Navigating Serodiscordant Attitudes

Here I Go Again
Different Guy, Same Story?
by John Francis Leonard
Well, I said I would take a long break from talking about the long-distance relationships I keep finding myself in. There have been many attempts at my finding “the one” and most have left me flat on my face wondering why I bothered. And yes, I’m about to tell you about another, but I have some hope for this one. Despite some early challenges, I really like this guy. There have been some definite differences in the way we see the world, but I really feel that to be in a relationship with a carbon copy of myself might be limiting and a little dull. I’m just hoping that we can meet each other half way, not change who and what we are, mind you, but appreciate the other’s views and personalities, even if they don’t fall in lockstep with our own.

Of course I met him on an app, that much was predictable, but as I got to know him and as I disclosed some pertinent details about my life and journey—things were shaken up a bit. Not every man looks at HIV/AIDS through the same lens that I do. This man has a very different take on it and, at first, I was absolutely convinced we weren’t going to be a match. As I got to know him, however, I saw that he could get beyond his preconceived notions and prejudices and meet me in that sweet spot, the middle.

It started with a woof on Growlr, a popular app for the bear set. He woofed me and I was intrigued. I find him incredibly attractive. Dark hair and eyes, a beard and a stocky build. He’s half-South Asian and half-Spanish, the son of successful immigrants who are both banking executives. I always tell a potential match about my HIV status as soon as possible. It was a bit too quickly for his tastes and his reaction was mixed to say the least. He told me that he would have liked to gotten to know me better before such big news, but I like to get it over with before I get my hopes up. He freaked out a bit. Understandably, the idea of AIDS scares him, I get that. He’s always played it safe, always been lucky. Nor has he known a lot of friends with HIV.

I think the biggest difference in our outlook on this issue is the fact that he views it as a matter of personal responsibility. You’re not careful, and there’s a price to be paid. I find that harsh and I let him know that in no uncertain terms. No one “deserves” HIV. True, I wasn’t careful at one point in my life, I’ll admit that. But it’s a complex issue with many perspectives that are unique to every person. I expressed all that; we talked about it at length. We also talked about U=U as well as PrEP as an extra layer of protection. He is very mistrustful of both, to say the least. That leaves us with the condom and, as I’ve said before, if that’s the choice my negative partner desires for peace of mind, I fully support it. It’s not what I hope for, but maybe in time and with a little more education on the subject? Nah, who am I kidding? Probably not. He’s a man who’s quite certain of his limits in any arena, and I’ll have to put my money where my mouth is on this subject.

We’re a great match in so many other ways. We share a major goal in common, to start over again in a brand new city. I can work from anywhere, and he’s looking for future opportunities in his field, a field in which he’s quite successful. We want a small house near to downtown in an up and coming city. There’ll be room for his two large dogs and for my cat. We share a deep love for animals and I love that we share this in common. He has a sharp and biting sense of humor which I’ve grown to enjoy as long as I don’t take some of what he says too seriously. I’m definitely the more PC of the two of us. His politics skew a bit to the right of mine, but I decided early on that to judge him and reject him based on this would have been no better than if he had rejected me for my issues. He challenges me, and I enjoy that. There are so many wonderful things about him. He’s warm, intelligent and caring. Once I had told him of my dual conditions, HIV and the fact that I’m bipolar, he might have made a bit of a fuss, but he stuck by me regardless of any reservations. He’s willing to learn and often asks questions in order to learn more about what being in a relationship with someone with these challenges might be like. Once he got used to the idea, he never faltered. I’ll be watching closely as things develop to make certain that I will be able to count on his support in my continuing journey as an HIV-positive, bipolar man.

Who knows what the future has in store? I have another trip planned to see him in Baltimore in a few weeks. What I’m doing is keeping an open mind, and more importantly, an open heart.

John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.