I would never call myself a ‘Scene-Queen’, but those that know me know I do love the occasional night out…. but secretly don’t we all?
When I do go out, I always prefer a gay club over a straight club, partly because I feel much safer but mostly for the better music.
In the last year, and as an indirect result of a break-up, I have found great friendships with a group of gay men around my age. Some single, some couples, but all of whom are lovely, genuine people with different backgrounds and careers. Surprisingly, I’ve never really had a friendship circle quite like this, even working in theatre all my life. Every now and then we get together for a night out somewhere in London.
This night was just like any other night out; Mandatory pre-drinks followed by a slightly fuzzy tube journey to the club. This time in Clapham.
The club was packed and I’d noticed one or two guys look at me across the bar etc. Usually a little bit of attention is great a great ego boost, but all I kept thinking was:
‘…if only they knew…’
All of a sudden, I was on the dance floor, looking around and thinking I must be the only one in that room who is going through this.
Eventually, I made a beeline for the door. Texting my friends that I’d left, in the Uber home.
On reflection, that was a bit dramatic. If there was a show of hands how many positive guys were in that bar that night, I think the results would surprise everyone.
Apparently, 1 in 7 gay men in London are HIV positive. Yet, for that moment, in a bar where I usually feel safe and comfortable, I felt so isolated and judged before anyone had even made judgement.
Truth be told, I didn’t give anyone the chance to judge me because I didn’t want to face the rejection.
I might point out that I wasn’t on a night out in the hope of hooking up by the end of it, but feeling that there is a complication should that situation arise made me question everything.
At the end of the day, it is safer to have sex with someone who is HIV+ and Undetectable than it is to have sex with someone who doesn’t know their status.
The stigma with HIV is still out there, and I think it is actually more prevalent in the LGBT+ community than we like to admit. Mostly, it’s down to ignorance and misguided information. But, as a result, places that are usually ‘safe’ for gay men, be it online or in real life, can be tough places to navigate.
To anyone reading this who has not been through it, I guess this weeks post may seem pretty irrelevant, but to those who have been through something similar, know that you’re not alone in feeling alone.
As always, please feel free to comment and share this Chat Positive blog and help reduce the stigma around HIV.
Saint Helena Pound