Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.

Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.

And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Über Proud

I took a day off from work this Tuesday that just passed. Nope, I wasn’t sick or anything. No emergency either. I just had stuff to take care of.

What can I say? I’m in demand.

Hehehe, just kidding. I just really needed to do some stuff, that’s all.

I woke up and left my usual time, but in just a pair of shorts and flip-flops. I was to take a trip to the Social Hygiene Clinic in Manila. The first time again since almost a year ago. I met up with someone who I encountered thru Positivism, to accompany him to get tested. Honestly, with his nursing background, he was at the point where he knew too much for his own good. That didn’t leave much for me to do other than give emotional support and lighten the mood. Seeing Dra. Diana and Nurse Malou there was great. They did recognize me and seemed happy to see me, too.

So I got my new friend pricked, and we waited an hour for the results of the Rapid Test, which really wasn’t too rapid. Ate Malou was saying it was the routing of the results for signature that took a while. We whiled away the time chatting it up with her and the volunteer who was on duty. After an hour, jubilance. He was negative for HIV. Woohoo!

From there, I headed home to take lunch and change into pants for an afternoon meeting. I had been corresponding closely for the past few months with someone from the Department of Education, who watched me on GMA’s Think Positive and contacted me through this blog. I could sense he understood and shared the advocacy. And soon he mentioned that they were coming up with an HIV module which they might need help with. I was game... but didn’t really know what exactly I was getting into. Hehe.

A couple of weeks ago, he told me they were setting up a day to meet with me and the other resource person. Wow, so I was a resource person? I was wondering who the other one would be, but soon found out it was none other than my good friend, E! We were pretty happy and relieved to realize we would be in it together. I dunno, there’s just a level of comfort that we get from going through new things together. Well, for me at least, that’s the case.

So we met up and headed to the DepEd compound in Ortigas. We really had no idea what the meeting would be about. Mr. DepEd had mentioned that an HIV Specialist from UNICEF would be attending too, which gave us an idea of how big and how serious this was going to be. Ergo, seeing E in pants and shoes for a change was more appropriate than hilarious. I was nervous, honestly.

Getting there, we finally met Mr. DepEd, and were asked to wait a while in the conference room. Soon after, we were joined by four other ladies from the DepEd, as well as the pretty, statuesque German lady from UNICEF. This is really is it. Gulp. It turned out, this was for a Training of Trainers thing on HIV issues, set for November and December, for faculty and student leaders of schools nationwide. I know... Whoa.

Apparently, with what Mr. DepEd had known about E and I, our reputations had preceded us. We were both known to be HIV-positive bloggers. I graduated from reputable schools, and was editor of Positivism. E was an opinionated dude who has braved all odds and was about to get published. All true, all true. But little did we know that this was just the start of our proving our cases that we would be good resource persons... resource persons who were going to give our testimonials, help to put a face to HIV, and be part of an open forum, speaking in front of crowds of at around a hundred. Yikes.

E and I both got grilled a bit regarding the stories of our lives. But knowing E and I, we could tell nothing more than what was the truth. We’re both pretty much at a point where we’re responsible for the mistakes we’ve made but still have much to be thankful for, so certainly we weren’t going to be sugarcoating anything we were going to say.

For E, it was pretty awkward to talk about his having to exchange money for sex, his drug addiction, and how he veered off track from his family. For me, the awkwardness was more about the issue of homosexuality and my apparent issues on disclosure, not being able to tell my family about my condition.

I wouldn’t say we were defending ourselves the whole time. We weren’t trying to be perfect. It was more of like we were trying to help them understand all the factors behind who we are. After all, this may have just been the first time for some of the people there to have met and talked to people who were living with HIV. So were we going to be perfect role models for the youth of today? Certainly not. But what I can say is that we weren’t bad images of people living with HIV to leave with an audience.

You should’ve seen us. We were handling the embarrassing questions, making our awkward confessions, shocking the hell out of the dignified ladies, making jokes, laughing at ourselves, but all the while making our points and, I believe, helping them understand. I realize now that it was such a light mood to be in, considering we were talking about HIV and AIDS. And that’s the way it should be. Very Positivism.

Leaving, E and I talked about what just transpired. We weren’t sure exactly how we did, but it was clear we were happy with what we did. We certainly had no regrets. Most would probably wonder why DepEd approached individuals like us instead of the existing NGOs. But for E and I, based on how we know the NGOs think and work, we doubt if it would be anything more than a pity fit if they were subjects.

Our bewilderment about whether we passed or not was put to some ease by a couple of text messages I received. Mr. DepEd said he was initially worried that we might have taken offense from some of the questions thrown at us, but was glad that we handled ourselves well. Ms. UNICEF meanwhile said she admired the positive attitude, and the patience with which the questions were faced. He added that he was now sure of the success of the event, while she hoped we would be indeed available for the training course. Wow, does that mean... I know, let’s wait and see. But I’m still amazed myself.

I’ve told E how über proud I was of us both, but really, I was über-düber proud of E in particular. Because other than the PSP he was carrying around yesterday, he was the man. He’s really come a long way, and he’s just such a changed man, I believe. And allow me to be a proud kuya.

So there, that was the huge adventure I had with E yesterday. At this point, it was a huge, huge opportunity offered to us. Humongous if we push through. So watch out, Subic and Cebu! The B.I.T.C.H.-E tandem might just be coming your way!


The Green Man said...

I was at SHC around 2pm last Tue. I had a speaking engagement with DOH on their stigma reduction seminar.

Hehehe. I was in contact with E about this DepEd activity. I am so proud of you BITCH!

Keep me updated on this, ok

I wish you the best! Let's start putting faces on the long veiled HIV persona :-D


Rafphaelo said...

Congrats in advance. :)

wanderingcommuter said...

hahaha. clap clap!

john stanley said...

galing, galing!

i'm so proud of you, poz. and of E as well.

Ming Meows said...

That was so brave of you two. I'm planning to get an HIV asap.

E said...

LOL! I can't believe you mentioned me wearing pants and the psp! LOL

I think the reason why they got us because we present ourselves with so much pride and dignity unlike most (if not all) NGO's would wear the "kawawa" mask.

Cebu & Subic her we cam! - chronicles of e

alkapon said...

ang haba.. grabe, napagod ang mga mata ko sa pagbasa.

BadPapiNYC said...

sama ako!

Anonymous said...

sama rin akez becks na mish na kita ahaha peace!!!

- ;))

Niel Camhalla said...

Hi. I'm quite new in your blog. I'm interested to read entries on gay volunteerism associated with AIDS. I want to know how active the Pinoy gay community is in caring for AIDS patients (if they are allowed) and also in prevention/info dissemination. In case you have written an entry about this, kindly share a link for that entry. Thanks.


hmm makaka pasok ba ako to listen? even in subic man lang?