indelicacy once.
When I found out I was HIV positive I had a job not so much interesting, but I loved working for the company. I had a lot of ups and downs during the first few months of treatment and I don't think the people who were supposed to manage me knew how to deal with it. I was offered a contractual termination, asking me to be very discreet and describing it as a 'favour' to me. At the time I was very unhappy about this. I felt that they were taking away the only activity that distracted me.
Of course, I have moved on since then, but after that episode I never mentioned this aspect of my life at work again. I did mention it, but often once I had resigned for another job and mainly to colleagues who had become friends.
It's obviously very complicated to deal with, I don't want to talk about it because if I do, people might think I'm less capable than them. Of course this is not true. But sometimes I'm tired, sometimes the treatment makes me sick (still today it can happen) and I have to say as little as possible when probably I would just like to share things as they are.
If I'm really honest, I don't even know what I want anymore because I've gotten so used to not talking about it so as not to create discomfort. But it's true that sometimes when people say to me: "Wow, did you party yesterday? you look tired"... I'd like to answer that I didn't, I went to bed at 11pm and slept for eight hours, but that my meds make me nauseous and that's probably what's draining me, both physically and psychologically. But no, I smile and nod because it's easier.
All these little things that happen, that are said, the things that are not said, it damages me. It has damaged me. In the interview I did for Têtu, on the editing, there is a portrait of a woman who says: "I don't understand why we reject the person, it's the disease that should be rejected, not the human being. That's how it is it in the end. It's a double punishment.
I am ill, I take daily treatment to stay healthy and on top of that I have to suffer the ignorance of others. At what point do they ask me if I'm really well? At what point do I regain my place at the centre of my life and stop forgetting myself for the benefit of others' balance?
This is probably what I am doing now.