Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Letter from a Poz Stranger.

I've been writing my blog for so long -- and have been "out" as an positoid for so long, I forgot what it feels like to be starting down this road. So, this email was a welcome wake-up call. In the letter, he tells how he tested positive at the age of 17.

17.

And his parents "basically disowned" him, so they left him to fend for himself. Imagine for a moment being this child. This kind of terror is what many teenagers feel when it comes to just coming out. Imagine having AIDS and being disowned at that age.
Hi Steve,
This is totally out of my character to send random emails to random bloggers. I found your blog this morning when doing a search for "HIV blogs." I recently started my own and wanted to see what everyone else was doing with theirs. I started mine because this year is my 10 year anniversary of having HIV/AIDS and I figured I might have some wisdom to pass on. What struck me about your blog is how open to other topics you are. It is not just a blog about your experience with AIDS. It is more about the "whole you." And I really admire that. Up to this point I've been afraid (for lack of a better term) to put too much of myself into my blog. I guess I am most concerned about "outing myself." My co-workers have no clue. And even some of my friends don't know. Were you always very open about it? Or did you just reach a "fuck it" point? Have you gotten any negative backlash from it?

Anyway, thanks for making me feel less alone out in cyber space.

Pozitively Acquired
http://pozitivelyacquired.blogspot.com/
I wrote him back:
I have to say, in response to your
question, that as soon as I tested positive, I told everyone around me, and I had an office job at the time. It never occurred to me to keep it a secret. So, when I started my blog, since it was based on having written a bunch of songs about living with AIDS, there really wasn't anything left to hide.

So, my circumstance is probably much different from yours. Also, back then, if you got AIDS, you died. It was much more important that everyone know, so that we could change hearts and minds about health care, etc.

The response was amazing when I did tell, in the beginning. People embraced me, loved me, kissed me, came out to me, and felt grateful in that, by revealing this personal thing, they felt like they could also talk to me about things in their own lives. It's incredibly freeing.

What you have to think about, personally, is your own stress level. Your body is now always in a state of low grade infection. It's working harder than other bodies. So, you must thing, first, about your own survival -- and survival is about letting go of irrelevant worries, pulling together a team of people around you who you know care about you, and focusing on your health.

You should ask yourself, aloud in your blog, what is keeping you from sharing the diagnosis -- or more, specifically -- why you are afraid of anyone finding out. Since I don't know your city or your situation, I cannot tell you what is the best course for you.

But, I would say this, when people read blogs, they never think it's about themselves. The chances that someone will put two and two together are pretty slim. And, if they did, would do you think is, realistically, the worst that could happen? If it's conceivable you'd lose your job, then you definitely have cause to worry. Or if you think you'll lose clients, etc.

But if it's just office gossip, and no real professional negative backlash, I'd say fuck em. There's a way to do this where you can be a hero. Where you just gather everyone, tell them outright what's the deal, tell them that you feel you're on borrowed time, and that you want to make sure everyone creates a healthy environment, but that, unless they were planning to either have sex with you or drink your blood, they are in no danger -- and, in fact, they're more dangerous
to you than you are to them -- the great irony.

That's the big way to go.

Or, maybe even better, you could write this speech in your blog, and start thinking out loud about what it means to come out with AIDS in whatever town you're in. It might give your blog some focus. I mean, really, we blog to survive. We blog so that we can be remembered. So
that we can think out loud. Or we simply blog because we must.

In fact, we should dual post this email exchange in our respective blogs.

What I learned is that whatever I'm going through, someone else out there is going through it, too. By saying it all out loud, just as you felt a little less lonely in finding my blog, you will do the same for another. Their journey might be closer to yours. And who knows where it will lead? I wasn't a "semi-famous" songwriter when I started my blog. I was a guy behind a desk, helping others in the music biz. I barely wrote a song a year.

Getting AIDS is definitely, for most a kind of death sentence. But, given the fact that all creatures die, it's not really new information. It's just makes us more present. It's why I call it the Bonus Round. We've been given this new lease on life, thanks to the meds, and now we have to make something of it.

*I just now looked at your blog. You're on heavy diet restrictions -- ugh. I am too. This shit made me diabetic. Are you? Ah, and you're candid about having been a hustler. I played a hustler bar in New York, once. Long gone. So, that's another factor that enters into your
coming out. If you're working in a grocery store in the midwest, you might shock the locals.

You're a good writer, by the way. I like how terse and brutally honest your prose is.

He wrote back.

I am totally on board with posting the email exchange. I think the reason why I am hesitant to go balls out and tell everyone my status is because there is just so much back story to it. I tested poz when I was 17, and then people always say "wow, that's young, how did you get it?" So, then I have to share my epic "slut years" story. And, I think I am, in a way, ashamed I got it so young. When I did tell people (in particular my parents) they basically disowned me and I was left to fend for myself. So there is a huge sense of loss connected to disclosure.

I realize that I take up such small real-estate on the web, and the likelihood of anyone ever reading my blog and making the connection that it is me, is slim to none. But, I almost lead two lives. The 9-5er has his shit together and can show up on time, work hard, play the corporate game, and go home. But that's only half of me. There is the ex-druggie, ex-hustler, poz guy that is hiding in the background, who I am so afraid will mix with the 9-5er. It makes me really isolated but I don't see how the two halves can coexist in "real life." They are just starting to mix on my blog, and that makes me nervous. But, maybe that's the real reason why I need to blog. Who knows.

As for the other stuff. MAN, dietary restrictions... I can't stand it. I'm not a diabetic yet but was put on a diet because I was heading down that path. I think one of my previous meds fucked with blood sugar. I think I read that somewhere anyway. But, I switched from that regime but my doc still wants me on the diet. I had a glucose test last Thursday so we'll see. Results should be coming in this week. Oh, and I'm in Las Vegas. Ironically, vegas is such a conservative city. The gay community here is sputtering along, but its not like West Hollywood (my old stomping grounds.) I work as a designer for one of the casinos here. It's totally a desk slave job and am looking for other opportunities. I was unemployed for about a year (did the rehab, and took some "get your shit together" time off.) So, because of that, I took whatever job I could. I used to work as an Art Director in an advertising agency, which is really where I belong. I will get back there. Just took a detour.

Again, thanks for writing back. I'm going to post my email and your response in my blog so if you get a FLOOD of viewers (6 or 7) they are my readers. haha.
Well, my friend. I long ago took the counter off my blog. Chasing numbers is not why I blog. I blog because it is helpful to me, and to the "6 or 7" people who might need the information I share about the virus, myself and whatever else I might be involved in -- whether it's encouraging gay kids and their parents to find places of safety, or encouraging world leaders to create safe spaces.

For each of us, we are all going it alone. But when we reach out and tell our stories, it does, indeed, make each of us feel a little less alone.

Check out my new friend's blog at http://pozitivelyacquired.blogspot.com/.
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New article in Arts & Understanding (with amazing photos)

http://aumag.org/2017/05/10/steve-schalchlin-advocate/