Hey Fr. Tony,
HIV poz here and looking for a man to share my life. My on-line profiles say 32. Muscular. Gym built. VGL professional (yup, that does mean financially well-off) hung, drug-free, etc. etc. etc. All true except for the part where I say I am HIV NEGATIVE.
I know what you are going to say. No lies, no way, But I want to get to know a man not just fuck. I'm not going to infect anyone. I play safe. My viral load is undetectable and I am very careful about my meds and my health. I'm a better risk than all those druggies and boozer-losers.
I want to find a man I can get to know and love. I have to get my foot in the door. The man I want to meet will pass me by if I say I'm poz. He has already passed me by a hundred times.
For years I went to poz groups and met nobody who was boyfriend material so don't tell me to do that.
I would never put anybody at risk with unsafe sex. I just want to date a guy for a good long time before I tell him my status. If it's love, it ought to be strong enough to deal with the news, right? Or am I a shithead who deserves to be alone and assigned to the junkheap? You tell me. I'm just so tired of being alone. I am sick of getting my hopes up over some guy who disappears when I feel comfortable enough to tell him the truth.Bad news Bear
Would you date this guy, or is he a jerk?
Dear Bad News Bear-er (or not),
I had to read your letter through a few times, and know what? I still cannot decide whether I like you or dislike you. Whether you are a shit-head or not a shit-head. Whether you are pitiful, despicable, stupid, owner of a repulsive personality or simply lonely and worthy of (and desperate for) love.
Let's break this down.
As you guessed, we have to begin by putting on the table the premise that being truthful about yourself is always golden. (Yawn). Do you want a man to fall in love with a fake you? (Yawn.) You can't hurry love. No you just gotta wait. (Yawn. Yawn. Even though you are young enough not to identify that lyric. It's from a Supremes song.)
There is a flip side, my identification and espousal of which will surprise you.
There are some things about which you may lie. For instance, you are allowed to lie about your age. You may say that you are 28 instead of 32 (although from where I stand, the difference is inconsequential.
You may also lie about your hair color. You probably don't yet have any gray in your hair but you will, and if you decide to wash it away (until the day its tide comes in like a tsunami and you just give up), you are allowed to deny this.
Liposuction is something you needn't disclose to your new boyfriend.
If you are a cancer survivor, I don't think you need to disclose that to a prospect.
If you have collagen pumped into your lips, or change their color with lipstick, or just shine them up with gloss, the cosmetic adjustment is obvious, but is an acceptable "deception".
If a woman has breast augmentation, the procedure is commonly acceptable but the owner of the vavooms is not obliged to warn a grabby suitor that her parts are synthetic.
How about someone who has had sex-change surgery? Over dinner last night I ran this question past my partner who replied with conviction that such a one ought to disclose his or her surgery before the second date. I challenged this. "Why before the second date? Why not before the first date? Or why not after the thirty-first date? Is the person's integrity somehow burnished by the timing of the disclosure?
What if you are a convicted sex offender who has done his time and been rehabilitated? What if you were incarcerated many years ago for some other reason? What if you once had a serious meth addiction. When should these things be disclosed to a man who is interested in you?
What if you once had a serious gambling problem and lost a huge personal fortune?
What if you had attempted suicide as a teenager and had been diagnosed as seriously depressed but through counseling had learned successful techniques for dealing with occasional and inevitable bouts of depression?
Are you carrying a loaded gun?
What if you are a serious Republican?
Let's reframe this perusal in terms of a summary question:
Is being HIV positive to be considered as disclosable as age, hair color, lipo, old cancer, collagen, lipstick, silicon, sex-change, old convictions/jail sentences, gambling, depression or gun-toting Republicanism? Or, is it somehow different because it constitutes a threat to a prospective boyfriend in a way that those things might not? Because it is an ongoing condition and a stigmatized trait? Do we need to divide all of these items into two groups: those that must be disclosed with some immediacy and those that you may withhold? Or, are they all personal and to-be-proclaimed at a crucial moment, as in, "Before we jointly buy that property, you should know about my gambling problem."
The answer to this is simply yes. You may disclose something at its naturally crucial moment. In the case of HIV status, you would probably want to disclose it before you had higher-risk sex with your new boyfriend. Even if you do use a condom. Pistol packin' mama, lay that pistol down. (Even your grandmother might not recognize that lyric.)
But the real question involves more than the propriety of what you do not say. If you claim to be HIV negative, you are not just skirting the issue. You are faking your persona. To avoid stating your HIV status would probably imply being positive. I see your dilemma. But, if you lie, you are setting yourself up for some resentment and a sense of betrayal.
There is also the fact that if someone who checks out one of your on-line profiles decides that he can have sex with you, protected or un-, based on what you say in that profile, he is the fool. He is a fool for entrusting his health to a stranger, and he is a fool to ignore the fact that a man who is negative on Monday when he writes his profile may be positive on Sunday when he meets him for a date.
That final consideration almost gives you license to lie about your status. Almost.
Here is my conclusion. I cannot help but suspect that with your attractive stats, you would be able to find a boyfriend/lover/partner even with full disclosure of your HIV status unless perhaps you had some personality traits that are off-putting. You may be using your HIV status as a scapegoat for the real reasons for the bachelorhood you are trying to shed.
Did you save the phone numbers of the last five attractive men you dated who ran the other way? Call them up and say "Hey Randy, I know we're not going to see each other again, but it would be really helpful for me to know your reasons for that decision. Please be honest. I can take it and I really want to know. Was it because of my HIV status or was it because of other things?"
Having said all this, I still might consider the possibility that you could in good conscience misrepresent your status in an on-line profile. Really, doesn't everybody punch up their stats? How many extra inches is an acceptable fish story? Where should you draw the line between good or false advertising?
If on a first date, you were honest about the deception and said that you wanted to use the disclosure to judge your date's reaction and see how his mind worked, you would have to expect that some guys would excuse themselves to go to the bathroom and never return to the table. But maybe one would stick it out. Maybe one would be empathetic about your plight. Another lonely but beautiful man who might respond "That's OK. I was just about to tell you the same thing."