This is a bit of an experiment. Seeing as how I rarely write anything for the blog these days, I’m going to try to do a weekly post with lots of links to interesting things I’ve noticed during the week, a bit of personal narrative and maybe a photo or two.
I came home from university on Monday feeling rather brilliant after getting my two major essays back, both with ‘A’ grades. Then I read this blog post by Daniel Reeders and this review by Dion Kagan and I realised I was just an old duffer again. Daniel’s insightful analysis of a real-world encounter with HIV stigma, and Dion’s brilliant synthesis of multiple streams of nostalgia and documentary-making, put my first-year legal blatherings in their rightful place. Thanks to Dion I now have the terms ‘melancholic disavowal’ and ‘traumatic unremembering’ at my disposal.
Still on the subject of stigma, last week I had the opportunity to talk about the stigma that is increasingly apparent around hepatitis C virus infection among HIV-positive gay men, at a public forum hosted by Living Positive Victoria. I recently came across Gareth Owen‘s 2008 paper ‘An “elephant in the Room”? Stigma and Hepatitis C Transmission Among HIV‐positive “serosorting” Gay Men’ that examined this issue and I used some material from that paper in my talk. One sample quote:
‘The hep C situation on the scene is much like HIV was in the early days, so guys will avoid having sex with other guys who they definitely know have hep C. Though they tend to assume that guys don’t have hep C if it isn’t mentioned.’
I also used some anonymised quotes from a prominent serosorting/bareback hookup site to support my observations – I found dozens of texts like ‘not on here to get hep c guys so please be upfront about it’ and ‘I’m Hep C neg and not really into putting that at risk, being poz is enough as it is.’
It’s impossible to ignore the obvious parallels with similar statements made by HIV-negative guys about HIV.
Buggery.org is ten years old today. Admittedly, posting has been sporadic in recent years, but we’re still here and not going away. This site grew out of an earlier experiment called the House of Love and that, in turn had its own predecessors going back to 1996 – 18-plus years of self-published snark, provocative opinion and too much personal information.
A decade ago, blogging was still a thing. No Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook to provide instant gratification and still plenty of people ‘surfing the web’ by routinely visiting their favourite web sites to see what was new. That model is more or less dead now, and I concentrate my efforts more on my Twitter and Facebook accounts than here on the blog.
Australia has changed, too. From John Howard’s ‘relaxed and comfortable’ world of 2003 to Julia Gillard’s never-dull 2013 the world has become less certain, less trustful, less safe. It’s simultaneously colder (socially) and hotter (climatically). This site came online on the eve of a war justified by lies, and that war continues in an undeclared, but still very real sense.
A big thank you to the loyal readers who are still with me after all this time, and who show their appreciation for my increasingly-infrequent posts.
I started this business 18 years ago with the certainty of a man who already knew how his own story would end, a certainty that proved false. I continue it in a world that is more uncertain than ever. Will I, and buggery.org, still be here in ten years time? I haven’t the foggiest idea.
Let’s find out.
When someone tells you you’re going to die, it’s normal to have a few questions. Depending on the context, these might include “how?” and “why?”, but most importantly, “when?”
On the day that I got my HIV diagnosis, Chris, my doctor never said I was going to die — but that’s what I heard. He said “This was a positive test.” It’s an odd choice of words, a bit clumsy and scientific, but of course medically precise. The diagnosis had to be confirmed with a second test, and backed up by a T-cell count. There was the possibility that the second test would show the first to be false, but he and I both knew that wasn’t really going to happen. “Don’t get your hopes up,” he said.
The test was positive, and so was I.
In my head, “This was a positive test” became “You’re going to die.” I wanted to know what all people given this news want to know: when?
“How long have I got?” The words came out of my mouth like a line from a bad TV movie. Chris looked at me with sad eyes.
“We don’t know. Some people do better than others, but without treatment I think you would have between one and three years before you were very seriously ill. There is a treatment available — it’s called AZT — and with that you would probably double that, but better treatments are being worked on and new ones could come along in the future.
“You shouldn’t worry: you can expect to have another five to ten years with a bit of luck. And in that time, who knows — treatments might improve. Who knows? You could live for another 20 years.”
I knew he was trying to be upbeat, stretching the story as far as possible to make me feel better. But no-one lived that long with HIV, not in those days. I walked out of the surgery with a prescription for AZT and started taking it the same day.
That was twenty years ago, today. The 6th of August, 1991, when I was 27 years old and going to die.
I posted another story about the day of my diagnosis a few years ago: Hiroshima Day.
We are quite safe from the current bushfires. Our home is not in one of the areas affected by the big fires which have made worldwide news. The nearest fire to us was 30 or 40 km away and that fire has now been contained.
Naturally we, like all Australians, are shocked and saddened by the events of the last few days. With all the death and destruction, I haven’t been in the mood to write, so sorry to all of you who took this silence as a sign that we might have been affected.
I’m gratified that so many people in such distant places thought of us. If you are able and inclined, you can make a donation to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal.
Image: Nothing but rubble … more than 500 homes were lost at Kinglake. (ABC/AAP: Andrew Brownbill)
This image provided by GeoEye Satellite Image shows Washington D.C.’s National Mall and the United States Capitol, far right, Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009 taken at 11:19AM EDT during the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The image, taken through high, whispy white clouds, shows the masses of people between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. (AP Photo/GeoEye Satellite Image)
Above: A White House staffer carries a framed photograph of US President George W. Bush outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 13, 2009, one week before Barack Obama is sworn in as president. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
The long nightmare is almost over. Hope is the prevailing mood in America and around the world. Change is coming. Four, or eight, years from now, will we recognise the world as it was in 2008? I hope not.
Eight years ago…
Four years ago…
Above: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom officiates at the marriage of Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, who have been together 56 years but are legally married only today.
Some moments speak for themselves. Anything I could say in commentary would only be fluff. And anyway, I have tears in my eyes.