(Not) coming out of the HIV closet…

Not every BBC News headline is newsworthy.

Coming out of the HIV closet
Close the door behind you. Quietly…

This week we learnt that Tom Daley is in a relationship with a man. I say « learnt », you know what I mean.

On that occasion we also found out that BBC News and the Daily Mail have more in common than previously believed: Must. Get. More. Page. Hits.

Among the sea of « how brave » and « faggot », very few raised the question: ‘why does it still matter?’.

Oh, I hear you. Homosexuality in sport, Olympian role model for the youth, Sochi games.

Yes, yes, all of the above are somewhat relevant. Yet, in 2013, it is slightly uneasy to see that someone (anyone) coming out would make (inter)national news and create the buzz of the week. Not even mentioning how inaccurate these may be, for Daley never actually came out of the closet. He’s just in love with a man. He’s 19; who knows what tomorrow might bring.

Time for a tenuous link between his sexuality and my HIV status.

When I found out I was HIV positive, over 3 years ago, one of my first thoughts was « how will my parents react? ». So I started thinking about that. Voiced my concern to my then boyfriend, who imparted these words of wisdom: ‘why should they know? What difference will it make, apart from them worrying about it? »

This has become my motto. At work, in social circles, on the Internet: ‘is my status relevant to this person?’

More often than not, the answer is no.

Whilst it might be pleasant to come out publicly, on Facebook, Twitter or else, ultimately it would only be to me a way to get attention, which I am not in need of.

Some might be doing so seeking support from friends and family.

Some might think they are changing mind-sets by being public about their status.

These are all very valid reasons to come out of the HIV ‘closet’. About a year ago, I was planning to as well. Then my motto caught back with me: why should I?

Closet is not the right term. Ash Beckham got it right when she said we all have a closet to come out of, but HIV isn’t mine, for I do not worry about what would happen or what would people think if my status came out. Most of my friends know my status, for example, and they don’t care.

What’s stopping me, then, one might ask. Well, nothing is, except how unnecessary this would be.

Most people with HIV dream of a world where their status wouldn’t matter. So why make a deal, big or small, of it? Why make a statement to then expect it would be ignored. How do these things go: “Hey people, I’m different! Please don’t treat me like I am.”? I kid, of course…

Not everything happening in your life needs to end up on social media.

My doctor knows, my dentist knows, my lovers and close friends know. Nobody else knows. Not because I’m worried or ashamed of it, just because they don’t need to. Call it old-fashioned discretion. In this day and age of Facebook statuses and Tweets, maybe being silent is the way forward. Not silencing the condition, hence this blog, but only discussing it when it matters, with whom it matters; not anyone and everyone in the hope they’d pay attention and/or care.

When I get asked about my status, I mention it. Casually. Not making a fuss, turning it into the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race. If we want HIV to not matter anymore, maybe it is time to act like it doesn’t. Shoving it down people’s Timeline might not be the best way; though it is a very good example of Do as I say, not as I do.

So there you have it, I am not not coming out, there just is no closet to come out of. HIV is a (small) part of me that needs only be shared with the people it concerns, not the whole world. After all, I would hate if my doctor let strangers read my medical file (not that it’d make an interesting read, mind), so why publish a ‘copy’ myself on the web.

My HIV + your HIV ≠ our HIV. Different strokes, and all that jazz.

I won’t cave under the pressure of those who think people with HIV should go public about it. They are full of good intentions, I’m sure. ‘We need to show the world that we are the same as everyone else’, you’ll hear them say. ‘No shame being HIV positive’, even. And, yes, sure, there is no shame and we are like everyone else. No worse. No better. I’d rather hope for a world where the reaction to disclosing would be “so what?” rather than “how brave.”

Like they have no shame being HIV positive (neither do I), I have no shame being quiet about it. Those trying to make me feel otherwise, for the “good of the community” should maybe stop for a moment and reflect on the hypocrisy of their demands, for what might seem obvious and inevitable to them may well not be the same for us all. Like there are many ways to contract HIV, there are many ways to deal with the aftermaths.

Maybe I’ll change my mind in the future and disclose to the world. For the time being I’ll fight the stigma undercover: one need not be loud to make some noise.

2 thoughts on “(Not) coming out of the HIV closet…

  1. Erick Brunet
    September 10, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Thank you for sharing. It’s very interesting. Hope to hear more from you.

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