Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sex, Drugs, HIV

I am HIV positive.

Since 2005, I have been largely open about my HIV status. While I do not generally wear a t-shirt that declares my status nor do I have a bio-hazard sign tattooed on my body, if you know me, if you have read any of my work, if you Google my name on the Internet, then you will be aware of that fact.

I haven't always been open about my status. When I was first diagnosed, I went into a deep and shameful self-hate spiral. Before long, I was half strung out on crystal meth. I have often wondered why I found meth so exciting and so addictive. As a college student I had tried most popular party drugs: X, GHB, ketamine, and pot. I hated weed, and the rest I enjoyed but I could take or leave for long periods of time and never had any “cravings” for them.

Then I tested positive.

I had never tried crystal meth on its own before, it had always been in a mix with other party drugs. So I had no idea its potency or its effect. I could walk away from all of its effects but one: it made me feel touchable and desirable for the first time since testing positive.

When I first tested positive, I became asexual. I refused to have sex with my boyfriend at the time. I went into a deep depression, and I was completely lacking in a conscious awareness of what was going on. I eventually broke up with my boyfriend, I was unemployed, and I gained a tremendous amount of weight. I told two people about my status, both of whom lived more than 2000 miles away from me. Not even my best friend, who lived across the hallway from me, had any idea of what was going on in my life.

I can't remember the first time that I tried crystal meth by itself. I don't remember who I was with or what I was doing. But I do remember that something changed, and I felt wanted and desired and touchable. I turned to the online cruising sites: Manhunt, Gay.com, and Adam4Adam. I began spending almost every weekend on meth binges and having sex.

And in that world where everyone is high and everyone is looking to have wild sexual adventures, no one ever asked about your status and no one ever used a condom.

Eventually the guilt and shame at having rampant unprotected sex and putting my community at risk gave way to a mind crushing guilt, and I had a snap with reality. On a plane ride from Albuquerque to Minneapolis, I believed that the FBI were out to arrest me and were going to arrest me specifically for having unprotected sex. I spent a week as a guest of the Fairview Riverside Hospital, where every day, I literally looked out of the window and could see my university. I wondered how, in just a few years, I had gone from being a star student with invitations to parties at the university president's home at one of the largest and best colleges in the United States to sitting staring out of a mental ward window just trying to make it through another day.

Since that time I have been sober and I have relapsed. I have dealt with massive guilt and shame at risky sexual behaviors. I am not proud of myself for my behavior during addiction, and I am not happy about the risks that I took with my life and the lives of others. I apologize to my community for what I have done.

Having said that, I am pissed off.

I am pissed off because not only have I had to deal with the outrageous stigma attached to being HIV positive. Not only do I have to live with the guilt and the shame of my own behavior during my times of drug abuse, but also I am expected to carry the burden of the sexual health of others as if somehow by being positive I am also responsible for making choices for others.

Let me be clear, it is my duty and responsibility to inform sex partners of my HIV status. BUT that does not now or ever abrogate the responsibility of another person to take necessary precautions to protect themselves. Also...and this is directed towards the negative folks in the community...if we have not HAD sex...if all we have done is made out or fooled around and no orifices were penetrated, then I have absolutely no obligation to disclose anything to you. CHECK yourself and your prejudicial stigma. THINK about how your reaction to a friend or a potential sex partner is going to land when you find out that he or she is positive. This is 2009, there is NO excuse for ANYONE, especially a queer person, living in the United States to have any kind of fucked up ass backwards response or reaction to an HIV positive person. Period. And if you do...if you have the NERVE to treat positive people how YOU were treated in high school gym class or when the neighborhood kids suspected that you were gay...then YOU need some serious fucking help.

I have NEVER raped anyone. All of my sexual partners have been fully willing. I will no longer bear the burden of the choices they made or did not make. I have enough guilt and shame to deal with that is linked to my own behavior and my own fucked up choices. I don't and won't carry the guilt and consequences of your choices anymore.

Even if your partner smiles at you prettily and bats his eyelashes and tells you that you are wonderful and swears that he is negative...if you choose to have sex without protection the ultimate burden of your sexual health is on YOUR shoulders.

This doesn't lessen my own culpability for the choices I have made, but I am tired of reading rants in the media or on the chat sites about men who go out and WILLINGLY look for bareback sex....and then blast the positive community for continuing to have unprotected sex. Log into Manhunt or Craigslist...peruse the ads there...and you will see ad after ad after ad after ad of “Bareback bottom looking for Negative Top.” All that says to me is that is another person attempting to put the burden for his sexual health on the shoulders of another person. So if the top that comes over swears that he is negative, and fucks you, and isn't...and you test positive, who is at greater fault? The asshole that lied? Or the asshole that opened up and took an uncovered dick and let a stranger ejaculate inside of him?

If you have unprotected sex, whether you are high or whether you are sober, and if that sex was not coerced through the use of force, then your sexual health is YOUR responsibility.

I am deeply sorry for the actions that I have taken during periods of drug use. No one in the world can even approach a level of anger with me that I have had and continue to have with myself. But if you think that somehow the positive community is responsible for your sexual choices, then you have a twisted sense of privilege akin to white privilege and gender privilege and like all privilege the only way to maintain it is through oppression. Fuck that.


  1. You are speaking word of truth. You are my hero ;-)

  2. you continue to impress me with your complete honesty. i've said it before, but i thank you for allowing us/everyone the opportunity to read some intensely personal stories!

    your reach extends far, and you have definitely made an impression on my life and outlook.

  3. This must have been so hard to write, babies. I struggle with how much of myself to reveal in my own writing; you always make the choice to walk through the fire.

  4. Thank you Vincent, I don't want to be anyone's hero. I make too many mistakes for that.

    Ethan: I am not always honest, that's the problem, but I keep trying. I keep trying. Thank you for reading and for your support. Your responses are always heartfelt and touching.

  5. Hey Eb: Girl, you have been there with me when I have been in the fire, burning up in it. You stuck around and make sure I didn't burn up. And I love you for it. I love you for many many reasons. And you know being honest isn't easy, and I don't deserve any awards or accolades for it. Its what I need to do and how I need to be, and I hope I can be it more frequently.

  6. You go boy. You expressed something that a lot of us think, have lived, but don't dare say ... at least not out loud.

    Bravo. Truth hurts.

  7. high five beeotch.

  8. I take it you continue to read Manhunt and Craiglist solely as research for articles such as this. You did well.

  9. Taylor: Thanks love. Reading your book, and loving the realness that I have found in there.

    Cacao: I am not anti Craigslist and/or Manhunt at all. Nor am I anti cruising. NOR am I anti making sexual choices that seem right for you..I am, however, anti putting your sexual safety in my hands instead of taking care of it your damn self. Cruise on. Fuck on. But be real about some shit when you do. Know that if you choose to have unprotected sex you choose to put yourself at risk NO one else puts you at risk.

  10. My dearest B,

    The more you write about yourself and your struggles, the more I understand you and love you. It is never easy to write about such personal things, and I applaud you for doing it. Maybe it will persuade me to write more about all of the insane things that have been going on in my life...

    Muchos Besos!

  11. This is astonishing. You make me very proud, Brandon. Know that I agree with you TOTALLY and I'll always have your back.

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  13. jajaja. re-write. Ok, here I go again.

    My dear Brandon. First of all, you have one of my favorite names, Brandon, haaannndsoooome! Just thought of letting you know. Good morning!

    Then, last but not least, you write:
    "But I do remember that something changed, and I felt wanted and desired and touchable." But can I tell you something? Who on this freaking earth, after meeting you, doesn't desire you, doesn't want to touch you and want you for the rest of his/her life? All without drugs and AS YOU ARE!

    I thank you for these thoughts written from the HEART. When you speak from that palpitating place it can only touch another. I thank you for you honesty, for sharing your intelligence, your world...with the world.

    I am immensely grateful to have met you. To know a soul like you...and I'm speaking here from the heart.

    Con mucho cariño y amor, Karlo.

    Y para que no se te olvide y lo repitas: All I can say is that after meeting Brandon all one can do is to want you, touch you, hold you... but most of all, LOVE YOU.
    Concentrate en los que te aman amor, incondicionalmente.

  14. Karlo:

    You are such a sweet and beautiful human being. I am so blessed that you have come into our lives. Reading your response gave me a warm and cared for feeling, and I deeply appreciate that and you.

    Much love to you.

    P.S. Brandon, my middle name, is actually the name of the first guy my Mom fell in love with...she didn't tell my Dad that when they named me ;-)

  15. Hey Brandon-
    I've been wondering what happened to you when you left MN and now I know some of it.
    I am sorry you have had to go through so much, but know that God makes all things new and will make lemonade out of any lemons no matter how bitter.
    Forgiveness comes to mind...God forgives us and it can be so hard to forgive others...especially ourselves. It sounds like you're on that path. Just keep taking in His grace and know that you are loved by Him, me and many, many others.
    Love ya!

  16. Karlo said: "Who on this freaking earth, after meeting you, doesn't desire you, doesn't want to touch you and want you for the rest of his/her life?"

    I concur. And as Bette Davis said, "Now I suddenly feel like I've taken all my clothes off."

    But cares. Its true.

  17. I'm proud of you for sharing this though it must have been hard hon, and your anger is justified. Ignorance is ugly.

  18. Taylor: Thanks to you, again, beautiful man.

    Anh: You, dear, deserve a friggin' star on the walk of fame, a Nobel prize, and to be made Grand Duchess of Love and Compassion. You were at ground zero when I got off that airplane. You were the one that got me to a safe place and helped me start the healing process. Never know how much I love you for it and for sticking around in my life afterwards.

  19. Dennis: You are very welcome.
    Melanie: Thank you love.

  20. Dennis: You are very welcome.
    Melanie: Thank you love.

  21. Brandon,

    I first met you at CONvergence in Minnesota probably in 2006 when you were hosting a panel and I had no idea you recently (a year or two before) had been through such things! I have to say, I read your blog and I always like what you're thinking of and I kind of am another anonymous fan of yours. You had me in 2006 you good looking guy and now I'm liking your mind as well. I always knew there was something about you that spoke to me, and with this posting I realized it was the "recovery" mindset that you offer in many, many of your posts. Keep it up, you are being heard and appreciated. (Of course don't take this to be some sort of responsibility where you have to make x number of journal entries... just post as your heart wills.) Thanks again.

  22. Thank you, Brandon! Love you, Sweetie.

  23. Dear Anon: Hmmmmm now I must wonder who you are. CONvergence that year was a blast with the TC Nerds of Color. I appeciate your reading and the love.

    Yogi: Love you too sweetness.

  24. You can't change the past. You can only be responsible for yourself, and your actions going forward... and even then, if you fuck up, once you've done it, it's done, and you again can't change the past. All you can do is what you can do, and the best you can do.

    ... and damn straight, every single fucking person bears total responsibility for their choices, and whether they have unprotected sex or not. That's lesson number one any sexually active person has to learn: ask questions, ask for documentation, protect yourself and be absolutely sure you know what you're doing when you have unprotected sex... because you're having unprotected sex with that person, and everyone else they've had unprotected sex with, and that those people in turn have had unprotected sex with, ad nauseum.

    I should also point out that: a) there's a ton of other fucked up shit that you can get besides HIV, and some of it kills you just as dead, and b) even "protected" sex is "safer" sex - a condom, etc. doesn't protect you absolutely against herpes, for example


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and insights. And thank you for reading!