Not A Story Of Never Been Kissed, But Instead, Do People Want To Kiss Me? Love Me?

We have some great contributing writers that will send us a thoughtful, newsworthy, entertaining, social commentary, or some other type of piece once in a while.  This most recent piece we just received from C.L. Frederick came at a very timely point. I was taking a couple of days to get to it and in the meantime, we posted 43% of LGBs Not Comfortable Kissing Someone HIV+ (July 6, 2018). We had a great amount of comments on Facebook about this UK-based Terrence Higgins Trust study, but it felt like there was a narrative missing.  What about those that want to be kissed, but are HIV+?  Don't we all deserve some love? Here's C.L. Frederick's piece.

Some people believe in love at first sight, I didn’t until I met him.  Men had always been my kryptonite, but now I had become immune to their charms.  At this point in my life and history, it takes a rebel with a heart of gold to cause a blip on my radar, but those men are a rarer find than the Hope Diamond.  I had given up on ‘hope’ that men like this exist in the world.  My greatest fear was that I was doomed to date men that bored me.  I also dreaded the reality of being HIV positive and still trying to swim in the dating pool.  After a handful of let downs related to being positive and dating HIV negative men, I thought I  was scared to the point of no return.  That was all about to change.

The first time we met was when we were both shopping for jock straps.  Our shared ‘showgirl’ mentality brought us together.  I noticed a figure stand next to me.  I wanted to be indifferent and not give him my attention, but something came over me.  I gave into temptation and I am glad that I did. 

His boyish smile greeted me as I said hello.  It didn’t register to me at first that I was smiling right back.  Our eyes never shyly looked away.  He was a beaut!  Taller than me and an athletic, meaty body.  Breathlessly, I wanted to be held by him.  His face displayed his sly charm.  Those beautiful, big brown eyes and curly, light brown hair further reinforced the smile on my face.  He had me hook, line, and sinker.  We shared a brief, silly conversation then, with sore cheeks, parted ways.  Here is the sitch, he left without giving me his number and I was too proud to ask for his.  I cursed out Jesus in my head.  “Why the fuck did you bring him into my life only to have him disappear as quickly as he came into it?”  My apologies to Jesus.

At times, the universe is a cruel bitch of a matchmaker.  She allows us to cross paths with people that we want to keep in our lives forever, only to have them stay for just a moment.  Maybe I was having one-sided feelings and he did not feel the same way or maybe our interaction was flirty and he was into me as well.  I couldn’t count the number of sighs that I gave as I headed home.  I was trying to build up the strength to not think about him again.  I failed.

Months went by and I never forgot our chance interaction.  Thinking about him always put a smile on my face, but pained my heart.  Then, as fate would have it, we met again.  I was ‘box meat’ at the dick dancer bar he was having drinks at.  He watched me dance my entire set as he sat with a ‘friend.’  I jumped off the stage, my pearly whites on full display as were his.  We had our reintroduction and with my hand firmly feeling his shoulder he introduced me to his boyfriend.  Cue the Alanis Morissette song “Ironic.”  I returned to cursing out Jesus in my head.  “You fucking kidding me with this Jesus?”  Again, apologies to Jesus. 

When his boyfriend stepped aside to use the restroom, it was on.  There couldn’t have been a pair as flirty as us in the world during ‘boyfriends’ pee break.  We touched, pulled close, exchanged numbers, added each other on social media, and confessed our affection for each other.  The soon to be ‘ex-boyfriend’  must have taken an eternity to pee, isn't it ironic indeed.

As we got to know each other he made me feel like, in his eyes, I was the most beautiful man alive.  We both had a touch of crazy in us and that was a comfort to me.  I don’t bat an eye when I disclose to potential love interests my HIV positive status, but I found myself nervous to tell him.  When you care about someone you don't want to disappoint them and you find that being vulnerable is a loving act.  It was never a concern for him.  He valued my humanity without limitations.  No one had ever made me feel that safe and unashamed.  It is an overwhelmingly happy experience when the man you care about doesn’t play into the stigma of being HIV positive.  We were both damaged people who just ‘got’ each other.  At last, I had found my equal.  It didn’t hurt that seeing him in a jockstrap always took my breath away.

Here is where things got complicated.  We had an intense chemistry and our sex was deeply intimate.  I found him to the be most perfect man there has ever been for me, but we weren’t to last.  Our personal struggles did us in.  Deep down we wanted to love each other, but we both needed to work on ourselves.  The curse of damaged people is timing and this just wasn’t our time.  Our hearts were both broken, but we cared enough about each other to make some tough decisions.  Losing ‘the one’ has been the greatest loss of my life.  We remain as close as ever and he is my ‘constant,’ and always will be.  We are still very much in each other’s lives and our affection is just as strong now as it was then.  The love we had for each other didn’t die when we parted ways and I am thankful we did not give up on our connection.  I am proud of us for acting like adults.

Some might ask why I chose to share this story.  I believe that relationships are the most important aspect of the gay experience.  In gay culture, relationships, both friendships and romantic, have a tendency to become disposable which can create residual emotional scars that add to mental health struggles in gay men.  Even if a cherished relationship ends, it is possible not to lose the connection.  A healthy and solid friendship can still survive.  Value the person you were close to and if you loved them don’t throw them away like trash.

Layered into this realization is that there should never be shame when dating and being HIV positive.  Sometimes within our community we practice hypocrisy and that needs to change.  I will always cherish this past relationship because it was the first to help me realize I was worthy and that my status doesn't define my worth.  I do not know what the future holds for the two of us.  All that I know is we want to remain in each other’s lives.  When we both feel capable, reconciliation may become a possibility that we both would welcome with open arms.  Even if we do not end up together as a couple I am comforted by the fact that we never chose to say good bye.

Words by C.L. Frederick

Art Work by Clarione Gutierrez 
www.clarione.com   IG: @clarione   Twitter: @clarione   YouTube: /Clarione    FB: /byclarione

C.L. Frederick is an internationally published columnist, reporting on social issues affecting the LGBT community. His articles have been published by numerous national and international publications. A few of the outlets he has written for include The Phoenix Newsletter (Kansas City), DNA Magazine, Prism Magazine, Homoculture, Impulse Group, The Dallas Voice, and The Windy City Times (Chicago). As a writer, he is known for sharing his personal experiences dealing with being a HIV positive gay man and for documenting his journey from addict to being in recovery. He has had several featured acting roles on t.v. shows such as; Modern Family, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, LA Hair, and Empire. As a male model, he has been featured in campaigns for Joe's Jeans, Quarter Homme, and Andrew Christian. He is single in his personal life, but has his Dimaggio. His greatest dream in life is to have a family and he will build that 'white picket fence' with his own two well manicured hands if he has to.

Jack Mackenroth Plans To Step Away From Non-Profit HIV Activism

In 2008, while competing as a contestant on the reality series Project Runway, Jack Mackenroth shared with the world his HIV-positive status.

And since then, Mackenroth has dedicated much of his time working with HIV/AIDS non-profits as an outspoken activist.

In a new interview, Mackenroth tells HIV PLUS, “I don’t mind being a poster boy for HIV.”

“I was very cognizant of what I was doing when I came out on national TV a decade ago, because the HIV conversation had virtually disappeared from mainstream television,” he adds.

But after ten years of non-stop activism, the popular InstaHunk says he is “moving away from the non-profit sector” because he needs a break.

“The issue with non-profit stuff is that you are overworked and underpaid,” Mackenroth explains. “Like teachers, people expect that we should basically volunteer our services because we are doing important work.”

“I’m getting really close to 50, and I can’t be hoofing it all the time. It’s [also] relatively thankless work. I’m not doing it for accolades, but everyone likes… to feel like something beneficial is coming from your job.”

Diagnosed with HIV at the age of 19 in 1990, Mackenroth didn’t plan for the future because he didn’t think he’d have one.

“I thought I was going to die at 25,” he told HIV. “My boyfriend died at 27. Until my mid-30s, I was like: ‘Why should I have a 401k?’ I wasn’t planning ahead. It’s been over the past decade, where I’m like, ‘I’m going to live. I need to plan for the future.’”

Now, years later, Mackenroth has gone back to university to obtain a degree in nursing, plus he’s recently launched an OnlyFans.com account in an effort to monetize his large Instagram fan base.

Even though he won’t be working in the non-profit arena, the hunk says he’ll never leave HIV activism completely. Thanks to social media, he admits, “I get two to three Instagram messages a day from someone in a foreign country who just found out [they’re HIV-positive].”

“I still respond to nearly everyone who reaches out,” he assures. “I’m always available to talk. I’m very accessible. [People can] message me on Twitter or Instagram.”

When talking about HIV, Mackenroth is big on promoting the message that undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U). 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed last October that HIV-positive people whose viral loads are suppressed to the point that they are undetectable cannot transmit HIV to sexual partners.

Mackenroth says people who are newly diagnosed with HIV often feel like, "I can never have sex again. I’m going to [transmit to] my partner.”

The former Project Runway star is emphatic in his advice: “Get on your meds, get undetectable, and you — and everyone else — will be fine!”

Bone and Muscle Frailty Twice As Common in Men Who Are HIV-Positive, Study Shows

Bone and muscle frailty is twice as common in middle-aged and elderly men living with HIV as HIV-negative men, says a report in the June issue journal AIDS. 

Conducted by the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, research involved 399 men, 200 HIV-negative and 199 HIV-positive. All men were between the ages of 50 and 69. All HIV-positive men were med compliant and had normal CD4 counts. 

The study showed prevalence of frailty in HIV-positive men versus in prevalence of frailty in HIV negative men at 16 percent and eight percent, respectively.

Many researchers have christened frailty “The Silent Epidemic.” It causes exhaustion, slow speed and physical weakness. It can greatly impact one’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. 

Risk factors don’t vary by HIV status, and they include abdominal obesity, loss of skeletal mass and osteoporosis. 

According to the study, frailty is seven times more prevalent in HIV-positive men with larger waistlines than those with smaller waistlines. Watching your weight, taking vitamin D tablets and eating mindfully are helpful in prevention and management.

Read more here: https://www.hivplusmag.com/treatment/2018/6/20/bone-and-muscle-frailty-twice-prevalent-men-living-hiv

"You Should Be Publicly Executed:" One HIV-Positive Man Shows The Horrors Of Hateful Grindr Comments

One man is showing the hate he receives regularly on Grindr for being HIV-positive.

Tom Hayes is the editor of the website Beyond Positive and often talks about the realities of living with HIV.

Hayes then went beyond the borders of his one website to address the topic. Hayes decided to share screenshots of abuse he receives on Grindr because of having HIV.

In the initial tweet that started the thread, Hayes wrote:

“One thing I hear again and again when talking to the media, or the negative general population, is that ‘HIV is sorted now isn’t it?’.”

“Medically? Treatments are simple, effective and stop onwards transmission.”

“Socially? HAH. NO. NOPE.”

From there, Hayes posted several screenshots of men saying things like, “You should be publicly executed,” and “Bet you wish you’d worn a rubber now slut.”

Take a look at some of the disgusting messages down below.

GayStarNews talked to Hayes about the tweets and living with HIV.

“Medically HIV is an incredible success story, it’s the fastest moving disease area in the world. We’ve gone from discovery of the virus to a single daily pill that stops you passing it on in just 30 years.”

“Sadly, society hasn’t moved at the same pace. People living with HIV still have to deal with stigma on a daily basis – be it from HIV negative peers, tattoo parlours or even the medical profession.”

“I wanted to share just a few of the messages I’ve received online to highlight the issue – and hopefully make people think twice before rejecting someone because of their HIV status.”

h/t: GayStarNews