It’s time I dive into a topic that is always at the heart of gay men dating – HIV/AIDS. Growing up I watched as the disease came forth, took lives and drove the world to treat the LGBTQ+ community worse than ever. There was fear of being accused and harmed and there was (and still is) fear of contracting the disease. From my biology background, I see medications and treatments have advanced to amazing supportive levels for those affected. A new preventative medication PREP has reached the mainstream and decreases the chance of contracting the virus to almost zero but nothing is ever 100%.
In my new widowed world, I take my health seriously. As someone who does not have HIV, I spoke to my doctor about this new medication to assure I would have as much education as possible so I could feel I was protecting myself. Living in the panhandle of Florida has been a challenge with acceptance and my doctor refused to discuss my options. His response: “It really wouldn’t matter”. So then, in his eyes, my health doesn’t matter and so than I don’t matter. Just another gay man he’d apparently like to see go away. How comforting as I move through this new life without Tin. My honesty got me less help. That makes it hard to try and reach out again to any doctor. It’s enough for me to question if I should leave the area entirely. I could just get it online but most of my life is now just on a screen showing an socially perfect world. I just wanted someone to talk too…
Recently there was a nice guy that showed up in one of my Facebook groups - Gay, handsome, good personality and HIV positive. My friends in the group began messaging (not calling because that’s too hard) telling me we would be such a great couple! We would be so happy! They were so sure until I shared my honesty – No matter how wonderful someone is I can’t be with someone who has HIV/AIDS. I watched Tin fade away over 8 months from acute liver failure. I can’t go through that again. Yes they may live to be 100yrs old but what if they succumb sooner? I can’t look into someone’s eyes again and watch my dreams to be together and married pass away. My heart, my mind and my body can’t handle that. On the flip side, I don’t want to risk contracting the disease only to have my family watch me if the virus beats the medicine.
The uniqueness of being a widow in the LGBTQ+ community comes with so many different challenges but this is the hardest. Finding someone is difficult enough in the Florida panhandle but adding another layer of limiting factors slims the chances. I met a man the other day that I would consider dating. He wanted to go out and he readily informed me in a message:
“Oh and by the way I’m positive but undetectable so everything is fine. You can’t contract it if we decide to become romantically involved.”
“Oh that adds some complications for me”, I messaged back.
“Seriously? You know you can’t get it and it’s fine. Take PREP. Honestly get educated!”
My heart sank, the words stung and all I could do was reply in truth:
“Honestly, I know all of that but I lost my partner to a terminal illness last year. I took care of him while his illness erased our dreams. I can’t go through that again. I’m sorry but I hope you understand.”
I haven’t heard back since. No sympathy for my loss. No words of understanding. Perhaps it struck a chord in him that he might put someone else into the position of caring for him if the illness took over. Perhaps it was too much for him to process. I imagine that is a great fear in those with HIV/AIDS. Either way it was another moment of ostracized honesty. How is it that I can be misunderstood, treated poorly and dismissed for carrying the widowed disease? An emotional “virus” that has no cure but causes others to retract away in anger or fear? Hard to not feel like I’m covered in “broken”.
So than there is the other side of the coin where now I have dated a guy that immediately became too attached. He did not drink alcohol because he had a big problem with it in college but that wasn’t an issue for me at the start. However, he wanted to spend all our time together from the beginning. He wanted our dogs to get along from the start. He wanted to basically get married from the start. I couldn’t breathe and felt something was very off. Why would I be opposed to being showered in affection? This seemed so strange to me but I had to break it off. In our conversations afterwards it occurred to me that he latched on not because he liked me but because he knew I lost Tin. He knew I was a committed and dedicated partner so if he got me than I could always take care of him and not leave if something went wrong. His addiction for alcohol turned into other addictions that could make him feel safer. He was in it for himself and his own long-term welfare not mine. My loss was being used for someone else’s gain. Human behavior is often unsettling.
There is one word that always comes to me when people ask what I want since losing Tin. My answer is simple but surprising to most – Safety. I just want safety. To feel safe, stable and hopefully find someone who can travel this road with me. I turn 41 in a couple of months. Age is increasingly on my mind since time has taken so much from me so quickly. Honestly, solitude is safe but very lonely…