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Disclosure and Dating

| 31 Comments
This is the second in my own personal thoughts of disclosure. I say that because we all have our own disclosure which is unique to only us. Just like fingerprints, we all have them but they all differ. In this post I want to review my intersection with disclosure and dating. So as a disclaimer others may do things differently but for me when it came to dating, this is how I dealt with it.

His name was Mike, at least for this post it was, and we had just met. I was in my early twenties and had known of my status for a while and he was older, mature and experienced. It was a good connection and not one built on sex as I was afraid of this thing inside of me. We were on the same script as he wasn't looking for a one night stand either.

So what was the problem? The problem was that in all the sharing over dinners and movie dates, I never brought up my status. Looking back he didn't either as we never had a conversation that should have been had. But by not telling I was not trying to be devious. First, we had just met and I didn't know him that well to share something so personal. Second, I was in a stage of fear of others finding out and if I shared it and he got upset, what would he do with the information. Thank God it wasn't today with the invention of Facebook and other social media sites where your business could be out there in a hot minute.

Third, it was the other thing I feared and unfortunately it happened. I told him as I felt the relationship was going to the next level. He didn't say anything right away. In fact he didn't say anything at all as my phone calls kept going to voice mail and any efforts to reach out to him was unsuccessful. It was the third thing I feared--rejection.

At the time I felt I was in a 'damned if I do, damned if I don't' situation. Small traces of anger formed on why even bother being honest. Maybe I was marked. Why bother when you see personal ads that state 'neg-you be too' or 'no fat, no fems, no poz.' Or if I dated was it to only be based on the same status rather than the organic connection/attraction. And why should I reveal? As long as I practice safe sex, then there's no need for disclosure. On top of that I convinced myself relationships are overrated, who needs them anyway.

So for a while I denied myself the ability of someone getting to close to me. I didn't want to let someone hurt me again by rejecting me. I guess I wanted to do it to you before you did it to me. When Mike pulled the disappearing act, I vowed never to let someone be in the driver's seat with my emotions.

Now older, I realize my life was lonely and the wall I built around myself kept people out, but I was also stuck alone behind the same walls. Going home to a silent house. Alone.

That's the wonderful thing about maturity. You get to a phase in your life where you tell yourself, if you don't want all of me, then it's your loss, not mine. I had to get to that place because by hiding behind that wall they still had the power. I had to regain my own strength.
I had to take the leap into the unknown waters and put it all in God's hand. If it's meant to be then so be it, if not then so be it as well.

I didn't want to put myself off the right 'timing game' any longer. The game of do I tell after the first date, the second or the third or when is it too late?  I just didn't want to do it no more. This is who I am.

But for those who don't or haven't disclosed, I know where you're coming from. I was there. It's just that for me it was a place I no longer wanted to be.

There is no official rule book on when. I think when it comes to relationships we have to just trust that gut and do what we feel is right. I feel for me by living my life in the truth although I lost some people in my life, I gained more than I lost.

Mike, you may have taught me what rejection felt like, but man I have to say to you, 'you had a good thing and you lost it.'       

31 Comments

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Comments on Aundaray Guess's blog entry "Disclosure and Dating"

I find it strange how the sexually active gay community thinks that this don't ask don't tell policy on gay sex is ok. men will do anything anonomously with guys but the minute HIV is brought up suddenly they care. I am finding that the best way to go about disclosure is if you have an ad up on grindr, scruff, mister or wherever gay men meet put this next to your name or in your profile [+] now by doing so you will probably see less traffic but in reality you are positive and by not saying so doesn't make it go away

Thank you for the thoughtful column on disclosure, Aundaray.

Nice article to read about dating and disclosing your HIV Status to your potential partner or encounter, looks like a recording, the question will be when? timing? I do believe very strongly that should be done at first..no excuse ..
I love few lines in your article…
-“if you don't want all of me, then it's your loss, not mine.”
Also this one
- 'you had a good thing and you lost it'.
And the third one the best “I feel for me by living my life in the truth although I lost some people in my life, I gained more than I lost”
If we can memorize those three thoughts you will be in heaven.

Ah... I've struggled with this many times myself. The fear of rejection, and impending gossip if you tell the wrong person. I've experienced both many times. And for a while, I too refused to get close enough to anyone to risk it. Why disclose if I'm ultimately going to be punished for it anyway? These days I find myself disclosing more via email or online, vs. face to face. It might sound a bit cowardly, but who needs to see that look on someone's face if they're put off. It does me or my ego no good, so why bother. And more of the reactions I get lately seem to be on the positive side. So it is making it easier.

This is a good article. I have just recently found out my status and i have only old a few people. I have disclosed to one person, he is my ex boyfirend but Ive known him all my life so it was much easier for me to tell him. But i was just asking when is the right time and how could you tell some one that you are HIV positive. The lady I asked told me you disclose your status when your ar comfortable and the best way for you. I have been talking to some one and i am still asking myself when and how. I guess when the time comes i will.

But this was good article to read because it doent matter their sexual orientation but anyone that is positive.

As someone who has been + for the last 8 Years and also now living an openly + life for the last 5. I can say I have come to the same point you have if you want me you want all of me, being + included.

I have come to the point that when I start chatting to a person and he wants more than whats happening at that stage, I say to him str8 that I am living with HIV Take me like that or dont take me at all.

A very positive article and well done to you for not hiding who you are.

I am at the point now that I drop the HIV Bomb in the first casual meeting, when I am organically attracted to a guy with potential for a relationship. If he calls me after the fact, I know he is interested enough to get beyond this hurdle. If not, I have not wasted the mental and emotional energy of playing the guessing game of what his response will be. I didn't come to this point without a lot of rejections. It still is a bit scary to take is approach, but I feel better about myself being totally upfront.
There is also the don't ask don't tell game. Guys play this one because they don't want to deal with the issue in casual sexual situations. There are definitely situations that arise in the life of a single gay male, that I participate in this game, honestly, I am not a saint. During this game I take responsibility to play safely, take my meds. to stay undetectable, and don't get into sexual situations with impaired judgement because of alcohol or drugs.
Taking both of these positions has helped me to manage my sexual needs and not give up on my dreams of a loving committed relationship. I realize the ideal situation for me would be to have success in the relationship department and give up playing the don't ask don't tell game. I am taking a realistic and pragmatic position at the moment. It could change and I am hoping the relationship that fulfills my sexual needs will develop. I hope you won't judge my honesty and that this post will help someone else who has difficulty with these issues of disclosure. If it does I would like to hear from you. Sincerely... Pragmatic

What a great article. I have been fighting this for a long time. I had a wonderful partner that didn't care but we practiced safe sex. She was wonderful. I met another woman and told her when it felt right and was crushed by the rejection I got from her. Walls are built and one day I will find the right person to tear them down for. I agree that it is their loss because of stupidity. Thanks again.

Beautifully written, thank you for sharing. I have been coping with loneliness for quite a number of years now as person living with HIV. But what you said about being stuck behind the same wall really struck a chord with me.

I tell them upfront. I have been accepted and rejected. Whether it is for casual sex or an interest in a relationship, I disclose. It's something that everyone who is positive should do. Why in the world would I go out with someone and wait weeks before telling them something as important as this?

Instead of thinking that someone may reject you, think that they may accept you. I believe if people think YOU have a problem with your illness, then that energy transfers onto them, meaning THEY will have a problem with it also. Anonymous sex is not the answer to getting what you want.

Almost seven years ago, I was upfront and honest; we're still together, though serodiscordant.

'xactly. I don't get hit up as much with the "+" in my profile, but at least when I do it's apparently a non-issue. Get a lot of "me too" from guys who don't say either way in their own profile. I'm out of all three closets though so I can deal with that.

Thank you. I enjoyed reading this post. My partner is +, I am not. He shared his status with me from the beginning of our relationship. We've been inseparable, since 1998. I know a good thing when I see it. Thanks, again.

I absolutely agree. Tell sooner than later, and without fanfare and drama.

I am at peace with myself, and know that this does not define me anymore than being gay or any other characteristic. Good people will usually react with a similar energy that I tell it with. They want to know that I know what is going on, and am in control. They haven't had to deal with this at this personal level, so they are relying on me to present it clearly, accurately, and without drama.

When I was diagnosed my doctor said "be careful who you tell...once you tell you can't untell" but she also said, "you should tell anyone that you are going to get sexual with" I believe this is true. Yes, I take precautions, and am undetectable, but if I can't be honest about something critical like this, what else will I not be honest about? Ultimately I want to be with someone that wants to be with me...the whole me, as I will accept the whole them.

If someone doesn't bail with this information, its more likely they have the maturity and intelligence to deal with other challenges in life in a similar fashion. Its a good indicator of character and maturity.

To anyone in a long term (5-8 yrs+) relationship and still serodiscordant (one person positive and one person negative) please, I am in need of your help!

I have been positive for over 3 years now and would like to ask questions of someone who has been dealing with this in a committed serodiscordant relationship for a long time now.

I am with someone special, and whether he and I are able to cross this boundary or not, he and I would like to have access to some people who are willing to offer knowledge on occasion from their own experiences. We would like to get to know other serodiscordant couples who can possibly help us understand the reality of our risks. Doctors can tell you all day what they do and don't recommend, or how risky situations are, or aren't.. but in the end hearing real world experience seems like it would be the most insightful for he and I both.

Being serodiscordant is a must, and the longer your relationship has been, the better. Thank you SO very much in advance.

-Lance

injunjoe10@hotmail.com

P.S. If I get unwanted attention to this email for any reason, I'll simply shut it down, so don't bother.

This was a well written article and I loved it from beginning to end...ALL of it! There are people out there who will ALWAYS judge and say you should disclose at this point or at that point. But at the end of the day, it is ALL up to you and when YOU are ready!

I am NOT saying have sex first and then tell, but I remember when I was Neg, there were things about me I didn't just say to every and any one...it was NOT their business. I'm a private guy, and have always been. To those of you that disclose on the first date, Congrats, but different strokes for different folks.

Personally, I can meet another guy who is +, and he can tell me on the first date, but that doesn't mean I will date him. It may not be much about him that has attracted me to him, and for me, its more about Personality. This is sooooo confusing and again, its your choice, not any one else's when you disclose...as long as its before SEX!

This was a well written article and I loved it from beginning to end...ALL of it! There are people out there who will ALWAYS judge and say you should disclose at this point or at that point. But at the end of the day, it is ALL up to you and when YOU are ready!

I am NOT saying have sex first and then tell, but I remember when I was Neg, there were things about me I didn't just say to every and any one...it was NOT their business. I'm a private guy, and have always been. To those of you that disclose on the first date, Congrats, but different strokes for different folks.

Personally, I can meet another guy who is +, and he can tell me on the first date, but that doesn't mean I will date him. It may not be much about him that has attracted me to him, and for me, its more about Personality. This is sooooo confusing and again, its your choice, not any one else's when you disclose...as long as its before SEX!

there r many reasons to be careful about who u reveal ur HIV+ status to, some of them a matter of life or death for oneself as well as others. stigma can kill directly as well as indirectly.

however, i still marvel in horror at how many people choose to withhold their + status from potential romantic partners. frankly, when i was HIV-, if a potential partner revealed their status AFTER sex, i permanently considered them untrustworthy...especially if there had been substantial conversation repeatedly beforehand. most people would, and there's a certain echo-chamber mentality in these forums where many of us tell each other "hey, it's THEIR loss, and it just proves that THEY weren't trustworthy!". many of us become condescending to those who fear our status and/or our withholding of it.

this is maladaptive. in the short term, looking down on people who reject u may make u feel better about being rejected, but in the long term ur setting urself up for the same thing over n over. so much emotional investment, so much anxiety about someone's eventual reaction...so much self-deception to lessen the sting of rejection.

if ur life can withstand the consequences of becoming publicly outed as HIV+, i advise being open...it lessened my stress as an HIV+ man quite drastically. online especially, being open about my status filtered out a truly gigantic mountain of negativity from my life. yes, being angrily rejected in email is far more mild than enduring that same rejection face to face...and most online rejection is silent anyway. they either dont reply or dont write to begin with.

if u cannot withstand having ur + status outed publicly, disclosure is more risky. if ur going to withhold ur status from a partner initially, i suggest that on top of ur usual practices in getting to know someone, u also explore their sense of honor, beliefs on honesty, and their *real-life* disposition toward revenge. beware trying to "reel them in" too closely, hoping that if they develop an attachment to u it will make them less likely to reject u...bcuz while that may be true for some, for others (like myself when i was neg) it underlines the sense of betrayal, and the desire for retribution. it becomes easier to view HIV+ people as selfish predators, and criminal prosecutions of HIV+ people have been increasing in the USA and worldwide.

putting our heads in the sand and simply patronizing or condescending to HIV- people for feeling scared or betrayed may play well on HIV-related forums and blogs, but outside of our small community, it sets u up for hostility and risk at all levels. i mention this bcuz of the recent growth in the movement to decriminalize HIV, especially (to my consternation) to decriminalize non-disclosure. if Rep. Lee's HIV-decriminalization bill gains any steam in Congress, it will become part of the 2012 election campaign as a GOP talking point.

any initial political success the GOP gets as a result will then be amplified considerably if the attitude that seems to rule on POZ.com becomes the voice of the Poz community in that situation.

i hope our community remembers October 2008, where Obama and McCain were running neck-and-neck despite 8 Bush years. if Wall Street had not literally melted down at that time, we might well have a different President right now...President Palin! Anyone up for an "HIV October Surprise" that gives us President Santorum?

like i noted when commenting on Sean Strub's film project on his blog, taking law enforcement out of our HIV-disclosure decisions means finding a way to truly shake America out of the consensus that disclosure must be absolutely mandatory. "telling you my status would absolve you of your responsibility"..."take the test and risk arrest"..."but i'm so lonely, i'm always rejected if i disclose"..."i was scared"...these r NOT positions that will carry weight outside poz-dom. "i didn't infect u bcuz i used a condom and/or am undetectable since forever" MIGHT be a better position to fight from, but the it's an uphill battle even there bcuz our community is very insular in many way. the stigma we face causes defensive reactions in us that can actually reinforce that stigma in a vicious circle.

we should be able to guard our status without developing a blase attitude toward the rights of our sexual partners to KNOW of any KNOWN risks we are KNOWINGLY exposing them to...or worse, becoming patronizing, condescending or hostile to them. i have seen many reader comments on poz.com displaying exactly that.

going down that road will be a disaster for the Poz community, mark my words.

I have a few issues with this;

I understand that there is a level of barrier for any POZ person to overcome, and that courage has a lot to do with it. Indeed, there is also a social malfunction within the gay and straight community about the stigma connected to HIV and therefore also the way that it is received and communicated.

However I don't think there is a simple answer!

You cannot condemn safe sex non disclosure, its just not practical or right. Of course lies and pretensions that lead to infection should be criminalised, but lets face it, if you bed a stranger or acquaintance, the chances are you are taking many risk, not just with your sexual health.

Ultimately I feel that you have to ask what sort of relationship are you really after. Currently all I want is a real, organic and genuine relationship; no websites, no drunk night out. This takes patience and will ultimately mean that I either remain single, or could find myself being rejected. In the meantime, I make do with what fun can be afforded. I seek like for like sexual health partners as the guilt of transmission is removed, and otherwise I take dates that only go so far sexually and fall short of a sexual promiscuity that would in some ways be seen as Victorian. Surprisingly the latter is satisfying, and the two combined is all I currently require. With luck one day I may meet the right person, POZ or NEG, and I will have that chat before it goes too far.

I will leave you with this thought however. In the on-line community it is my experience people are not there to find truths or be confronted with HIV. In fact most gay encounters I have felt the need to disclose my status with have either resulted in meeting another HIV individual (by chance) or an uptight ignorant ass who would have happily had unsafe sex so long as they had been kept in ignorant bliss. It does beg the question of whether people really do care any more?
Is the on-line community really that superficial?


Is the off-line dating community as false? I think the easy answer is it will always matter as it does have many implications on health, child rearing etc.. but there are many other good aspects to partnership in the off-line dating community that add up to make much more of an educated and meaningful discussion, should and when the opportunity come for me to meet my truth with someone I care for.

I think there should be a fresh debate on the on-line dating systems in place and their regulation. There is clearly very little control, and seeing as the majority of on-line daters are teens and under 25's, there is a clear lack of government responsibility.

Disclosure, in the beginning when I first found out about my status I didn't even want to breach the fact of ever dating again. As my health improved and my self esteem lifted again my attitude changed with it. I thing disclosure is up to the person, however I tell in the beginning on the phone before the actual meeting if it is online or if in person meeting I disclose it after the first date. The reason for my logic is do it before feelings get in the way of the decision that way if feelings are not involved then you both can go your seperate ways and no love lost that way 6 months down the line into the relationship he is on one knee and I'm telling him my status I refuse to devestate someone like that cause I don't know how they will take it and if I love them then I would not want to bear the hurt that may follow.

So in my opinion I think in the beginning is the best time to disclose for me..

Sam, your comments are well reasoned and thoughtful, especially your observations about online dating. It's been my experience as well, almost invariably, that discussions around HIV status are unwelcome. The 'don't ask, don't tell' mentality prevalent on these hookup sites is alarming. In dozens upon dozens of contacts I've made on these sites I have never been asked my HIV status. In fact, I've been living (and sexually active) with HIV for over 20 years and the responsibility has always been mine to disclose my status. I believe this is an unfair expectation. I am human and don't always feel like doing the 'right' thing by informing you when you haven't even bothered to ask. I can't believe that in 2012, people don't at least ask a potential sex partner's HIV status. On the one hand, the use of condoms for anal sex is usually assumed when setting up these encounters. However, there is another assumption that a partner willing to have unprotected sex is either already positive (if the other partner is positive) or certainly negative (if the other partner is negative). In both cases, a serocordant status is assumed and an encounter without a condom is more likely to ensue. Where is the assumption that your potential sex partner's HIV status may be opposite of yours, in which case transmission is likely? This assumption is most likely to yield a protected sexual encounter, perhaps without the stigma often attached to having & disclosing HIV status. Approaching sexual encounters from a perspective that assumes your partner does not have the same HIV status as you do places a shared responsibility on safer sex practices that assuming you both have the same (poz-poz; neg-neg) status seems to lack.

I have a few issues with this, too.
I fully recommend doing what the laws in your state mandate. Not saying the laws are right or good, but, one must cover your ass. Prosecutions are way up, we have all read the articles. In Iowa it is 25 years in prison for not disclosing. Canada/Quebec is prosecuting based on the accuser's claim, even if you told them, and then they still had sex, Canada will convict you of not-disclosing.

So, I believe in simplicity and creation. Being POZ does not make us the owners of loneliness or a handicap to sex and love, it makes us now experiencing what many negative people have, a handicap to dating and sex. Consider: if you have had any cancer-do you disclose it? (a transferable virus that will kill the recipient). If you have had a masectomy--do you disclose? Have you had an HPV? Genital damage from circumcision? Did your hair turn gray and now you feel appealing to no one. I am saying what imperfection, ailment, infirmity are we/me/us letting victim us?

One must work on disclosing love to yourself, pride in all you have despite status. i revealed my status to a friend I wanted to date, and then he told me of this long list of health issue he was going through, including a mask at night to help him breath. I had to laugh, internally, he felt undatable because of all these other things. then I have another friend that I am proud of, just 30, poz, and gets right out there and says it, puts it in his profile, he can never be held responsible for others actions.

IMO, work on loving yourself, telling yourself how much you love yourself, proud of the creative things you do, make a screen saver, disclose to yourself. Manifest creation of attracting people who love you and your status, do not consider yourself a victim, you could do that with any illness.

I wish the poz community would unite more, date more, support more, teach other how to become free and superior, when and how does that happen??? We have to, as individuals, rise above the illness, just as breast cancer patients have done.

This is a serious issue, one that must be addressed, not only because of the obvious implications, but as well the legal implications,

for example lets say, I go out with a girl, and at some point I disclose to her logically while she is in a state of mind that would allow informed consent, (see how complicated this issue really is) so she is informed she is not impaired,

by alcohol or drugs of any kind, she still likes you but she is not really sure about how safe sex can be, but she is still into you, so you have a discussion and hopefully no matter what happens next,

she learns a few things about HIV, and that using a condom can be as safe as having sex with anyone else, in fact, she might have had sex in the past with a man who was hiv positive, and did not even know it, so previous exposure is also an issue.

But what if she has a few drinks and you have a few and you both end up having consensual sex, (of course wearing protection and confirming that she has been informed of your status) Then in the morning, she gets up panics, does not have insurance, needs to do something, does not remember the night clearly, because perhaps she was taking a drug you knew nothing about, who knows, this scenario could be changed in a dozen different ways.

The end result is that you might be charged with Rape, Aggravated Assault, Attempted Murder, and even 1st degree murder, should she later die from hiv infection and you would have to prove that it was not you that infected her. (remember she might have been exposed to the virus in her past sexual encounters)

Now that's the extreme end, but we know from experience that these insane things can happen, and then on top of being a criminal, your now a registered Sex offender, where your neighbors can look you up on the Internet.

Disclosure is a serious issue, and a verbal disclosure may not be enough to keep you out of jail...

I'm on the fence when it comes to disclosure. I've experienced men who I've dated but have only disclosed their HIV+ status on a hookup or other Internet profile. Is it that difficult to have a one-on-one discussion about such a pertinent issue than it is to publicize it to all and sundry? I take issue with those who have a practice of just dumping HIV+ status on first acquaintance. If I'm just seeing you socially, I don't need to know anything about your HIV+ status. Last time I checked, one still cannot contract HIV from casual contact. What rankles is the mindset "let me drop this bomb because once I do, I am no longer responsible for anything that happens." This is false and lazy rationalization. Sexual activity remains the responsibility of both parties involved; it always has been so and always will be.

I have [+] in my name on my iPhone social apps. Most know what it is and some ask what and why I have that. I find if I tell at first sight or after a few dates it's the same result :-) I'm still single.

I learned before I found out I was poz how gay guys love to talk about others status and the discrimination poz guys get from their own brothers. So when I found out I was poz 3 years ago I came out about my status to all friends and family and told myself people are going to talk about it and I don't care. I usually tell someone right away if I even feel dating interests are there. I also post [+] behind my name on all my profiles. I'm told I'm too out about my status and that's why I'm still single and that maybe true but I know it's helping to eliminate the stigma behind this very lonely disease.

I pretty much have given up on the whole dating thing. After 20 years of living with the bug it is my thought that most can't handle it...

What this means is that dating someone that is also infected with HIV has become something that may be the only resort for avoiding jail, its not legal, but we allow it by not protesting the criminalization of a disease, instead of the behavior of a few, we now all face legal issues even if you do disclose and the other party is not exposed or infected, yes, you read that correctly, legally there are several states which have felony penalties, which result not only in long prison terms but also the right to vote is taken away, now I ask you is this a threat...

I am a heterosexual positive female and this definitely is a problem for me. I have only disclosed to one guy and that was 8years ago well he still ended up cheating on me and just plain taking advantage of the situation. i still deal with this guy but only out of fear of having to? go through the same ish all over again and being rejcted. How do I handle this? I consider myself an attractive woman well educated and am a professional as well. This is sooo hard for me. how do I get around this. Most positive sites have not been succesful for meeting people.

Honestly, i don't know why people think it is so easy to disclose. HIV+ people are people too. Sometimes things happen before you even realize it. As a heterosexual female HIV +, i have never been asked by any guy about HIV status. If "negative" people don't ask, why is it taken as an easy thing for us to do?

What about when people fall in love at first sight?

What about when people go to drink and sex happens unplanned?

Sometimes i wonder whether we will ever live a normal life again. It is not our fault that we got the virus, we just happened to be victims. Does it mean everyone who is positive they live a different life than someone who is negative? Of course NO, same lifestyle but it has become a sole responsibility for us to disclose.

Why can't they make a rule for everyone to ask the other party of their HIV status, this is the only solution to make it comfortable for both parties. We are treated as people who don't have feelings. PEOPLE WITH HIV ARE HUMAN BEINGS TOO! I AM ANGRY THAT WE ARE TREATED SO CRUEL BECAUSE OF OUR STATUS.

great article. I have found myself at odds with the conversation many time over the last ten years; recently I was chatting with a guy from four square of all places, I was shocked to discover that he was poz also; you never know when you will be surprised by the conversation that happens after disclosing your status.

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This page contains a single entry by Aundaray Guess published on February 21, 2012 3:07 PM.

Disclosure- Part One/Workplace was the previous entry in this blog.

Disclosure to Family and Friends is the next entry in this blog.

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