Vicious be the queens you invite to tea.
One or two days ago a nice person befriended me and later invited me to go out to a club. It was this invitation that had given me some trepidation because it meant that there was a good possibility that I could once again interact with some of the individuals that made me want to hide and retaliate in tandem like a frightened cat forced into a corner. Upon entering the dance club, rife with objectification, long uncomfortable glances, and harsh jokes and judgements at the expense of those seeking acceptance, I immediately felt uncomfortable and unwelcome.
Why was this? Why did I feel uncomfortable? Would I be re-traumatized in an effort to return to a healthy social life that everyone rightfully deserves? I felt uncomfortable because I could feel the stares of those who abused, who laughed at and judged, and who made horrible statements that nearly caused my own social and physical demise. I huddled uncomfortably close to the new awkward friendships that seemed to shield and protect me at the club. With all of these emotions washing over me I managed to monitor and control my own behavior and actions. It was a strange feeling to be around individuals who had once provided a source of acceptance in the past and now served as a source of rejection and judgement in the present because I chose to publicly disclose my HIV status and advocate for others.
So how did I get over it? I ignored them. The people who only have the courage to stare at you long enough until they are caught when noticed. The people who are too afraid to do what I did, which was to be tested for HIV, publicly disclose my status, and advocate for others with all of my human imperfections. I also realized that there are people within this crowd of sharks that are the kind, accepting, logical, and compassionate. By hiding and only seeing stigma I am missing the experience of meeting dynamic and caring people like these.....like me. Stigma will only remain if I let it tell me who and what to see, which means I cannot be like them. I cannot be like the egocentric HIV-negative gay men who create stigma because they want to feel superior over others in an effort to mask their own fear of what they do not know. They are the ones truly missing out on life because they base their friendships and relationships solely on superficial stereotypes and fear. I am also afraid for them because their fear and judgements can lead to ignorance about HIV and increase their chances for transmission.
I do not know what my future will hold, I only know that I must continue to move forward. This first experience made me realize that I must fill my life with experiences and people that value me for who I am.