An edited version of this story was published on the samesame website: the full piece is published here with James’s permission.
I’m going to say something controversial: I oppose repealing section 19A of the Victorian Crimes Act, which makes intentional transmission of HIV a crime. To explain why I’m about to tell a story that’s deeply personal and hardly ever discussed.
As some of you know, I’m a mostly bottom
I’m also chubby, and tend to be starved for male attention.
Anyway, a few years back I was living in a small mining town in the Deep North of Queensland, I had lost a lot of weight and was looking attractive and feeling good about myself and the works, and a guy picks me up on one of those apps many of you are on right now.
He was in town to consult with the mine I worked for – we met at his hotel, had a drink, retired to his room and one thing lead to another. I made him wear a condom. Checked it several times. But mostly was enjoying being fucked senseless.
Because it had been a while, he used a LOT of lube to open me up. He slipped out for just a moment, and kept going. We finished, parted company and about a day later I got a text saying “enjoy your fuck flu” **. I was so naive I had to Google what that meant when he wouldn’t clarify
Once I discovered the whole ‘stealthing’ scene I called my GP, who referred me to the local hospital, where I fought for three hours with a deeply evangelical Christian Indian registrar going from clammily explaining my situation, to begging, to attempting to bribe, and in the end threatening to sue, in order access post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
The next morning, I went to the police to report it: the police knew me from my civic engagements and took it seriously, but told me there was nothing that could be done. Queensland law had no way to successfully prosecute at the time and that as a gay “I’d consented”.
For a while I thought it was my own fault: just desserts for being gay, for being a bottom, for being repugnant and forever alone. Then, as I was about to attempt suicide – I was going to slash my wrists in the bath – anyway, as the bath was drawing, I was opening my second bottle of wine, and I realised what happened to me was sexual assault. It was against my wishes and there was nothing I could have done differently to avoid it: someone determined to try and harm someone else will find a way, regardless of any precautions the target may take.
The good news: the PEP worked, and I’m still HIV negative. A lot of therapy later and I’m much better emotionally. I still have massive issues relating to other gay guys – even those I know I’ll never shag. I’m told I’m prickly or cold (or sometimes an utter cunt). I still don’t feel safe letting a guy get under my guard or close to me emotionally, but I keep trying to get past it. And I still have suicidal thoughts from time to time.
I can’t help but feel that if there was a way to prosecute him, I would have not taken it so hard.
From my perspective, repealing this law is a mistake.
** Fuck Flu – A set of intense, flu-like symptoms that appear in someone who has recently contracted HIV (“seroconverted“). The “flu” usually sets in about 10-14 days after the initial infection, during which a person’s HIV viral load is extremely high (and, thus, so is her ability to pass the virus on).