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The Increasingly Strange Case of Uncle Poodle

| 10 Comments

In the course of a few short months, Lee Thompson ("Uncle Poodle" to reality TV watchers) has managed to personify a variety of hot button issues among gay men today. He has come out as gay and HIV positive. He has sent an ex-lover to jail and sent nude pictures via Grindr.

Or not. Depending on whom you believe. Let's break down the strange case of Uncle Poodle.

Poodle1.JPGIn what we can all agree was a positive development, Thompson publicly came out as gay last year and evidently has the love and support of much of his family, the colorful clan of the TLC reality show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." He instantly became an ally and friend of gays everywhere. So far, so good.

Then, in a recent interview with the Atlanta gay magazine Fenuxe, Thompson made the announcement that he tested HIV positive in May of 2012. What was startling, though, was his explanation of his infection. Thompson claimed that not only had an ex-lover knowingly infected him, but that the man is currently serving a five-year sentence for non-disclosure of his HIV status (an example of what is known as HIV Criminalization).

Almost immediately the details of the story were questioned (by everyone except Fenuxe magazine, which did not delve into the prosecution in their piece; the writer simply "applauded" Thompson's bravery). Journalist Todd Heywood posed serious questions about the case, including the timeline between Thompson's infection and the reported prosecution, which would have happened in mere months. Heywood also scoured court records from Georgia to Alabama and could find no evidence of any such case. Requests for more information from Thompson's people have garnered no response. The defendant has never been identified.

Did Uncle Poodle lie about sending the ex-lover to jail? And why the hell would he do that?

It is my opinion that Thompson made up the prosecution story. And in doing so, he behaved in much the same way that most everyone does who tests HIV positive these days. He looked for someone else to blame. He played the innocent victim. He released himself from personal responsibility.

Because everybody knows that when you test HIV positive, you don't call your doctor to start treatment. You call the police to press charges.

Stigma is driving these actions, of course. People who become positive today are judged for being "bad," for not following the rules, for failing the community and becoming one of the great unwashed. It makes no difference that they were simply caught being human, that they let down their guard for a moment or got drunk or didn't care or stupidly fell in love. Their friends will furrow their brows. Their dating life will wither.

And so, someone must pay for these indignities. That is one reason HIV criminalization laws have prospered - they appeal to our sense of vengeance. They are also vessels of homophobia, sexism and racism, considering how badly the laws are applied and how often prosecutions run counter to public health or even common sense (some convictions have imposed jail time for decades even when condoms were used and no one was infected, and advocates believe people forgo HIV testing in fear of being prosecuted). Conservative lawmakers and prosecutors -- who don't believe people with HIV should be having sex at all -- are more than willing to exploit our feelings of revenge when testing positive so they can lock up some diseased fags.

I empathize with those who test positive today. They suddenly find themselves on my side of the viral divide, and for some, their hearts and minds may not have made the crossing yet. Perhaps they have unresolved issues about becoming infected. Whatever their circumstances, testing positive is a major life event and I can understand if some have an impulse to lash out.

And I believe that Lee Thompson did exactly that when he reported sending the man who infected him to jail. The man who no one can identify. The case that no one can locate.

Poodle2.JPGThings have just gotten a little more complicated for our Uncle Poodle. Now, someone who claims to have communicated with Thompson on Grindr is trying to sell naked photos that Thompson supposedly sent him (isn't humanity grand?). Thompson being linked to Grindr -- the app about which controversy recently arose when a survey indicated half of its users were engaging in bareback sex -- presents a delicate situation indeed.

People living with HIV have every right to "full and satisfying sexual and emotional lives," as the Denver Principles stated thirty years ago. There is no evidence or details about Thompson's sexual life or choices, so let's simply hope he is conducting himself as someone with intimate knowledge of HIV non-disclosure laws, considering his contention that he sent someone to jail for withholding their status. The sword cuts both ways, and I worry for him.

Lee Thompson certainly has faced his share of scrutiny, living as an HIV positive gay man in the rural South, much less someone connected to a wildly popular reality series. But he should consider his moves, both public and private, very, very carefully. Because we don't simply like to tear down celebrities, or save our judgment and revenge for those with the thickest skin.

As we prove time and again, we can do it to the very best of friends.

Mark



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Comments on Mark S. King's blog entry "The Increasingly Strange Case of Uncle Poodle"

Sound like you are saying in your writing Mark that their is little truth within Uncle Poodles story and just a stunt to bring up rating and sell a TV show. If this is so, My God have Mercy of Uncle Poodle and his miss guided Realty producers.

I agree that gay men try to release themselves from personal responsibility. I have heard the story " I got it from my ex who never disclosed his status" far too many times. I wonder how long these "ex relationships" lasted. A few weeks? A few dates? I cannot recall many disclosures over the past several years that didn't include some sort of excuse or blame.

I work at an HIV/AIDS, non-profit organization and I hear this same tale everyday. It's always the ex. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this story, over and over and over.
My feelings are, take resposibilty for yourself, stop blaming others. If you come up poz then it's on you. You were not safe with your body, that's it.

I to feel as though everyone seems to need someone else to blame for what ever it is that's happened to them HIV or poor tastes in clothing,regardless step up and accept responsibility for your self, and support your friends and love ones, why is everyone asking how did it happen , instead of how can I help you!!! By the way uncle poodle your a cutie if your ever in Kansas look me up:)

Really man are you serious , I was in a relationship for 6 months and my partner never disclosed he said he had cancer to explain all of his doc apts mess and such I was 18 no I'm not perfect but how dare you say that this was my fault for trusting the wrong person maybe if there weren't a**holes like you in the world more people would feel more comfortable at your clinics instead of like trash thanx for making me wanna stop treatment ... I wouldn't wish pain and sickness on anyone but your def gonna get your karma

Wow Dave, so much anger directed at Jerry, the non-profit employee. You are hurting big time and you did place your trust in someone, someone who let you down in a major way. But why would what he said make you want to stop treatment? You are responsible for your health now and then. You made a bad choice back then, its a part of being human. Now you have the choice to be in treatment and live with this disease and to live well. Living well may mean you forgive and let go of the rage. I made a bad choice too, 21 years ago. But when I went into the non-profit that is he only AIDS Service Organization around, I found safety, sanity and acceptance. Out in the real world I was still partying and making bad choices. But inside their walls, I could say out loud "I'm living with HIV" with no shame or judgement. You are young and I hope you are able to find a place like this in which to feel the same caring and support. By the way, this is where I now work and I can say after all these years and all the changes in this disease, it saddens me that we still have to have these conversations.

Wow Jerry,it's all black and white with you, isn't it? Nothing is ever that simple, "I was not safe with my body". I made a choice, we make choices for reasons. If it was a matter of simply being safe with my body then why do we still have this damn virus? Cause we are HUMAN and we maybe have some stuff going on.Cause it is OK to have sex but not OK to talk about it!Cause I think way down deep I don't believe I am worth protecting. So ease up a little and I sure hope you are able to muster up just the slightest bit of empathy and understanding for the folks who come through your doors, cause that's all we humans ever really want; some acceptance and caring.

KNOWINGLY INFECTING SOMEONE IS RAPE!!!

I'm not in the States or a gay man & I have no idea who Uncle Poodle is, but I applaud the author for the themes raised in this article. I have been positive since 2005 & I know exactly who I contracted the virus from (note my choice of words).

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who says "yes, I made a mistake, I took somebody at their word when really I knew (like everyone else does) that the only way I could truly be 100% sure that I was protecting myself was by using a condom".

Sure, there are shades of grey in many infection stories but my mental health is far, far better since I (very quickly) decided that there was no use crying over spilt milk, we're all adults, and that the best thing to do was to try to move on, whilst trying to ensure that the same thing did not happen to anyone else. Briefly, my own story is that I got back with my ex (who I knew had been somewhat promiscuous, and I did have unprotected sex with him after having had a discussion where he assured me that he had a full clean bill of health as far as stds were concerned. Then I got really ill, and the rest is history...

There is evidence that my ex had been told by another girl that she had tested positive and must have contracted from him, and for a while I went through mental torture thinking that he had known he was positive and he had lied & deliberately infected me.

The best decision I ever made was (a) to decide that he had clearly for whatever reason not accepted what the girl had told him, and (b) therefore did not believe he was positive, and (c) that my priority was to deal with my status and to ensure that he dealt with his too in order that he accepted that he was positive and started getting treatment so that he got healthy and that this did not happen to anyone else.

I'm not saying that he did absolutely nothing wrong, but always blaming the positive person and casting the situation as black & white, guilty & innocent, does no-one any favours and just adds to the stigma and makes people more likely to go into denial or feel that they can't disclose. The "it's not my fault it's person X's fault" thing just doesn't work because person X probably didn't go out looking to end up in their situation either.

Obviously if my ex had point blank refused to believe me (and the doctors) then they may have had to try another tack, but by outlining the situation to him in a non-accusatory supportive way which showed sensitivity to his own feelings of shock & grief too it was possible to get him to accept his situation. I think that I forgave him sooner than he forgave himself. (I'm still not sure I've really forgiven myself for my status but that's another story).

Basically it comes down to hypocritical judgements about people having had sex. Would you believe people who are sat there "accidentally" pregnant or waiting for their chlamydia medication look down on me as if I did something different to them! Same act, different outcome. Waaay different situation. Stigma. There's nothing like it. It's huge.

I guess what I'm trying to say is yes, there are some cases where someone has pathologically & systematically lied & deliberately infected another person, but the vast majority of cases are just not that black and white, and while the majority of poz people say 'it stops with me' and act accordingly, I for one am sick and tired of negative people thinking that they get a free pass from taking any responsibility at all for their own sexual health. You know the risks. Take responsibility. Before, during, and after.

(And if you end up in my situation, then forgive yourself. And the person you contracted from. Note: "the person who you contracted from", not "the person who gave it to you". The phrasing makes a big difference. I contracted. He didn't give it to me. Taking responsibility for my part, see. Most times this phrasing is the correct phrasing for the transmission if you are truly honest with yourself.)

Sorry, bit of an essay, hope it makes sense!

Unlike the majority of gay men, I blame no other person for my infection other than my own stupidity. Yes the other guy should have informed me if he knew he was infected. But at the same time I should not have been having unprotected sex with strangers either.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark S. King published on February 19, 2013 12:33 PM.

Your Mother Liked It Bareback was the previous entry in this blog.

HIV and Gay Media: The Vanishing Virus is the next entry in this blog.

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