THT/IWPN Funding Announcement 

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I am delighted that the Terrence Higgins Trust through the Lighthouse Fund are partnering with iwantPrEPnow to offer a more structured and robust online and telephone support service to people accessing PrEP or interested in PrEP.

Personally, this modest funding marks the end of my “PrEP in the wild” days. This project will allow me to make working on PrEP my paid job. We still need to secure some further funding to enable it to become my full time job but at least now I can put in place some firm working hours and a manageable workload. This project will put the focus back on the work and highlight the work that still needs to be done to secure a full and equitable PrEP provision in the UK and beyond.

We begin planning this week. As well as online support (virtual clinic) we will be organising a series of events to outreach to other disproportionately affected and at-risk communities that have not been as equally represented thus far. These events will aim to educate and support.

I’m looking forward to working on PrEP in a more formalised setting.

Greg Owen

Co-founder

iwantPrEPnow

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Don’t let the silence do the talking

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Today was a weird day.

I have grown incredibly attached (emotionally I guess) to someone lately. That was very unexpected for me. The guy has a boyfriend. We are friends. It was safe for me to grow fond of him because there wasn’t much at risk, or so I thought. I was kind of aware that we have been pretty inseparable and to date we have not had a fall out. A few disagreements – yes but a very symbiotic dynamic which gives full licence to both to pull the other up when he is misbehaving or making less than ideal choices. Until today…

He was pissed off with his boyfriend (rightly or wrongly) it isn’t my business nor my place to get involved. But it was incredibly uncomfortable for me to spend time in their company when my friend was giving his boyfriend the silent treatment. I had a bout of the giggles. Not because I thought it was funny or was belittling their situation but because I was nervous, anxious and uncomfortable.

I was suddenly reminded and almost transported back to my younger days and particularly my teens being subjected to my parent’s quite toxic and often vicious, damaging and destructive behaviour towards one another.

I pulled my usual ‘fixer’ moves of trying to cajole my friend into a brighter more jovial mood while it was just him and I and before his boyfriend returned to join us for dinner. Trying to make light of the tension and pandering to my friend’s mood. Hey! We’ve all been there! When we just want to make a retaliation of some sort to ease our rage. But my friend went on the proper silent treatment! Literally being asked a question and blanking the enquiring party.

I cannot tell you how utterly, cripplingly, uncomfortable this makes me. I then got caught in the crossfire of a scenario that was totally of my own creation but that I quite honestly did not see as an action that would cause offence or grievance. I borrowed my friend’s phone as my battery had died and I couldn’t be arsed to boot up the laptop. I took a selfie (for a reason) and tweeted it to me from his Twitter. No big deal right? Wrong!

When dinner had ended (I left the table early as the pregnant silences were far too laden in tension for me to bear) I went to the living room to DM said friend on Twitter to ask him if me doing his ironing would cheer him up and snap him out of his mood. Only to find myself blocked from his Twitter and unfriended on Facebook.

It literally felt like a punch in the stomach. An instant dull ache hit me in a really deep part of my gut. I was so confused. It later transpired (after a very heavy handed and unwarranted warning against sending further unauthorised tweets from his phone) that if I did that again I would be permanently blocked. Now usually most of you would expect me to fly into trademark ‘Greg Rage’ and tell him about himself. But instead I was so embarrassed and more so hurt that he would behave like that towards me that I just sat there and took the dressing down and looked at him hoping that he wouldn’t see the flash of red that was now burning my cheeks.

I am totally sure none of this was his intention and knowing that this upset me in this way will probably upset him too. But it made me think. Really think about the cycle of hurt we sometimes get caught up in and how previous emotional scars re-open to bleed even years later.

I spent 7 years with a partner who was irrationally angry and moody far too often and for prolonged periods. Most of these feelings he would direct at me, sometimes directly which wasn’t pleasant but more often passively. This guy (as much as I still love him) had the ability to lower the mood of our whole home without saying a word or without even being in the same room as me. He just had a way of hitting me where it hurt. It wasn’t nice and it broke me a lot more than I realised at the time. My friend’s actions and behaviour today (although nowhere near on the same level or with the same intentions) pulled me right back to that place in my life. I could almost physically feel my past and long since shelved pain and distress again and it freaked me out.

I’m guessing he behaved this way because of something from his past that has informed him to act this way. So I’m not judging him or criticising him. Merely observing that for whatever the reasons from both of our past experiences – today wasn’t a good day.

I am aware and reflective and open enough to notice these things in myself and question them but not everyone is. I was definitely in flight or fight mode as a result of today’s events. Instead I chose neither and opted for silence and avoiding eye contact or further interaction while my emotions settled. That is unusual for me. I’m glad that is what I opted for but the reason I wrote this and the thought that crystalised was this…

What if in these situation we did choose to fight or fly? What further damage does that create and how much does that compound the existing issues and give rise to a cluster of future issues until you have an emotional minefield of issues and triggers to navigate.

The answer and the solution seems quite simple to me. Just to sit down and talk, quietly and graciously. And while I say the solution seems quite simple, I mean that…in so far as the thought…the concept…now putting that into practice is a whole lot harder and takes some balls and some skills and also the knowledge that you are loved and supported and afforded the compassion to be allowed to say you’re pissed off about something or that perhaps you fucked up. That requires trust, kindness and bravery from all parties. Sometimes those things aren’t on offer or aren’t felt enough from and by each other.

I’m sure tomorrow will be a brighter day and I am glad I have somewhere to put my thoughts in order via these posts. That is also something that I find hugely beneficial and productive. Having to think about situations and my feelings in a little more detail in order to structure a decent sentence and blog piece allows me to tidy up my mind (and my heart). I recommend it.

x Continue reading “Don’t let the silence do the talking”

Protest of the Protest at Pride London

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Ok. I am not going to wade into this whole situation and involve myself in an ongoing back and forth as I am too busy actually working on a cohesive, focused and productive project for the provision of PrEP in the UK.

I will however make this statement and my opinion and position on this situation very clear!

I cannot support and will not condone this planned protest against Pride London.

I am so sick and tired of seeing sloppy protests for the sake of protest with no actual results. I question all of this. The intentions behind it, the drive to do it and the benefits (if any) to anyone.

This kind of ‘activism’ reminds me of puppies. You leave them alone in the house while you go to work and you come home to find they have shit all over the place. And they just sit there in the shit and mess and look at you. But that is puppies and they are cute and eventually they grow out of it.

Now that is not to say I am against protests. Far from it. But protests with a bit of focus and that get results.

When I see people ‘support’ or ‘protest’ a million causes I just shake my head! To me it just smacks of a lack of sincerity, a lack of authenticity, a lack of genuineness, a lack of personal identity, a lack of awareness and most of all a lack of focus.

And then I wonder why? Why are you doing this? I am looking on and just seeing these kinds of people pop up at this and that and post pictures of ‘look at me doing this’ or ‘look at me doing that’ – I am not fucking interested in YOU. You don’t need to try so hard!

I would much rather see your work and the results.

Let those speak for themselves. Get out of the way. YOU are not the important part of the equation. That is called ego. It is self-serving and self-indulgent and in fact it is the height of hypocrisy! Something you should be against.

As for protests. YES. Let’s protest like mad! I support protesting. I support it when it is needed. For example, for the jungle in Calais. Against neo-Nazi fascists. Calling out NHS England over PrEP. I use these 3 examples for a reason, if you physically can’t be in a place where people need our help or our actions then we should do all we can and protest here and where ever else we can and there in those places if we can get there. If you are faced with a group who want to literally kill you or an organisation that refuses to interact with you – you need to fucking protest.

You need to challenge this.

But your own community? For London Pride? Really? You think that is the right thing to do? An attack on a community event? YOUR community? That you are a part of? That you belong to? Is it not a much more positive thing to work with community members and leaders to actively create something that we are all proud of – together?

It is so ill thought out. And arrogant. And narrow minded.

Recently, I have been labelled an activist.

I hated the label! I rallied against it until I got tired asking to be called something else. I don’t identify as an activist because a handful of visible ‘activists’ give activism a bad image. I’m bored of it now.

 Let me just point out though that although I now accept that I am in fact an activist, do you know how I arrived here? What my first steps into involving myself with my community were?

Surprise, surprise as a volunteer/host for Pride in London!

If you are so fucking clueless that you can’t see that attacking Pride is cutting you off from the future and from those that are either just discovering our community or re-connecting with it then you need to wake up!

Our community has struggled enough of late with vanishing venues and a diminished sense of the ‘need’ for a community. Are you seriously going to try to attack the biggest gay day of the year here in the UK? Oh yes of course you are…because that is the best way for YOU to get some attention and further your own self-obsessed agenda!

Listen, I don’t disagree with a lot of the issues you have with ‘what Pride is today’. The corporate pink washing etc. But tackle those things not Pride. Organise your own event to address these. Or is it easier for you just to hijack other people’s events and momentum?

I can’t make myself any clearer. You need to take a fucking seat. Or here’s an idea…why don’t you FOCUS on what you are meant to stand for and what we desperately need now which is a strong, well organised HIV/AIDS activism group to tackle pharma and drug access, healthcare inequalities or heaven forbid focus some of that fucking energy on PrEP! On that you have been VERY lacking!

If this sounds harsh or confrontational then good! It is meant to be. We can ALL protest when something pisses us off so much that staying silent is no longer an option. I have just arrived at that point with YOU. Consider this the start of the protest against the protest. And prepare yourself. You haven’t seen me fight yet. If you want to experience that then carry on. But I’ll give you a tip. You are going to need to up your fucking game!

Don’t bother with the social media circus either. I’m not interested in it. I’ve said my piece and now I am fucking off out of this pathetic, petty, attention seeking stunt. Hopefully you’ll see a bit of sense or take a reality check at least!

With love and quite a lot of anger…

Greg Continue reading “Protest of the Protest at Pride London”

YOU ARE GLASS

Spoken word piece by Greg Owen ‘performed’ at Let’s Talk About Gay Sex And Drugs on Thursday 12th May 2016

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YOU ARE GLASS

 

When first we met, I saw you but I looked right through

You were just there

Standing still

Strong

But a little wrong

I walked past you many times

Until one day

Something I could not feel – pushed me from behind

I saw you right up close. So close  – I only saw the flaws – the bubbles from the blow

I could only see as much of you

As the frame of my own view

But when I backed right off, then I began to notice

Notice the rest of you

Stepped away until I saw the all of you

We never touched

Did not connect

I dared not rest my hand upon the pane

Did not leave the mark of the moisture from the softness of my finger tips

Which were now softer – warmer – wetter than I had ever known before

Now I’m seeing you, not seeing through

The glass is suddenly brand new

I turned my back then turned it back

Now it was not you that I could see

But me

My reflection

There was a  flash

I could only see the light

My eyes began to burn

It was so bright

But I could not turn

And I would not fight

The light began to dim

Refocus my eyes on him

Now all I could see was us

Not a 2 – but a me in you

No force from behind

Shared pull from the front

I approached again

This time I put my tips upon you – so cold

Instinctively contracted back

The composition again – was new

I see the tiny printed dots – my fingers had left on you

I didn’t like the mess –  didn’t like I’d left a mark

So came to you again – to fix the messy smudge

I watched myself grow larger in your reflection until my mouth aligned with the mess

I blew – the intention – hit you

We  clouded up

Gray, steam and heat

I could not see the mess  or us

The heat cooled, retracted in

I watched it shrink and fade and disappear

It all became quite clear

There was – the mess

There was – that part of you

There was…my reflection

And in it all lay us – a possible perfection

It started to look pretty

So I put my fingers on your surface yet again

Saw them leave their mark

It was becoming art

But our creation got too brave – too fast – a little stark

One more reckless swipe

I caught a chip –

Sting

Bleed

Drip

Drip

Fuck!

Trip

Now trip

Fell through

Straight through you

You smashed – I crashed

Right down to the floor

With pieces of you embedded into my flesh

I panicked- what had I done?

Scrambled on my knees

To try to pull all those sparkling shards of you back into one place

I clawed too hard and my fingers bled –

Now part of me streams over the broken pieces of you

Everything was raw and everything was red

I had to stop

I crawled away and slumped

To where I first saw myself in you

But you were no longer there

You were lying bloody on the floor

There was an us no more

Parts of you embedded in my flesh – part of me streaming over the broken pieces of you

YOU ARE GLASS

*I wrote this piece for David Stuart. Thank you for being brilliant! x

Continue reading “YOU ARE GLASS”

Can a ChemSex fuck ever be a sober buddy?

sober buddy

Can a ChemSex fuck ever be a sober buddy?

Some of you might remember Marco from Do You Know. He seems to keep popping up here and there and we had this conversation. This is what happens when you start to talk about sex and drugs and insecurities and even your HIV meds. You find support and love and a little too much sass at times! Say hello to Marco AGAIN!

Greg Owen: When do you get back from Italy?

Marco: I’m back, I landed an hour ago!

Greg Owen: How was your trip? And your family?

Marco: It was great thanks. And the family are all well and happy

Greg Owen: Yesterday I was in a room full of European and International sexual health experts – lol. Was very surreal to be addressing a room like that. Oh and with art imitating life….You pop up AGAIN ffs

“Many people navigate the ChemSex environment very well and enjoy it. They have good and pleasant experiences. But many don’t. I personally enjoyed my time on that scene. There were dark and destructive times but there were great times too. In fact, some of the people I met at chill outs and connected with while high and naked have subsequently popped up in my life recently in unexpected situations – sober and clothed! I have really enjoyed reconnecting with theses guys again. One person that springs to mind is Marco from my Do You Know piece.”

Greg Owen: Marco you are like Groundhog fucking gay….

Marco: Hahaha. Is that what you said in that room full of Health care people?

Greg Owen: No! Not in the room dumbass, they don’t need to know about my ChemSex past life in that kinda detail! It’s from my blog ‘ChemSex & Me’

Marco: Yeah I meant there , I thought you said that at the event yesterday!

Greg Owen: Jesus Christ – gimme some credit

Marco: That’s asking a lot

Greg Owen: “I’m worth it”

Marco: Haha. Flick that hair…Oh wait you can’t

Greg Owen
thor

Greg Owen: You did not just make a thinning hair joke! Mofo

Marco: Hair loss is no joke – For those without

Greg Owen: If I get too low on hair I could make a weave or 5 out of your body hair….You got plenty to spare

Marco: Please…mine is fitting. And looks good

Greg Owen: ‘Fitting’??? Yes, perhaps – like a fitted carpet! I found your Grindr pics…lol

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Marco: Haha at least I look like a man and not the Major of the Munchkin City

Greg Owen: Man beast! Bitch please – you made no complaints! #justsayin lol

Marco: Minimal impact

Greg Owen: hahaha! Well in hindsight I think we can agree that that may not have been the case lol and you can’t backtrack now. That moment played out – you can’t try changing the facts…Leprechaun lover!
xx

Marco: Haha as long as you admit you’re a leprechaun

Greg Owen: haha. Thats Irish luck for you

Marco: Hehe you have a loose definition of luck

Greg Owen: You have a loose definition of ass and morals but hey ho or hey hoe

Marco: That’s why you met that criteria

Greg Owen: hahahhahaha – oh god…We are never going to graduate to ‘kind and sweet friends’ are we???? This is the dynamic
lol

Marco: It’s established

Greg Owen: Indeed- and cemented. You are quite relentless. I would have worn most others down by now

Marco: Hehehe that made me laugh

Greg Owen: Good! It was half a joke and half serious lol But I like a challenge….I WILL break you eventually

Marco: Many have tried, all have failed

Greg Owen: Many and all ARE NOT ME…

Marco: You’re hardly the upper quartile. I’ve met many a great mind

Greg Owen: Its not my mind you need concern yourself with – my tongue is steely

Marco: I guess there are other bits you need to compensate for

Greg Owen: haha. Not in the slightest. I’m happy with my lot and my skills exceed any physical confines….

Marco: You’re not the first bitchy munchkin I’ve come across.

Greg Owen: I don’t believe you came across nor in me….I recall….very well. You skulked home – tired. Lightweight

Marco: You’d have been the 8th dwarf if you weren’t jealous of Snow White

Greg: Hahahahaha. That’s hilarious

Marco: 😉

Greg Owen: Thank you for that – I actually laughed out loud
Ok – I need to get out of bed and do something productive today

Marco: Oh dear. It’s noon. That’s a good idea

Greg Owen: I changed my meds on Wed (last week) have had a little bit of a bumpy ride. But nothing serious

Marco: Aww. Physical or mental? Actually mental may be hard to tell

Greg Owen: Physical but because I’ve not been ill or had any side effects previously it affected me a little bit emotionally last night. Mainly just because I’m tired. It was nausea at first but that went after about 3-4 days. But then the tiredness!!!!!! Bouts of fatigue are horrible and so out of the norm for me. But I feel ok today for the moment anyway

Marco: How long is it expected to last?

Greg Owen: It can last up to a month but I progressed through the nausea in a matter of days not weeks so I’m hoping it will be the same with the fatigue. A lot of guys I have spoke to who are also on Triumeq said about 2 weeks then they were back to normal….so I got a week left.

Marco: Hopefully. Try taking B100. Plus vitamin D tablets

Greg Owen: Thanks. Someone else said that too. How come you went home to visit the family anyway?

Marco: It was my nephew’s christening and my best friend who lives in Australia was there this week too so I wanted to catch up with him

Greg Owen: Wicked – so you had a buddy and it wasn’t all family

Marco: Yeah – I haven’t seen my best friend in 2 years so it was so good to go out and party and go a bit crazy with him

Greg Owen: That’s sweet. And how is work?

Marco: Going really well. I got promoted to group project manager and loads of exciting stuff coming up

Greg Owen: Good – Im pleased for you
x

Marco: Thank you. Great holiday though. Went out a bit too much I think but really fun

Greg Owen: It’s really important to do that. I’ve been making friends with my sex life again….at last lol

Marco: Hehe how so?

Greg Owen: I just felt a bit better in my skin now since I got my ass back in the gym and time to trust the science – undetectable ‘n all
lol. Nah…seriously I just thought it was about time. Had some lovely experiences and sober sex. And the guys were too hot to pass by

Marco: Haha that’s good

Greg Owen: It was good

Marco: Were you only have sex on drugs before now?

Greg Owen: Yes, only chemsex from 2013 til this Oct and since Oct only sober and 1 on 1. I prefer it

Marco: Wow that’s great. Well done

Greg Owen: It wasn’t totally intentional

Marco: How hard did you find the transition?

Greg Owen: I have too much anxiety to be on Grindr with this level of visibility. Not hard at all really

Marco: The old fashioned way is better

Greg Owen: It’s a re-learning of previous pleasures for sure but purer pleasures and I’d like a relationship again at some point. Sober sex has to be a part of that. So I guess it was sex in training for a boyfriend!

Marco: Haha – like being in training for the sexolympics

Greg Owen: ChemSex-ers Anonymous lol. 12 steps instead of 12 guys at once haha

Marco: Haha

Greg Owen: It’s an enjoyable programme hehe

Marco: I can imagine 🙂

Greg Owen: Nice to know I got some skills in myself and not just in a Jiffy bag. Slightly daunting at first but worth the plunge

Marco: The sober sex you mean?

Greg Owen: Yes – everyone can fuck like a porn star on chems…
good to know I can bring the filth sober too

Marco: Hahaha

Continue reading “Can a ChemSex fuck ever be a sober buddy?”

ChemSex & me

chemsex

 

The last few months I have been constantly needled (excuse the pun) over the rise of ChemSex awareness and the questions on loop are…

What is ChemSex really?

Is ChemSex really that big of a problem?

What is the difference between chems + sex and ChemSex the culture?

Let’s start with that last question – it’s similar (in my opinion) to asking the question

What is the difference between having a drink and being an alcoholic?

There is a big difference.

Many people navigate the ChemSex environment very well and enjoy it. They have good and pleasant experiences. But many don’t. I personally enjoyed my time on that scene. There were dark and destructive times but there were great times too. In fact, some of the people I met at chill outs and connected with while high and naked have subsequently popped up in my life recently in unexpected situations – sober and clothed! I have really enjoyed reconnecting with theses guys again. One person that springs to mind is Marco from my Do You Know piece.

I have had a little bit of a drink problem in the past and there were days when I couldn’t function without a strong drink or 5! Previously I found myself waking up and vodka being the first thing I reached for. Not always in the ‘tragic alcoholic’ role but sometimes just in the ‘this hangover is killing me and I need a hair of the dog to take the edge off’ – I think most of us can relate to that last situation regardless if you have had a drink problem or not.

So if I can offer a very simplified insight to the problems associated with ChemSex the culture, it would be to draw reference to that. Imagine if your every waking moment was spent trying to recover from your last big boozy night or trying to get to the same inebriated state you were in the night before. It’s a physical thing and it’s painful. But this situation is quite socially acceptable and visible, we have no shame in admitting when we are hungover.

Chemsex is more complex.

The drugs are mind altering, the sexual components and chillout settings are often tapping into the rawest and most delicate of our issues or personal insecurities under the guise of ‘fun’. And until recently it was an activity confined to the shadows. An underground craze that we dared not speak of.

I will point out – this is all totally unique for each and every individual but when we are together as part of a scene or community, this is when our individual problems amalgamate to become a community health care issue. I would define that further as a community emotional, mental , psychological and sexual wellbeing issue.

Things have changed so much since I was a precocious little freshmore club kid. 

Drugs have had a pretty constant presence in my life. From my first ecstasy pill in 1997 (aged 17) up to now.  I have no shame in admitting that I have enjoyed drugs in my past and will enjoy drugs again in the future. For me it is about finding a balance – not abstinence. I see balance as a more achievable, realistic goal.

I haven’t been high much this year as I’ve been much too busy and the thought of losing a night’s sleep for a chem fuelled bender fills me with dread at the moment. I have had 1 or 2 trashy nights over the last few months but nothing more than a few lines with some mates…no sex on drugs.

There is no point in trying to be something I’m not anymore and fronting for the sake of others. I do what I do, I have done what I have done and I will do what I want to in the future.

I think it is important to be open and honest and encourage our friends to do the same…it’s the basis of how we love and look after each other.

When I look back to my first experiences with other gay men – it is so different to the scenarios that face young and experimenting gay men on today’s scene. 

My first connections with other gay people were quite unique (I think) and rare…There were loads of gay kids at my school. I was one of the last to actually go about ‘being gay’ if that makes sense. After one summer break (the summer of 96) when our little group all caught up again at the start of term, I quite freely confessed to my mate Kieran (who was totally out as gay at school from about 12-13 and who got bullied quite a bit) that I had gone to the Parliament (1 of 2 gay bars in Belfast at the time) a few weeks after my 16th birthday, went home with a guy that I ended up seeing for a few weeks and that I was pretty sure I was gay.

He immediately burst out crying and said “Oh my God no! No! I don’t want you to be gay! I don’t want you to have to deal with all of the same shit I have. Are you sure you have to be gay?”

Bizarrely after coming out for the first time to my already ‘out’ best friend – I had to console him and reassure him that I was going to be OK… not the other way around.

My first sexual contact with gay men was getting off with old guys in the public toilets outside Belfast City Hall as far back as 1993 (at age 13) .

I distinctly remember most if not all of the men having poor personal hygiene and the ever constant and very off putting stench of stale piss.

That’s not quite such a glamorous or fluffy story, is it? But it’s the truth. This was safe and confined and it was limited to that moment in a toilet cubicle. Now we have hook up apps and drugs that fuel 48 hours marathon sessions and a spike in new cases of HIV and HCV. If this is where you are starting from – where the hell is it going to end up?

I was given my first ecstasy pill at 17 and it was fucking amazing! I felt 10 feet tall, euphoric, full of love and invincible – they don’t make them like that anymore!!!

Some of the older guys in my little group at The Parliament were ‘pill heads’ which meant they were off their tits on E every weekend. I was always quite open to new experiences even from a young age and so when the opportunity arose and I was curious enough to ‘want’ to try a pill, I just did.

It was a very different scene back then. I had been a regular at The Parliament for about a year before the opportunity to try drugs presented itself as there was a real sense of community, responsibility and brotherhood back then. The older gays really did look out for us younger gays.

I knew that there were drugs in the club and that people were taking them but the club/scene/community knew me and knew that I was kind of a baby and actively kept drugs and the offer of drugs away from me for almost a whole year.

I still remember when some of the older gays including some DJ’s and other gogo dancers (yes, I was a cage dancer in The Parliament from 16/17 years old) who saw me as a little brother were seriously pissed off and super protective almost like parents when they found out that someone had given me my first pill.

I remember being irritated and patronised by this reaction and restricted in my reveling. But looking back at that now – it warms my heart that that was the community that I came from and that that love is so desperately missing from our gay scene today.

Back then drugs were not for sex. They were for friends and for fun. I miss those days.

It’s not all been a picnic of love and rainbows though.  I have had some very dark times. But I don’t think drugs caused those. Actually I can say they didn’t. Life threw me some shit hands. Really shit hands that I couldn’t ever have foreseen or prepared myself for and so I found myself using drugs in a way I never had before because my life at those points was something I’d never known before.

I’d never ‘suffered’ from life. I’m a glass half full kind of guy. But when the glass is fucking empty and lying smashed in sharp pieces all over the floor – there is no way on earth, regardless of your usual disposition that your glass can be anything other than properly fucked!

And so that then informed my drug use – which for the first time became drug abuse.

It got so bad and I was so distraught and emotionally raw and suffering from crippling insomnia that I actually slammed crushed up and dissolved zopiclone (sleeping pills). Yep – that actually happened.

So where am I with ChemSex today? I am on a ChemSex break but I can’t deny part of me misses that version of me because I had a lot of fun and good times on the ChemSex scene.

I want something different now. I was in a period of mourning my 7 year relationship with the guy that I have loved more than anyone else and I was healing. But I’m a different person in a different place now with a different set of needs and desires and perhaps with a new ability to allow myself to be intimate, vulnerable and fully engaged with another guy in another relationship again…That is not to say that I won’t want to get high and go to a sex party again in the future…I most likely will…and I will happily – without shame discuss it as freely as I am my current sobriety.

I’d like to paraphrase David Stuart from ChemSex – the film here. He puts is so perfectly. ChemSex came from a perfect storm. Hook up apps, new drugs, a fragmented community, a dissolving gay scene and a community in shock at the fallout from the trauma of the AIDS epidemic. Vulnerable gay men in a difficult time and place with no road map to help them navigate. This is all new and we are all learning….as with most things….in order to learn we need to make some mistakes…

Recently a friend of mine asked me if I was happy.

Yes, I’m happy. I truly am. And I am so glad to have been asked that question. I don’t think anyone else has actually asked me “Are you happy?” in years!

I have a lot of people who ‘question or challenge’ if I am happy or as happy as I appear. That is fucking irritating.

To have to justify or assure others of your happiness – robs a bit of that happiness from you.

So yes, I am happy, for the first time in a long time. I can honestly say I’m happy. There are still plenty of things about my life that I’m not happy with but that’s just life…there is always work to be done. And happiness isn’t just a right. Like you wake up in the morning and have a God given right to be happy….You don’t! If you want to be happy you first have to choose to be happy and then you have to put the work in to become happy and stay happy.

If someone you know is struggling or has come through a difficult period in their life and they are brave enough to open up to you to and ask for your help in trying to move on and become happy again or just happier than they currently are – we owe it to them to be kind. Not judge, just be there.

Sometimes just telling someone that you are struggling is the most terrifying thing. But reaching out to each other is how we learn and how we invest in our friendships and our community.

There is still an amazing community out there – you just have to go find it.

If you are based in London or the surrounding areas why not pop along to Pat Cash’s Let’s Talk About Gay Sex and Drugs event on the first Thursday of every month. Downstairs at Ku Klub.

Or check out 56 Dean Street’s Wellbeing Programme

Stay happy – stay healthy!

 

Continue reading “ChemSex & me”

THIS IS ME – PART 3

image

Thursday – the day after the diagnosis

08.25 – I’m tired. A bit hungover and very weary. I need to decamp back home. Fuck the Chlamydia appointment at 12.20. It’s only a bacteria, It’s not going to kill me. I’m not going to be having ANY having sex until I’m undetectable anyway so I won’t pass it on. I’ll pick up some antibiotics later. I’m tired and I need to get some beauty sleep before coming out tonight! Nothing as powerful as looking hot when you drop “I’m positive”. It’s time we lost the association of poz as unclean and dirty. Something to think about on the journey home. I grab my jacket and my iPhone charger and hot foot it out of Marios’ bear cave. Again I’ve opted to walk from Elephant to Clapham. Mostly because right now I’m finding the space and time to think beneficial. I hate being on the tube at the best of times let alone when I’ve hardly slept, haven’t showered or brushed my teeth and am stinking of stale vodka and amaretto! Can’t deal with that anxiety right now.

This morning the walking is not so well paced. In fact it’s bloody sluggish. Probably because I’m still pissed and the fresh air has intoxicated me further. I am without doubt on an adrenalin comedown….there is no urge for flight nor fight now. There is just the dull throbbing  urge to get home. To get into my bed and forget for a few hours while I sleep before fixing myself up and throwing myself into the world again until I next hit something solid and take stock. I have a plan – yes. But I have no map and no idea of the journey.

09.05– I made it as far as the huge church opposite Oval Tube station. I can’t walk any further right now. I sit down on steps of the church. I could feel a wobble coming but it passed pretty quickly. I felt uncomfortable sitting on the steps of a church, pissed and positive so I moved off to the bench to have a cigarette.

09.07 I was feeling fine and ready to start walking again but decided to sit a while longer and reply to Marios’ frantic Facebook messages asking where I was. Told him I just needed to get home for some sleep. He was cool.

Then my mum, more specifically an image of my mum flashed up in my mind. I know how my mum deals with grief. She has had her fair share of grief and heartache to deal with over the years. She is the mother of 6 kids and as much as she will admit to us that certain things get to her or upset her, I know that deals with a lot of her grief alone, on her own. I know this because being the oldest of those 6 kids, you are more aware of your parents and their adult world than your younger siblings are. They exist in graduated stages of blissful ignorance throughout their childhood. Blissful ignorance that I as the oldest was not afforded. For that I am actually very grateful. It has done me well in my life. My mum often doesn’t sleep at night and there have been times in my life when I have suffered horrible insomnia too. As the image of her flashed up it developed further into the setting of her awake in the middle of the night all on her own while everyone else was asleep, crying, sobbing over me and this situation. I felt her frustration that I was not only the ‘victim’ for whom her tears fell but the perpetrator of the crime against the ‘victim’ too. I didn’t HAVE to go out and catch HIV. It’s not like Cancer that just randomly appears. I actively had to go out and ‘do’ something ‘stupid’ and ‘reckless’ to put myself in this position and to land myself with this virus. It must be so hard for a parent to hear this news about their child. Their child that they love and have raised and supported and steered through most of life’s obstacles. Their child who has gone out on their own free will and caught this virus. This virus that is going to deconstruct their beautiful, perfect creation. I know this frustration personally as well as empathetically . It’s what I felt when my ex was diagnosed. I loved him so much. Harder and deeper than anyone else. Yet there I was two and a half years ago faced with the same conundrum. The person I loved most in the world – had gone out and set about his own demise. If any other person had dared to threaten or endanger him, without a doubt I would have killed them to protect him. But there he was standing in front of me telling me that he had done this to himself. I feel like I had failed him. I could not protect him from himself and I had nowhere and no one to focus my anger on. I could only keep loving him and reconcile my anger and frustration internally – away from him. Now, being the newly diagnosed positive person I know that it’s not that simple or straight forward. Nor is it that bleak or dramatic. But when you love another person like a mother loves a child or any of us loves a fiancé it is so easy to get swallowed up in the emotions and forget the much brighter FACTS and the task at hand ie no one has or is about to die. Learn to deal with this and move on. Things will get better and easier. However this morning on that bench, none of this awareness made a blind bit of difference!!! I was sobbing and needed to send my brother Sean this…

TEXT TO SEAN 09.18

When you tell Mum and Dad can you make sure you tell them IM HAPPY. I’m honestly happy. It’s shit but it’s just a bump in the road. I’m still back on form and I’m still happy.

My mind turned from my mum to Dan, the guy that I was kind of seeing in the spring. I had discussed informing Dan of my situation when I spoke with Ian the evening before but was in a flap about how and when. I couldn’t face a call. I hate speaking on the phone anyway. And I didn’t have it in me to send a text last night, alarming him and causing him to lose a night’s sleep. Instead I thought it best to wait until today, mid-morning to send the text so he could either leave work or process the info at lunch time and if he needed to come and meet me when he finished at 3.30pm or go straight to Dean Street for a walk in HIV test. But the logistics weren’t the things that were bothering. It was the dawning awareness of the real life implications this situation would have in other people’s lives. People that I cared about. This bit was hard and taxing. I lost track of time for a while. When I started to zone back in I realised I was crying hard and had been for some considerable time. My face and vest were drenched in tears. What started as sobs had reduced down to primal grunts. I got a grip and forced myself to breathe. I closed my eyes. I could easily have been listening to the audio of a heavy porn as much as my grunts of distress. This perversely made me smile. Ok, I think I can handle the next stretch of Clapham Road that will take me home. On that final walk of shame back to my place Isis was on loop in my mind. I replayed our text chat and our phone conversation over and over. I projected what I imagined our meeting later that day would be.

09.52  – I’m almost home and for the first time I am scared. Really scared. I don’t feel brave and I don’t feel prepared. I just feel scared and like I want out! But how do you get out of your own life? You don’t.

10.00  – I was home, came through the front door and into the kitchen to get a glass of water before bed. This was going to be my first face to face disclosure to someone who wasn’t a long term/close friend or positive. Lena and I had only lived together for 6 weeks. She was watching TV with her daughter in the living room and she asked how my night had been? I nodded yeah good but could she come into the kitchen so I could talk with her. I’m not quite sure how the words came out or what I said but I know I just spat them out. Then the dam burst. I was a fucking mess. Yes I was a mess…she was amazing. She just turned me around – for some reason I couldn’t face her. Straightened me up – I was bent double crying and hugged me so sincerely and solidly. I could feel her compassion and her strength. I was so grateful as I had totally drained my tank of the latter. I don’t remember any specifics from our exchange apart from she did the right thing for me – whatever that was and she tapped into a part of me that I thought had scarred over and healed but was secretly bleeding raw again….”Do you think now would be a good time to try to speak to your ex?” This floored me. I both nodded and shook my head in equal alternation. It was most definitely time for me, my puffy eyes and my snotty nose to chill the fuck out and go to bed…and at 11.00 I fell asleep

15.00 – I woke up in that hazy fog where you forget what you are waking up to. But this was a short lived respite and the world came flooding back in and settled around me once again. Dying with a hangover. That’s one thing I’ve noticed. I never normally get hangovers but the last month or so my body can’t handle me drinking so much. I thought I was just getting old, now I know it’s probably my viral load or the Chlamydia. I leaned over to my beside table and swallowed 3 paracetamol.

15.05 Lena offered me lunch which I initially declined but she insisted. This morning was the usual African scrambled eggs, which is scrambled egg with salmon flakes, caramelised onion and chilli – a lot of chilli and some freshly baked honeyed baguette. It was daunting to take the first mouthful but by the time I had finished my plate the hangover was sweating out of my pores, the headache subsiding and drive dripping back in.

15.15 – I started thinking about this whole coming out thing tonight at Let’s Talk About Gay Sex And Drugs. I didn’t doubt that I would or should do it. I just did not want to have to go through the process. I wanted it all to go away but I have a message waiting in my Facebook inbox from Paul Fleming wishing me luck for tonight and apologising that he can’t be there at the event but never doubt that he is always there for me.

Around this time I pick up last night’s private Facebook conversation with my Great Aunt T who lives in Canada and despite belonging to a generation so far removed from mine she has never been anything but passionately support of me, who I am and what I do. A wonderful woman.

12 August

12/08/2015 16:21 Greg Owen – Hey

12/08/2015 17:29 Theresa Martin Finamore – Hi Greg. Sorry was on the phone Hope things are good. Looks like things are happening x

12/08/2015 17:30 Greg Owen – Yes – things are heating up What time is it there?

13 August

13/08/2015 01:07 Theresa Martin Finamore – It’s 8.10pm here. Was out at a pot luck supper with some co-workers. Just got home

13/08/2015 01:46 Greg Owen – Still up? I need to give you a heads up on something I got a HIV positive diagnosis today I’m totally cool and ok I’m about to announce it at an event tmro night and on FB on Fri Just wanted you to know x

13/08/2015 02:23 Theresa Martin Finamore – If you are cool with it I guess I have to be too. Thank God for the great strides in meds. Just want to tell you I am so proud of you and the work you are doing Greg. I’m with you in spirit. I think you know that. Talk to you soon. If you have international text on your phone my cell number is 123 123 1234.   You would have to add more number of course. I’m glad you have friends who care. I hope you have family too besides myself. Love you Gregory Mc Geown  x

LATER THAT DAY

13/08/2015 15:24 Greg Owen – I’m good Had the most crazy funny coming out party last night Gotta love the gays Any excuse to get pissed lol

13/08/2015 16:37 Theresa Martin Finamore – I’m sure you are hungover. Lol. Big day ahead. Straighten up and fly right lol

13/08/2015 16:37 Greg Owen Love you. Just told Brendan…I’m a bit upset. I’m ok but these bits are hard really hard

13/08/2015 16:38 Theresa Martin Finamore – Love you more. I’m sure he is OK. He will have your back. What about your mom?

13/08/2015 16:38 Greg Owen – I called Sean yesterday and asked him to tell her. Couldn’t do it on the phone. Too much. Too cruel

13/08/2015 16:39Theresa Martin Finamore  – It is. Does Dad enter into the equation?

13/08/2015 16:39 Greg Owen – Yes, of course. When I say Mum I kinda always mean them both. It’s odd – they aren’t together anymore but I still see them as one.

13/08/2015 16:40 Theresa Martin Finamore – He will have your back too. They are more together than when they were together. You kids are the glue

13/08/2015 16:45 Greg Owen – I am actually ok – it’s really just that I’m putting them through this that is killing me. But I’m on stage in 2 hours…coming out and my article is released Fri lunch time

13/08/2015 16:46 Theresa Martin Finamore – Yes I know but you’re right. They have to be told before it is common knowledge
13/08/2015 16:46 Greg Owen – EVERYONE will know this time tomorrow. I can’t wait to free of that fear

13/08/2015 16:47 Theresa Martin Finamore I found it hard to sleep last night.   I’m sure your parents will have a few uneasy days too

13/08/2015 16:47 Greg Owen I’m sorry. I just wanted to give you guys your place and the respect of hearing it from me

13/08/2015 16:48 Theresa Martin Finamore – Give me your moms landline number. If she has one. Don’t be sorry. I’m glad to have it processed today
13/08/2015 16:48 Greg Owen – I don’t have it. Sean will

13/08/2015 16:48 Theresa Martin Finamore – I appreciate that Greg. I am really glad you told me. Ok if you can get her number I will call her maybe tomorrow. We spoke when Colum was injured too. She needs her mom and I’m the closest thing to it

13/08/2015 16:51 Greg Owen – xx

13/08/2015 16:52 – Theresa Martin Finamore You will be fine love. You will be the example of how to live with a HIV diagnosis with class and respect.

13/08/2015 16:52 Greg Owen I know I’ll be fine and I hope so

13/08/2015 16:52 Theresa Martin Finamore – You show them how it’s done Sweetheart xxx

13/08/2015 16:52 Greg Owen – Thank you. I need to stop crying now. Pos guys should still look HOT

lol

I can’t be doing with puffy eyes lol

13/08/2015 16:53 Theresa Martin Finamore – Yes me too. You will look hot

13/08/2015 16:53 Greg Owen haha

13/08/2015 16:53 Theresa Martin Finamore – Cucumbers out of the freezer on your eyelids

13/08/2015 16:53 Greg Owen – At least I’m not wearing mascara – small blessings

13/08/2015 16:53 Theresa Martin Finamore – True. That shit stings

13/08/2015 16:56 Greg Owen – lol

13/08/2015 16:56 Theresa Martin Finamore – Onwards and upwards Gregory. The time has come for you to lead by example. Now show the world how it’s done with class and respect. Let me know how it goes. Love you to the moon and back and forever and a day. Now go break a leg xxxx

13/08/2015 16:58 Greg Owen – THX Auty T xxxxx. Here we go – fasten your seatbelts

13/08/2015 16:59 Theresa Martin Finamore – Fastened and ready. Go get them.

18.00 – I arrive at Let’s Talk About Gay Sex And Drugs a bit dazed and confused. I somehow had gone from having 3 besties i.e. Isis, Ian and my brother Brendan there for support to having none. Brendan and Isis were running late and Ian was kept back at work. Great! But I knew I was arriving to a room of friends and like minded people so I wasn’t feeling the pressure too much. After freshening up in the toilet, the first person that I bumped into was David Stuart who gave me a huge hug and a kiss and asked the expected but appreciated questions. I’ve learned he’s a great mix of friend and professional in these situations. I was able to tell him that my biggest worry was that I had unknowingly passed the virus on to someone else since I picked it but that I was feeling lucky because I hadn’t had sex with anyone in over 6 weeks and not had very much sex in the few months before that either. The only guy that I was worried about was Dan, who I had sort of been seeing for a few weeks in the spring. As it happens, when I text him that afternoon that he had replied straight away to let me know that quite by chance, he had been to a sexual health clinic the week before and all of his result had come back clear. This was a huge relief for me. I also explained to David that I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t noticed any sero-conversion in myself. I always thought that anyone who got a positive diagnosis would have noticed some sort of symptoms and were just bullshitting and bullshitting themselves by claiming that they hadn’t. I know I was stupid and a bit naive to think that. I carried on reassuring David that I was actually OK, I wasn’t too worried about what lay ahead and if anything I was genuinely feeling blessed mostly because of my lack of sex in recent months coupled with Dan’s week old negative HIV result, and the fact that I had educated myself about HIV and involved myself so heavily with HIV and positive people that I didn’t now suddenly have to deal with ‘HIV’ itself as a threat or shock. I could simply just deal with me and what this diagnosis would mean to me. I think that is a key message in my story. I was also so grateful that I had started this journey as an advocate/activist from a place of proactive love rather than reactive anger. It seemed that the universe had thrown something back. A kind of karmic gift, I had the luxury of being afforded a ‘guilt free sero-conversion’. I was looking better than I had done in a good while and was busier and more active too and in apparent good health. I think David’s reply was just ‘Wow, I’m kinda just impressed. To hear you speak like that and to hear the language you use. Keep on doing what you’re doing Greg. You’re doing something right. And good luck for tonight. It’s a brave thing to do what you are about to. As long as it’s right for you, you have my support.” – like I said, the perfect blend of friend and support giver. The next person I had to have a quick word with was Pat Cash. There is always the standard welcoming hug but today I needed to tell him the news and ask for an extra 30 seconds after my speech to announce my status. He also wanted to make sure that I was certain I wanted to do what I was about to. I confirmed 100% that I was sure and it was right. He graciously accepted my decision and granted me the extension to my allocated time slot. I was supposed to speak 3rd or 4th but was taken off guard when Pat called me to the stage straight after the first speaker…a blessing in disguise…there was no time for nerves. The full speech from the night is below.

AIDS SHITS AND GIGGLES

Let’s Talk About Gay Sex and Drugs – ALIENS

Act Up London are an AIDS activist group billed on their facebook page as a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the HIV pandemic. Until recently AIDS activism was an ‘alien’ concept to me. However far from being the ‘angry’ bunch of individuals that I was expecting to encounter at this group, they were warm, open, welcoming and fun if not regularly fucking hilarious!

Last Tuesday afternoon on a mere 2 hours sleep after working all night at Popcorn at Heaven, I wearily made my way to Angel for the Act Up summer fair at the Positively UK offices. To say that I was less than my bouncy, usual self is an understatement. I was pro-actively 30 mins early for the 3pm kick off. As I posted my obligatory check in and promotional post on facebook, Dan Glass replied to the thread to let me know he was going to be fashionably late by about 20 mins so it was looking like the day was going to be a longer, more draining ball buster than it was already feeling like.

My brother had arranged to join the event after work to catch up with me and get a glimpse into what his ‘Social Outlier’ big bro actually got up to at these intriguingly ‘alien’ aids shin digs!

Towards the end of the meeting, after my brother a few other latecomers arrived and joined us, Dan Glass decided to throw another one of his impromptu icebreaker activities of name and statement rounds. The theme of this round was “state your name and something that no one else here knows about you”…

This is where hilarity broke out! I honestly almost pissed myself laughing…leading me seamlessly on to shit…Yes, shit. Tom our wonderfully fabulous cis-male joker proceeded to tell a story of when he found himself in KFC in Hackney – bursting for a poo that he had been in labour with all day. He deposited said poo in the KFC toilets, which he then tried to flush away. However the gods of the porcelain bowl were against him and the poo refused to go! So he flushed again further filling the blocked loo causing the monster poo to float up and over the toilet rim and land firmly at this feet – which he now takes the time to point out were dressed in 6 inch stilettos, below his ra-ra skirt! In a panic he decided to take action and leave the KFC, however as he opened the door the poo decided that it wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Tom just yet and surfed out of the loo and onto the main floor of the restaurant alongside six and a half foot Tom in heels and a ra-ra skirt!

Tom’s shit story seemed to have totally broken the ice beyond all expectation and we quickly arrived at sexual tales of the most graphic and amusing nature.

We soon arrived at my brother’s moment to share his name and chosen story, I was starting to feel nervous and uncomfortable! And I think he knew…He begins….

“Hi everybody, I’m Brendan and I’m Greg’s brother. And eh…I’m straight….And…”

He was then greeted with the not too unexpected heckles of “Ah ha!?” “Uh Hum!?” “Yeah! OK GUUUURL”

He continued “ Yeah so….I’m not really sure how sexual to go here…I have some right WRONG stories…but I dunno…”

I think the chorus then pitched in ad-libs to the effect of “go on straight boy…get nasty” and “wrong is always right gurl”

He continued…”Eh? Greg?”

I then shared a story about my brother that I maybe shouldn’t have but that was right for the moment and that he was gracious and sporting enough to allow me to tell. Bless him, I loved him for jumping in at the deep end so unconditionally and I was so proud of him holding his own and shining in a world so alien to him.

So as to keep with the tone and the theme of unapologetic sexual confessions…I admitted or bragged actually, to the group that I can suck my own dick… Which luckily I didn’t discover I could do until about 2 years ago…Otherwise I would never have got an education, got a job or left the fucking house! Mind you, though no one in THAT particular room knew this self-sucking selling point, a good proportion of Grindr and South London’s sex party fraternity DO!

Stepping into an arena that is alien and embracing people that may seem alien to us can reward us with the greatest gifts sometimes. Regardless of what gender we are, what colour, what religion, what sexual orientation or what status. Alien to each other or not, we are all joined by common ground by sex and sexuality. The ability to love and the need for love and of course the joy of being able to laugh with and at each other.

AIDS IS NOT ALIEN!

Thank you

*The audience then applauded

One more thing guys…I asked Pat Cash for 20 seconds more to speak with you after I finished my piece. He very kindly allowed me that extra time. That’s like gold dust at these events so I’ll crack on. I just wanted to take a moment to point out why groups like Act Up and events like  this are so import for us right now.

I had managed to source some Truvada to use as Prep that I was due to start taking this weekend. Now I’m well enough clued up on Prep to know that before you start taking it you need to make sure you are definitely HIV negative so you don’t cause yourself problems with creating drug resistance issues by taking Truvada if you are positive and don’t know it. So off I went to Dean Street to take my test to confirm I was negative so I could start taking the meds that would KEEP me negative. 20 mins after arriving at the clinic yesterday – I was diagnosed as HIV positive. The irony is not lost on me. This is why us coming together and sharing and making changes in our world is so important. Prep needs to be made available to everyone and now!!! So someone else doesn’t find themselves in my shoes.

I wore this vest for a reason…

hiv front HIV back

Last week this vest was ironic – this week it’s uniform.

STAND TOGETHER – MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Thank you

END OF BLOG

On the first break in the event I was approached by a guy from i-base who was interested in finding out a little more about me and my situation. He very kindly offered me some advice and information on meds, new meds, unreleased meds and a few studies that are currently taking place that I wasn’t aware of. Here is another lesson that emerged from tonight. By standing up straight away and informing people of my recent diagnosis I had inadvertently created a support network that no doubt would be keeping an eye on me and offering to help me as and when I should need them. They are only able to do that because they are aware of my situation. If no one knows what you are going through then no one can help you especially if you need support but are struggling too much in your own head to even realise that you need help. By being open about my HIV positive status the guy from i-base was able to give me advice that I hadn’t even thought to ask for yet. The meds thing was a few weeks away at the earliest so I hadn’t given it much thought. But he gave me more than just information – he gave me hope. I will always remember him saying this “There are some really impressive developments happening right now in the ARV field and some really exciting things happening over the next 2 years. We are really getting there now in regards to totally pinning HIV down as a manageable condition. Don’t worry buddy, you are going to be just fine”

21.30 – As I was leaving Let’s Talk I had a chance to thank Pat and say goodbye to David. He quietly whispered “Well done – you nailed that”. With David’s parting words spurring me on I set off on foot from Baker Street to work at the club in Charing Cross.

I had promised my brother Sean that I would call our parents after the event and before work but I didn’t really have enough time to go through that conversation twice over and put myself in that head space and pull myself back out of it again before facing a club full of excitable and drunk gays. I decided to give it a miss until the next day when I could properly allocate them both as much time as they needed. Somehow my brother must have been telepathically on to me because as soon as I had made that mental decision my phone lit up, it was him. I took the call. The conversation was very polite and measured so I had a suspicion there was something else going on with my brother that he was leading up to. I had presumed that it was probably going to be a polite reminder to actually call and speak with Mum and Dad. He brought me up to speed on how he had fared breaking the news to my olds. It turns out they took it as much in their stride as he had. They were obviously concerned about me but didn’t seem to freak out or go to pieces. We talked some more before he asked. “So when are you putting this out on facebook?” We’d already had this conversation the previous day so I wasn’t sure why he was asking again. “Tomorrow evening, I should be able to compile the diary logs that are in my iphone and flesh it out into a full blog by the time I start work at 10.30pm.” He then kind of asked but more insisted “Do you maybe think that you shouldn’t do that tomorrow?” I was a bit taken back “No, I’m pretty sure I’m fine to do that tomorrow. I just told a hundred people an hour ago, pretty soon another hundred people in my social circle will know as a result. You’ve told Mum and Dad. So the facebook thing is the right thing for me to do.” He pressed a bit further “Well, I just think maybe it’s not the right thing to do. I don’t think it would be good for Mum or Dad.”

I was suddenly really pissed off.

In hindsight, I wasn’t pissed off with my brother. I was just totally unprepared for this twist in our conversation. I had been so regimented, almost militant about this whole things so far. Everything had an action. Everything had an allocated amount of my time, emotion and energy. That system was allowing me to cope. But suddenly someone that I respect a lot, that I always listen to and consider my actions in line with his opinions was throwing me off plan, off schedule, off course and off balance. My snap reaction was irritation and panic at being caught unaware. He continued “It would be better you waited a while – maybe a week to give our parents some time to get used to the situation.” My mind went into overdrive. I have a nasty tongue when I’m rattled and a horrible temper. Thank God I have trained myself to very rarely lose it these days. I was aware it was my manic reaction to this situation and not umbrage with my bother. During the frenetic scrambling of my mind and the turning in my gut a few things crystallised very quickly for me. Instinct I suppose. I could hear Kieran’s words of wisdom from yesterday booming in my head. “Now is the time for you to be selfish Greg. To do what you need to do for YOU. Fuck everyone else and what they need from you and this. It is you that is living and dealing with this and it is you that is the priority to keep right – right now.”That coupled with the sudden gravity of how taxing this might be on my parents. Gravity that came dressed in guilt. I’ve point blank stated several times before in PART 1 and PART 2… GUILT WAS NOT SOMETHING I WAS EVER GOING TO ENTERTAIN AGAIN. I managed to calm the panic, take control of the ship again, rein in my tongue and choke off my temper before it broke. Seamlessly but abruptly I shut this whole thing down with… “Yes Sean. I hear what you’re saying. I acknowledge it but – NO. Not on this occasion. I will be posting the full blog tomorrow as I intended. It’s out now and I don’t want to have the anxiety of double guessing who knows and who doesn’t. It’s facebook, Mum and Dad aren’t on there. I know everyone else is but I don’t care, I couldn’t give a shit about everyone else. Listen, I actually can’t get in to this discussion now. I have not got it in me to keep it together and to start bending over backwards for everybody else at my own expense. Not this time. I’m sorry. And what would be the point of me making sure that everyone else is ok with this if doing that is going to fuck me up and break me? That’s no use to anyone. I’d rather everyone got their heads around me staying on top of this and supported that. Rather than everyone having to piece me back together if I break. I’ve been that person, I’m not that person anymore. And I don’t want to be that person ever again. So, this discussion has to end now. Sorry Bro.” I could tell I had pissed him off. He didn’t fight back though, just closed with “Well, you know what my thoughts on it are”. “Yes I do Bro. Thank for looking out for me. Gotta go” Then we hung up. Ouch…I didn’t like that conversation one little bit. Of course I wasn’t being such a hard faced stubborn bitch just for the sake of it. I wasn’t marching my pity parade out under my HIV banner. Not at all. The reasons I reacted like that were simple. I wanted to be free of this bind and the ‘Who knows’ the ‘How do I tell him/her/work/whoever’…I could already feel the potential of its destructiveness and that was another road I actively decided not to go down on this journey. Fuck that shit. The other reason – more emotional that intellectual was that I couldn’t bare the turmoil of thinking that my parents would spend days or weeks or months beating themselves up about this and adjusting to it while worrying if I was going to be ok. Instead of entertaining that scenario I decided to take full control of it and put paid to all of that unnecessary bullshit. I was more sure now than ever that this shit was going down my way and 100% on my terms. As much for me and myself as those people that I love who are worried about me right now. People I have sucked into this circus.

By the time I got to Charring Cross 10 minutes later. I had decided to fuck off the idea of waiting to write a blog to hit this head on. I wrote this status and posted it about 30 seconds before I started my shift at 22.00.

FACEBOOK STATUS

I AM HIV+. So that was easier than I thought. I made a very personal and public announcement at LETS TALK ABOUT GAY SEX AND DRUGS tonight. Yesterday afternoon at about 1pm I had a HIV test that came back as POSITIVE. Full details on that in the form of an article on its way tomorrow. The text that I spoke tonight will be available online tomorrow too. Aren’t you all lucky! I’m spoiling you with TWO articles in one day! I’m so kind. And a huge thank you to 56 Dean Street for looking after me yesterday and who collaborate with the fabulous (and great hug giver) Pat Cash. As always lovely to see David Stuart who was super sweet tonight too. For the record. I’m cool. I’m good mentally, emotionally and physically. And in surprisingly good form too. Xx

I didn’t pick up my phone again until my break at 02.00…I was not expecting what happened next…

PART 4

Continue reading “THIS IS ME – PART 3”