“Don’t discriminate against me but, please, allow me to do so.”
It’s something I’ve seen for a while now. On and off. This week, I’ve seen it twice. People saying: « I am HIV positive so I would prefer dating someone who is positive too. » One was gay, the other straight.
« It’s easier and a nice (person) will show up. »
Want to know something easy? A child jigsaw. (Ok, granted, maybe not so easy if you’re the child in question.)
The Easy Sudoku grid in your newspaper is pretty simple too.
The Easy mode on the latest video game. That’s easy too.
These 3 things are not too dissimilar: they are easy introductions to something new. And they will leave you wanting for something else, something more challenging and, likely, more satisfying.
Dating is not way off. Sure, when all clicks and fits perfectly together, it’s nice. But even then, you have to court and flirt and make a good impression. Dating isn’t always easy, though it needn’t be hard either. But if you only ever stick to what’s easy, you don’t learn, you don’t progress. You never get to try the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Pity.
Being positive, dating positive.
Been there, done that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dating someone with the same status. I get it. Disclosure made easy. Less stress about sex, or cuts, or medication side-effects being apparent. Common ground, a shared experience and, hopefully, a shared future. I would happily date someone HIV positive if they were right for me.
That’s different from actively sero-sorting: only seeking someone with the same status, ignoring people with a different status. And that’s the part I don’t get.
Scrap that, I do get it. I get why someone would do that. I just can’t see myself doing that. And here is why:
Being positive, dating negative.
One day you get tested and, in a flash, your life is turned upside down. Literally. Minus becomes plus, sex goes from fun to risky, dating goes from carefree to a game of will-tell, won’t-tell, when-to-tell, should-I-tell.
Rejection can happen. You get on well with someone, you like them, they seem to like you but the time comes to reveal your immune system is under attack and people run a mile. Out of fear or sheer ignorance, whatever it is, you’ve lost them and, in the process, you may have lost a part of you, too. A little bit of hope that once whispered in your ear ‘It’ll be alright.’
You feel sad, you feel unloved, you feel… crap.
We’ve all heard it, all said it: Life sucks. Deal with it.
Except it isn’t that bad, really. Life is pretty amazing. The birds, the bees, the clouds, the sun, the moon, the seas, the fields and mountains. Pretty, pretty good. The chances of you ever being born are astronomical and yet, here you are, reading this. Maybe listening to music written and sung by someone who had the same astronomical chances of ever existing.
One thing that isn’t astronomical, however, is the number of people living with HIV in the UK.
Around 100,000. Ok, that’s 100,000 too many, sure, etc. etc.
But in a country of 60+ million people, that’s 0.15%. Even if you only keep it down to the working population (16-65 y.o), that would only equate to an extra 0.1 point.
And even in area with higher concentration (see 1 in 12 with HIV on London gay scene), that’s still narrowing it down pretty sharply.
I’m not ready or willing to discriminate against over 99% of the population because – bloody them – they don’t have HIV. How dare they! Purely on logic, it makes no sense to me. It’s hard enough as it is to meet nice people on the dating scene, no?
Plenty of fish in the sea, way fewer in your kitchen sink. If meeting someone you fancy is difficult as it is, narrowing down the pool can only make it harder. I don’t even think the whole ‘it’s easier for people to stand out in a smaller crowd’ point can balance that out.
The stigma within.
“What you hate to suffer, do not do to anyone else.” (Philo)
Magnetic (sero-discordant) relationships aren’t better per se. They aren’t worse either. Both types have pros and cons when living with HIV.
Does one need to have experienced something to know what it’s like?
Yes, sure. I never had my eye crushed by, say, a hammer. I don’t know what it feels like.
Does one need to have experienced something to guess what it’s like?
Hell, I sure don’t want my eye and a hammer to meet!
Eye vs. Hammer analogy put aside, why is it that only someone who has gone through what I’ve been through could ‘get it’? I’m ready to bet that’s not the case. I chose to believe a HIV negative partner could empathise with the baggage associated with the disease. And so far, that’s what I have experienced. If having HIV did not make me a lesser person, then, surely, I was alright before infection. And, therefore, others –free of the virus- will be too.
Stigma exists, evidently, but one can avoid the brunt of it by not reading the Daily Mail comment sections. It is strange, however, to try and avoid discrimination by, in turn, discriminating against others.
When it comes to dating and relationships, I have found my limitations, my boundaries, my fears and doubts were largely self-imposed. There are thousands of people in sero-discordant relationships, making them work perfectly, safely and healthily.
The name of the game.
Down the line, it’s all about 2 individuals connecting. That can happen on many levels. What really matters, however, isn’t in my blood. Or theirs. Have you ever been asked for a complete medical on a first date in order to agree to a second? My cholesterol level is slightly too high; shall I stay at home forever?
Didn’t think so.
So if someone disappears after disclosure, deep down I know it’s for the best. They weren’t right for me. Actually, I might still have done some good. They might get tested as a result. Small victory, but victory nonetheless.
And if it doesn’t work out, I will not blame my status. There are 101 reasons why someone can be just ‘not that into you’, from your choice of clothes or perfume to your performance in the sack and the size of your… mother’s involvement in your daily life. I’ve dated positive, I’ve dated negative. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes theirs. Sometimes they broke it up, sometimes I did.
So if someone disappears for any other reason, I know it wasn’t meant to be. I wasn’t right for them.
And when the ifs disappear, I’ll know it’s worth it.