15 - LIE BY OMISSION
I had planned to tell you this time about being outed on his serology but finally, last night, I had an interesting conversation with a boy on Grindr.
The guy called me out directly about the blog (I connected my profile to my Instagram account and thus to the POSITIVE JOURNAL). He told me that he had met a boy and that the boy had told him he was HIV positive after a few weeks of dating. He told me that it was a betrayal, a lie, and that he was panicked that he might have contracted the virus. As I dug deeper, I realised that they had always had safe sex. I felt it was important to let him know that if this boy was undetectable, and furthermore, that the protective measures had been taken, then the worry was obviously unnecessary.
When he read me out, he seemed a little reassured, especially about the undetectability.
I was interested in the rest of his story with this boy. After learning about it, he had ended their relationship, claiming that keeping it from him had damaged his trust and thus clearly chilled him. I admit that I can hear some of this. However, I can also understand the other person, the one who is HIV positive and who wants to meet someone as normally as possible and doesn't necessarily want to talk intimately on the first date.
I tried to make this boy understand that it wasn't for pleasure, that we didn't necessarily talk about it straight away, but more in order for the other person to concentrate on us, who we are, and to give us a real chance of having a good meeting. I myself have had to tell many crushes that I am HIV positive and I have often been rejected because of this.
Unconsciously, it messed up my head and my intentions a bit with my subsequent encounters. But I soon realised that not talking about it wasn't a solution at all. I wanted this boy to understand that not daring to tell was not a lie or a betrayal (in this case) but more a basic problem created by the way society looks at people with HIV. A view that creates shame, fear of the other person and therefore a fear of being able to talk about it.
Personally, when I realise that someone is lying to me or hiding things from me, I immediately ask myself: "Why didn't this person feel confident enough to tell me the truth?
I try to take a step back even if the easy solution would be to make the other person feel guilty without questioning myself. And if I don't feel like taking that step, it's probably because I'm just looking for an excuse to run away.
I don't know if this boy heard the message I tried to give him. As for me, today I don't have to "disclose" anything anymore since the POSITIVE JOURNAL takes care of it for me. It is a real relief and my approach is very well perceived and accepted. I am often told that I have "balls", and I admit that I much prefer to be seen as the boy who dares to face the gaze of others, who speaks up, rather than the old me who looked down and was afraid of everything.
I've met a few people since then. The blog always comes into the conversation to create a bit of a debate and I like that.
There are many stages to go through in accepting your HIV status. Acceptance from yourself, from friends, from family. It's not easy to talk about it over a drink when you've met someone. And then comes the day when you don't give a damn about what others think.
For some people, this last stage happens very quickly, for others (me) it takes a little time, and unfortunately for many, it will never be verbalised or affirmed.
I know that most HIV-positive people say to themselves: "I don't have to talk about it, it's nobody's business, it's private, it doesn't define my personality, I don't want to worry people, my friends, I'm afraid I'll lose my job if I say it...".
I convinced myself of all this, because I was reassured by the idea of controlling the spread of this information. Except that I was very much mistaken. It's a path and I never thought I had an activist's soul. Yet that's what I'm doing.
I had the feeling yesterday, when I was talking to the boy who was a bit lost, that our exchange had really eased his fears. I'm not sure that my intervention on behalf of the other boy was well received, but I think that what was described as an unforgivable betrayal is not necessarily the responsibility of this HIV-positive guy, but rather that of society's intolerance and the consequences it can have on HIV-positive people. Of course, every situation is different and this is a lie of omission over a relatively short period of time without taking any risks.
Perhaps with initiatives like the POSITIVE JOURNAL, which a priori reassures many people according to the echoes I have heard, mentalities will change. At least I hope so.