Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Have Herpes

Yes, everyone, I have herpes.  The genital kind.  I had my first outbreak about three to four months ago.  You are probably asking yourself, why am I telling everyone such personal information?

Please, we all admit so much crazy personal shit on this site; herpes is nothing compared to most of them.  When I was diagnosed with herpes, I felt alone, ashamed, and frankly, afraid that no one would ever want to have sex with me again.  For a culture that talks about sex as much as we do, we sure as hell don’t talk about the risks of sex, like STDs or pregnancy.  Because I want this blog to go beyond narcissistic word-masturbation and actually help someone, I am willing to share this part of my life aloud and in print.  In fact, I think that this still an incredibly taboo topic and that is the reason I’m posting about it.

Here are the things I have learned (some of them the hard way) since contracting herpes that I would like to share with everyone in the hopes that someone else doesn’t have to learn the hard way:

1)  You are not alone.  Seriously, since I have started telling people I have herpes, people I have known a long time and people I have just met have been honest with me.  A lot of people have herpes.  Some statistics show as many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men, and most don’t have any symptoms or know they have it.  If you have slept with four or more women, chances are, you’ve slept with someone who has herpes.

2) Herpes, in general, is no big deal.  In fact, most STDs are no big deal because the majority of STDs are curable.  When I had my initial herpes outbreak, I thought it was a heat rash.  If I hadn’t had the accompanying flu-like symptoms that are so common with herpes, I never would have even gotten tested.  It is basically the same as having cold sores and is actually considered a skin condition, not really an STI because you get it from skin to skin contact, not necessarily genital contact.  I am on anti-virals so that I don’t spread it to my partners, and also, so I don’t have tons of outbreaks (as they are often triggered by stress, and hey, have you met me?)

3)  There is no such thing as safe sex, only safer sex.  One of the reasons I felt completely ashamed when I contracted herpes was that I am a HUGE advocate for practicing safe sex, all of the time, with any partners that you aren’t fluid bonded with.  I felt like I must have done something wrong to have contracted herpes.  The fact of the matter is, I practiced safe sex with everyone, and I still contracted herpes because it is contracted from skin to skin contact.  Also, many people with herpes don’t know that they have it because it isn’t usually tested for during normal STD panels.  In fact, most people don’t really know their STD status for sure, as there are window periods for STDs such as HIV, and most people do not get tested on a regular basis.  As it stands, I say assume everyone has everything, practice safer sex, and understand that RACK rules apply, meaning when you have sex with someone, you are risk-aware that an STD may be part of the package and consenting to that risk.

4)  Don’t play the blame game.  By this, I mean don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame your partner(s).  Shit happens, and the truth is you will probably never know for sure who gave you that STD, especially if you are promiscuous with other people who are promiscuous.  You could have given it to them; they could have given it to you.  What I am saying is, if you find out you have an STD, put your big boy panties on, make the awkward phone calls, and then leave it at that.  Knowing who gave it to you isn’t going to make it go away, and it is up to your partners, now, to be adults, get tested, and if they are positive, make those awkward phone calls to their previous partners.  There is no need to follow-up, unless they bring it up to you.  We are all adults here, and we should treat each other as such.  As I said, risk-aware.

5)  Don’t be a dick if someone makes that awkward phone call to you, and freak the fuck out.  This situation sucks for everyone involved, but it especially sucks for the person with the STD.  Don’t make it worse by making it all about you.  Your partner did the moral and honest thing by telling you about his or her STD status, and guess what?  It was fucking hard and awkward for him.  So before you freak out, take a deep breath, realize that this was a risk you consented to when you decided to fuck him, and say “thank you for informing me.”  Because he could have been an asshole and not told you at all.

6)  Awesome people are not going to stop having sex with you.  I think most people who are educated understand number three, and sexually-educated people are the best people to have sex with anyway.  Since I have had herpes, I have only had one person turn me down for sex, and it is a way longer story than I want to post up here, but basically, I probably should not have been having sex with this person again in the first place.  Some of my partners have been less informed, and inquired about the risks.  I am fine with this, and I have since educated myself, but before I actually had herpes, I had no idea.  Therefore, I do not expect anyone else to magically know about herpes just because I, a friend/partner/one-night stand happen to have it.  However, most of my partners have been pretty awesome about the whole thing, and a few actually helped me feel way more ok about it.  Yes, telling a new, potential partner is shitty and embarrassing, but don’t you wish someone would have told you?  Also, if for some reason you don’t want to sleep with someone because of an STD, don’t be a dick about it.  Understand that that person actually has feelings.  You are entitled to take whatever risks you want, but honestly, I am more afraid that my Daddy is going to choke me out and accidently kill me than I am of contracting most STDs. 

In conclusion, we have sex with lots of people who have sex with lots of people.  There are risks involved.  Don’t be stupid; mitigate those risk by practicing safe sex.  But don’t get pissed off or freak out or feel alone, ashamed, afraid, or any of those awful feelings that I originally had if you do contract an STD.  It happens, it is usually no big deal, and the awesome partners/friends/brothers that you had before will still be there for you.  Hell, when I told one of my brothers I had contracted herpes, he threw a condom at me and asked me if  I needed him to show me how to use it.  And it’s people like that whose opinion should matter to you, anyway.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Coming Out and Passing

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start writing a blog.  The reasons were two-fold.  One, I want to improve my writing skills and find my own voice.  Two, I feel that as a feminist, academic, and leather boi, I have a unique voice to add to the discourse surrounding the GLBT community and my Leather community.  As with all of my writings, my opinions stem solely from my experiences and belong only to me, not to my club or even my family. 

The topic of this first writing is about coming out, one that seems appropriate for an initial post.  I hate the term “coming out” because it implies that you do it once, and then you are “out.”  In my experience, coming out is something I do every day, all the time.  Perhaps the term is meant to imply coming out as the first time you are honest with yourself about the fact that what you desire for your life is different than everyone else around you, but I have found that my sexuality and my desires are constantly changing and evolving, so even that process is not as static and singular as the term “coming out” implies.

When deciding to write this blog, I struggled for weeks on whether or not to share it on my facebook profile.  For those of you who are friends with me on facebook, you know that while I don’t write explicitly about my extracurricular activities and my non-heteronormative life choices, I also don’t hide them.  This blog, though, is going to be much blunter and more honest than my profile, and I am not out to all of the important people in my life, particularly my parents.

Coming out to one’s parents is often viewed as the quintessential moment of coming out.  Our parents tend to be some of the most important people in our lives (I know that they are for me), but they also are some of the most judgmental.  They view our life choices as a reflection on them, and so they take our perceived failures personally.  I believe that this is the reason coming out to our parents is the ultimate “coming out.”  My reasons for not coming out to my parents are many, but the biggest one is that my parents have made it clear that they do not want to know about my sex life.  My parents don’t even want to know that Andrew and I sleep in the same bed because we are not married.  Since my partner and I are able to pass (which I will talk more about in a second), it makes bringing up issues such as bisexuality, open relationships, and BDSM more difficult.  For most people, including my parents, heterosexual = heteronormative, and everything else belongs under that big umbrella of queer, or as my parents would probably say, “things I think are unnatural, wrong, and weird.” I believe that if I were to have a serious same sex partner that I would come out to my parents.  For now, however, it is kinder to my parents to pass.

I sometimes hate the fact that Andrew and I can pass so well.  I am aware of the millions of privileges we are privy to only because he happens to have been born with a penis and I, a vagina.   However, anyone who knows us knows that we are far from a heteronormative, heterosexual couple.  I identify as cis-gender, but as a boi, somewhat gender queer.  We are open, poly, and in a Daddy/boi relationship, so when people assume we are in a normal, heterosexual relationship, I feel very uncomfortable, almost like a liar.  Part of me wishes that I could just have a sign that says “queer, non-monogamous leather boi” that I could walk around with all of the time so that people wouldn’t continually be making false assumptions about me and my partner, specifically in terms of societal gender roles and expectations.

I also feel like passing gives me privilege that does not belong to me, privilege that I wish to the depths of my soul I could share with my brothers, with whom I feel a kinship and closeness that I have never felt with most “straight” people.  We can hold hands in public without fear; we can get married within the church where we worship.   I can take my partner to a family reunion and not have everyone in my conservative, Catholic family feeling uncomfortable.  I want these privileges for my brothers.  I want them so badly that it hurts, and every time I pass, I feel that I am somehow betraying them like Peter, when he said he was not one of the disciples.  I share my difference with my brothers, and I don’t want to hide from it.  I am queer, damn it, but having to come out constantly when, and in fact, because I pass so easily, is exhausting.

I will conclude with a very honest admission:  The number one reason that I come out to a person that I just met is most likely because I want to play with them or fuck them, and most people assume that because I am in a relationship, I am off limits.  And that is the most aggravating assumption of all.