I’m 42. Growing up, leading into puberty, I did that experimental thing; there were sleepovers and camp outs and we’d pretend we were asleep but, you know…! We wouldn’t talk about it in the morning and pretend nothing ever happened. But I hit the ground running once puberty hit and became sexually active – very sexually active – from thirteen onwards and that was with both males and females.
I was the perfect all-American kid; I had a girlfriend, I was a straight-A student, I was involved in cross-country and track, I had a part-time job and me and the girl next door were expected to get married and live happily ever after; we were the perfect couple.
I discovered beats with my girlfriend, strangely enough. She was quite athletic as well: we were riding our bikes one day and we had stopped to take a break in a park when we noticed cars driving around and I went, “Gee, what’s going on? Why are all these cars slowing down?” I was quite naive and it was actually my girlfriend who explained, “Oh, they must like you!” My ears perked up and I was like, “What? What? You’re joking! Oh that’s disgusting!” And I was back there the next day to check it out alone!
After that I discovered the beats in a couple of the local parks and when I did my cross country training I spent quite a few afternoons and Saturdays running and watching; confusing the guys because I’d bolt as soon as anyone tried to approach me. Eventually I got enough nerve and got into the car with one of those men. I picked up quite a few guys and either had sex in the park or went home with them. It was a big secret at that point.
I won’t do it again!
I grew up in middle-America, in St Louis, which is right on the edge of the Bible Belt and a very conservative Midwest industrial city. I also grew up with a religious background so I went through a guilt trip every time I did these things and afterwards I’d think, “K, I’ll go to church and ask for forgiveness. I’ll be better and I won’t do it again!” (For a week at least!)
I was living two different lives. I had this whole public persona with family, friends at church and school, being the perfect all-American kid. There were high expectations of what I was going to do with my life, but I was thinking, “Oh geez, if they ever knew what I was doing, it would devastate them and devastate me”. I was only thirteen of course, but I was thinking this was something I’d grow out of. I still liked my girlfriend and I was having sex with her as well. This was in the days before AIDS, so that wasn’t even a factor in the equation at the time. Pregnancy was the big worry at the time because we were seen as a model couple.
I discovered that I wasn’t the only one at school. I attended a very large inner-city high school and among all the various cliques – you know, the jocks, the nerds and so on - there was a small clique of about five or six gay guys, or at least some of them acted that way. One of them, Clifford, was very flamboyant and he was on the student body committee. I used to just cringe: he had a lot of balls this guy; Clifford always dressed impeccably and he wore a little Ascot and brushed suede sports jacket and he would proudly walk across the stage to do announcements at morning assembly and the students – you know, a thousand kids - would shout and chant “Fag!” and “Queer!” and he’d just ignore them and keep going. If nothing else, Clifford had courage.
He really rubbed me the wrong way because he was so flamboyant: part of me was thinking, “I’m not like that; I don’t want to be grouped with him”. So I’d sit in the audience and I’d say rude things about him as well. But, by chance, another guy from that clique and I became friends. He was in my chemistry class, and one thing led to another…
St Louis is right on the Mississippi and across the river, in Illinois, where the drinking age was 18 not 21, there was a pretty notorious gay bar called Faces. It was rumored to be mafia owned and run and was located in a convenient but very dicey area. East St Louis was a pretty scary place – but as teenagers this wasn’t a concern. We had learned that anything goes at Faces and you could just borrow any kind of ID and you’d get in.
We’d have these wild weekend adventures where we’d drive across the bridge and go there. I ended up going across with the guy from my chemistry class and the rest of the clique and Clifford used to sit in the back seat and get all excited and say “Oh, I’m going fishing for my man! You’re just going to love this place Mary!” He’d keep calling me Mary and I’d say, “My name is Adam, why are you calling me Mary?” It’s probably a very familiar story...
I was leading a double life and still not completely comfortable with my sexuality or accepting it. I had met an older guy named Jerry – when I say older, he was 28; I was fifteen at the time. I had lied to him about my age. He was probably my first real love.
He wasn’t the stereotypical poofy kind of guy. He had a normal job and we had common interests. We had a routine in which, after school/work, we’d meet and go for a long run and then we’d load my bike in his car and we’d head off and do the dirty at his house.
My parents trusted me because I had been the perfect kid and because I was so involved in everything; I had a part time job and I was active in the church youth group and sports at school. So it was quite easy to say I was somewhere else when I was actually with him.
Maybe I’m sick?
I do remember, after seeing Jerry for some months, lying there after one of our sessions and feeling really creepy about it because I was experiencing feelings with our sex; it was my first love with another man. I’d sit at school and dream about him and doodle his name and all that sort of mushy stuff. But I was also thinking it wasn’t possible: at that point I had tried to convince myself it was just sex, a part-time kind of thing, that guys couldn’t actually love each other because that went against nature, it was against all I was taught at church, and all that sort of crap.
But my feelings continued to grow and then I got really worried. I thought, “Maybe I’m sick?” and that’s when I started worrying that there was something really wrong with me. At one point, after making love, I blurted out: “I don’t know if you think I’m funny or silly or something, but I think about you all the time and I don’t know if it’s possible for two guys to have these sorts of feelings, but I think I love you”. He just laughed. He was older, more experienced, had been in relationships and had lived with another man. He just kind of chuckled and said, “Well, ditto”. And it was very sweet.
I got the shit beat out of me
Unfortunately, my first gay love affair didn’t last very long because my parents found out and it all blew up very, very badly. My father was raised on a farm in Southern Missouri – he wasn’t a religious man. That was my Mom’s department. He was a man’s man; a contractor/construction worker. His background taught him the philosophy that the best response to this sort of misbehavior was to take the son behind the woodshed and make a man out of him.
And that’s what happened; I got the shit beat out of me and had my nose broken. It was pretty devastating. I was hurt most emotionally because I was close to my mother and she did nothing to come to my aid. Her only response was to tell my Dad to keep the noise down so the neighbors wouldn’t hear...
Later my father actually tracked Jerry down, found out where he worked, went to his house and basically beat the crap out of him too: he was a very violent man, my father.
My parents had found out just by ringing me somewhere I was supposed to have been and I wasn’t there. When I came home they confronted me with it; they were convinced at that stage that it was drugs. They had gone through my personal things and all my phone numbers - and the only phone number and name they couldn’t identify was his and they thought he was a drug dealer.
I knew what my father was like and I was afraid of what he’d do. In hindsight, I was very naïve. I was convinced that Jerry had no idea about my age because I had lied to him about it and I thought this was my entire fault. But I learned much later that he knew that I was in high school and not university, which is what I had told him.
Why are you protecting him?
The second time my Dad beat the crap out of me, I left home. He said, “Look what I’ve done to you: I’ve broken your nose and you didn’t say a word. It’s funny because, when I saw your friend, it only took one punch and he sung; he told me everything. Why are you protecting him?” When I heard that; that was it. I had gone through all that for nothing. My Dad had embarrassed Jerry at his place of employment and hurt him. I could tolerate the hurt myself but it was unforgivable that he hurt the person I loved.
How did this happen?
I can remember, at one point, in one of the first weeks after I left home, finding myself at three o’clock in the afternoon, standing on a street corner with a duffle bag and that was all that I had. I had no idea where I was going to sleep that night and I stood there thinking, “How did this happen?” A week earlier life was so different and I couldn’t reconcile the two. I mean, I was the same person; I hadn’t changed. The only thing different that had changed was that my parents had found out something about my life they didn’t know before.
Somewhere to sleep
When I left home, a few times I got picked-up by guys in parks and that’s how I found somewhere to sleep that night. I wasn’t collecting money for sex, but I was literally going to beats and hoping that I’d find a nice person who’d ask me to stay the night, and quite often they would. Sometimes, along the line, if I felt close enough to them then I’d tell them a little of my story.
There were a couple of times my parents and I tried to reconcile and I tried to go home for short periods of time, but it just never worked. It would last all of three days or a week before my Dad and I would clash and I refused to endure any more violence and would leave. So, basically, between the ages of 15 and 18, my living arrangements were pretty unstable.
He knew the ropes
Then there was a guy (named Guy) I’d met in Kansas City along the way. He was a little older than me and he’d been kicked out of his home for being gay. He’d been surviving longer on the streets and he knew the ropes better than this middle-American kid did. He was in a halfway house – he’d been locked up for something - and was de-toxing. He was being let out on day release to look for a job when we met.
We’d bum around during the day and he demonstrated his shoplifting skills. We’d go into stores and I’d think we were just going in for coffee or to use a toilet; but when we came out he’d have all this stuff. I’d be amazed: “Where did that come from?!” He was quite a character. It was like a game or entertainment for him and he seemed to like showing off for me. He told me about a place in San Francisco that ran a refuge for gay teenagers like us. We started making plans to get to San Francisco somehow.
At that point I was trying to reconcile with my parents: a youth director of our church had moved to Kansas City so I was shipped off to live with him and his family. It wasn’t a cult but they were very fundamentalist. They had told me when I moved there that, with God’s love, they’d take me the way I was - it would be up to me to change. But after I moved in, I came home one night and there was this special family meeting and I had to go and sit in the middle. The mother said, “This is bad; something evil has invaded the home and we must exorcise it.” They sat in a circle and did their little prayer and proceeded to curse the devil. It got really scary and I thought, “OK, San Francisco sounds like a good idea – I’m out of here!”
We left and ended up in St Louis to regroup before trying for San Francisco. We were referred to stay with this guy temporarily in a ‘safe house’ in St Louis but my mate from the street basically ruined it. I had gone away for the weekend with someone I met and when I returned I was told we had to get out. The guy we were staying with had jewelry missing. I was like, “Well, I haven’t even been here” and he was like, “No! You’ve got to get out! I’m not going to tolerate this; I was trying to help you”. I realised my friend with bad habits had done it and let me share the blame for it. I decided San Francisco wasn’t a good idea – at least not with him.
I don’t want sex with you.
Next was an older man Robert. He was around 56 and fairly well-off. He said, “I don’t want sex with you. I think you have potential and it’s a shame to waste it and I want to help you. You can move into this apartment and we’ll arrange to get you back into school.” It sounded like a perfect solution, but it only lasted for about two months before he started coming into my room at night. I felt betrayed because I thought he was sincere when the offer was made but I found it came with a price. I probably could have coped with it if he’d been honest from the beginning...
Looking back, it’s amazing how lucky I was. Guy, the shoplifter, he’s dead now, unfortunately, but not surprisingly. He got sucked into that whole hooker street-kid thing and drugs. I mean, I did a lot of things I’m not proud of; I did a lot of experimenting and, quite honestly, during those years there’s few drugs I didn’t try.
When you’re surviving on your own and you’re vulnerable… I found a lot of situations and choices where it’s there in front of you and you have to decide, do I or don’t I? And sometimes there are other factors like depression or feelings of low self-worth, and going along with the crowd so you can stay the night, and moments where you think your life is pretty dismal so who cares anyway?
For about three years I went in and out of situations of doing what I could do to survive. I went back and forth to school. When I was 15 I completed my GED, (the high school equivalency test), and enrolled in junior college. It was very hard to work and maintain school assignments when your living situation was constantly unstable. I had started at uni when I was living with Robert (that older guy who’d taken me in). He paid for the first semester fees and so forth, which was all good for two months...
Life really changed when I met Bill. I was in a more stable position at that point. I was working two jobs and going to uni and sharing a house with three or four friends. I was about 17,18. He was a little older than me, around 26. He was stable; he had a house and he was an accountant, but it was more of an even-keel relationship. I mean, I depended on him but I liked him too and it was reciprocated. We became a perfect middle-class gay couple.
The HIV epidemic
About the time I began my first long-term relationship the HIV epidemic had started. I can remember specifically in St Louis the talk and rumours of this gay plague. Some people thought you got it from using poppers! I remember one of the first publicly open HIV cases was a bartender at one of the neighborhood bars. Gossip went everywhere and that poor bar almost closed because people actually stopped going because there was a bartender there who had this mystery disease. As we learned more about HIV I was glad I was in a steady and stable relationship.
When I moved in with my lover, Bill, he had a housemate, Matt, who rented from him. When we first met, we’d all been single and Bill and he had been fuckbuddies before I came along. A couple of times in the beginning we had three-ways together with Matt. After a while though it became a bit like three’s-a-crowd. He moved out, but he was still a part of our social network and circle of friends.
He came down with full-blown AIDS
Matt came down with HIV and full-blown AIDS and that came really close to home. Both my partner and I had had unprotected sex with him, so when he got sick and subsequently died pretty quickly – there weren’t any treatments then – it was a bit too close for comfort. I swore at the time I’d never have unprotected sex again!
When he got sick, a lot of our friends couldn’t deal with it and wouldn’t visit him in hospital: in our group some divisions formed between those who’d go and those who wouldn’t.
Bill and I were together for seven and a half years. As most relationships are at the beginning, it was exciting and I was certain this was “the love of my life”! After three years or so, after we’d done everything we possibly wanted to in bed together and knew each other’s bodies well; some of the excitement faded.
Perfect American gay couple thing
We had developed that perfect American gay couple thing: we had our own house together; we had two schnauzers; we had bought a couple of rental properties and we were doing quite well. I’d gone back to study and we’d opened a couple of small businesses part time. My friends used to joke that I was a bit different from the days when I was living on the street!
Then, at the ripe old age of thirty, Bill suddenly came down with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a form of muscular dystrophy. At the time that he got it we were growing apart. He had really bad problems with tingling in his fingers and went to see specialist after specialist. One day he went off to the specialist to get some results: he rang me crying and asked me to pick him up at the hospital. He was crying so much I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He handed me this piece of paper on which the doctor had written “Amyotrophic Lateral Scleroses”. I said, “What?!”
It’s a muscle-wasting disease
I went off to the library and read about it: basically, it’s a degenerative disease and once you get it you just steadily get worse - you don’t go through remission, get better or anything like that. It’s just steadily straight downhill. It’s a muscle-wasting disease, so he started getting skinny and wasting away.
The first thing that came into our heads was that it had to be AIDS: there was a little bit of, "I knew you were cheating on me!" going on in my head, those sorts of thoughts. The doctors thought the same thing. They thought they may have found a illness that was somehow associated with the immune system. We both had so many HIV tests. Every time he went to a new specialist they’d give him a test – and I’d get one too, just to shut them up.
Everyone thought it was AIDS.
We went through his illness with most of the community thinking it was AIDS. Everyone was saying, “It’s OK, you can tell us”, but there wasn’t anything to tell. We lost a lot of friends during his illness, friends that just stopped coming around, either because they were so irrationally afraid of AIDS – even though it wasn’t - or because it’s tough for the living and the healthy to face something so unpleasant; to watch someone you know, who was perfectly healthy, start to waste away. From being able to walk to walking with a walker, to being wheelchair-bound to being bed-bound; all of that’s not real pleasant to watch and some people can’t cope with it.
At that point, in my early twenties, I became a full time carer for Bill during his last years. He had seven brothers and sisters who were pretty much useless and didn’t come to help; most of our friends didn’t either and we became very isolated, except for about two or three close friends.
Because the health system is pretty lousy in the U.S. and because we both weren’t working and had limited insurance coverage, we went from our ideal lifestyle, owning several houses, to living in a one-bedroom rented apartment. We were living on his benefits and dealing with the whispers and the rumours about what his illness really was. You come to a point where you don’t really care and you just say, “You can think whatever you want; I don’t care”
I eventually lost Bill. Towards the end I found out that Rick, one of the few friends who had helped us through it (and someone I’d also had unprotected sex with earlier on) got tested and came up HIV positive. To be so close twice to someone who became positive and still not have it myself was like having a guardian angel or something, but I was also in the process of watching my lover die and when one of our closest friends suddenly had this as well, I thought, “I just can’t cope”.
Of course, I wanted to support him, as he’d been so supportive to Bill and me during Bill’s sickness. I told him, “I will do whatever I can, but I will tell you up-front that I only have so much left and I really don’t know that I can go through this again. Please don’t hate me but I’m being honest.” It was the hardest thing to do - to say to someone you truly loved and respected, someone who was one of the few that helped you through the tough times, when many other friends thought it was too hard and walked away – to sit there and say, sorry, I can’t help you…I wanted to prepare him that I was limited with what I could do. I felt and still feel really rotten about it but I was an emotional wreck and I knew my limits.
So my lover Bill died. We had had big plans of all the places we wanted to visit, so I spent a year visiting a lot of the places he and I had wanted to go to. I scattered some of his ashes in each place, so Bill still got there one way or another. Australia was one of those places.
When I decided to do the trip to Australia, I invited Rick. We both had healed somewhat by then and we managed to patch things up as friends. We had a great time. I had been active with the St Louis AIDS Foundation and because of other friends we had found alternative support networks for Rick and I could still be supportive in whatever way I could.
While we were here in Australia on holidays, I fell in love. I met him in Melbourne at the Exchange. I went back to the States and after a month of telephone calls I was looking at the telephone bill thinking, “I could have flown back to Australia for the cost of this phone bill!” It started from there.
Having gone through that rough period; watching my lover die and losing friends, I had become a bit disconnected socially and emotionally. Having fallen in love while on holiday, even on the other side of the world, it was easier for me to leave everything behind and come to Australia than it would have been for my new partner. So I moved to Australia and we bought a business together and did that whole nesting exercise. Unfortunately, when I migrated to Australia, I did leave my friend Rick behind. That was really hard!
Sex and relationships
When we met on holidays we went through that period of developing our relationship where there was that negotiation of what were the expectations of the relationship. We started off practicing safe sex and went though the HIV testing process together. When we sat down and discussed the parameters of the relationship I made it very clear that, while the rules might be that we’re monogamous now, we nonetheless needed to make a commitment that in the future, should either of us have sex outside the relationship, we had to promise that it will be safe sex. It’s great when you’re first together and you want to be monogamous, and I probably have a tendency to be a romantic at heart, but I’m also probably too jaded to think or expect that that’s ever going to last forever.
Funnily enough, not too long after, it came to my attention that my partner was doing things outside the relationship. I think he had been projecting his own guilt when he was accusing me of wanting to play-up on him during our discussion.
I had real trust issues from that point. Because he’d been so hung up about making the agreement in the first place, now that I knew he was having sex outside the relationship I began wondering if he was keeping the promise to keep it safe outside the relationship. That led to some major challenges in our relationship.
We decided to go our separate ways and close down the business and separate. We were on-and-off for a while. I went back to the States for a couple of visits, because I hadn’t been there for years. While we were negotiating the split-up I found a beautiful property in Bendigo that I fell in love with. I’m not certain what I was thinking other than I wanted to ‘get away’!
When I told him after I got back from the States that I’d gone up to Bendigo that week and put a deposit on a property, he said, “You what?!” I was very matter of fact. He said, “Why?” I said “Because I liked it!” It was a bit tense after that because it became real that, yes, we were really going to split up, but it was a civil split in the end and for a while he would come up on weekends and visit, once I moved to Bendigo.
It was a very drastic lifestyle change. From having everything at your doorstep to being on a 20-acre property where the nearest store is 7kms away and its only open until 8pm, there were a whole lot of shifts and changes. On my first Saturday night there it was like, OK, what do you do? It came to my attention from someone else that lived in Bendigo that there was a local beat in a park. Driving by one night, I saw it was very popular.
A friend I met up there took me out there one night. There were no gay bars; this beat seemed to be the social thing. We’d pull up in the car park in the summertime and guys would be sitting on the bonnets of their cars having a catch up and a gossip session. While guys did go there for sex; they also went there as much for socialising. That seemed to be the only way to socialise and connect, that and CAN, the Country AIDS Network. I heard about CAN and became a volunteer. There were very limited choices to build social networks.
One night at the park - there was a bunch of us sitting on this picnic table - another new guy had come along and we were saying there’s got to be more to life than this and there has to be a better way to build a social network. We were told there used to be a gay group in the area but it had folded a few years earlier because of internal dramas and infighting. Being new and not connected with any of the politics, we saw no reason why the group shouldn’t be given another go.
I’m not going if he’s going!
So under the auspices of CAN we ran an ad in the personal section of the newspaper saying: “Introductory Coffee Night for a gay and lesbian support group: come along”. Everyone said it would never happen and people would say, “Oh, I used to be a member of the Bendigo gay group, but I’m not going if so-and-so is going to be there!” But over sixty people turned up on the first night, so it was pretty clear that the need for it existed. FAB-CV (Friends Alike of Bendigo – Central Victoria) was started; a GLBTI social support group. Since then it has continued to grow and my involvement with CAN has increased, so now I’m pretty well settled in as a gay ‘country boy’.
I don’t want to generalise about rural communities but when it comes to safe sex there are certain subgroups of that community that I find amazing, and this is before I got into my role as a coordinator of CAN. I’d hear guys in the car park openly discussing their sexual activities who’d say that when they go to Melbourne for a wild weekend they’d always practice safe sex, because you never know what men down there have. But it was a whole different story locally: there was almost this thing of, “Well, they’re a local guy, so they must be safe!”
Some of them who are particularly into the unattainable straight men say if they pick up a guy at a sauna or a gay bar then they’ll always have safe sex with them, but they don’t with the straight or married guys they go with. Knowing how close I’ve been to getting HIV in the past, it just makes no sense to me, but trying to have a rational discussion with someone about their sexual practices without sounding like their father is very challenging! There are so many myths out there that it’s difficult.
Truckies and travelling salesmen
One guy bragged about a couple of ‘regulars’ that he picked up at the local beat - a travelling salesmen and a truckdriver. He’d say it’s OK to have unprotected sex - but they’re travelling! Don’t you think about where they’ve come from?! Don’t you think you’re probably not the only trick the truckie’s ever turned?! Don’t you think this married travelling salesmen has other blokes on his list as well?!
I’m in a relationship now; Allan and I have been together for three or four years and we had some discussions going into the relationship. At the moment it’s monogamous. It’s interesting: Allan doesn’t protest nearly as much as the other one did, but he still doesn’t feel quite comfortable when I say let’s promise each other to be safe if we go outside the relationship, just in case. He doesn’t like having that conversation.
I think that’s because there’s a bit of an age difference; he’s younger than I am. I put it down to naiveté rather than to jealousy or anything like that. There’s a lot more trust though. We’ve made that agreement. He doesn’t like discussing ‘what if in the future’, but I’ve watched too many relationships change and come and go over the years. As I said, I’m a romantic at heart and it would be lovely if we could make that commitment; there’s something special about thinking there’s always going to be that someone special who’s always going to be there, who’s going to meet all your needs and all of whose needs you’re going to meet, so they don’t ever have to go elsewhere, but that’s not always the case and it may also change down the line.
Even though I’m in a committed relationship, at least once a year I do a sexual health screening. That’s not to say I don’t trust my lover, it’s just easy enough to do when you go for your other check ups.
I used to be so focused on HIV that I wasn’t thinking about other STIs. In earlier days the only time you’d go to a sexual health centre is if you got one of those cards in the mail saying "Can you give us a call please!" because someone you’d slept with had come down with something. Full STI testing wasn’t something that became part of my lifestyle until a few years ago. I have a really great gay GP. I went to him for an HIV test during my break up and he said, "While we’re at it, we should screen for other things as well". With my work in the HIV sector I became aware of the need to do this on a regular basis and now I get a sexual health check every year.
There sometimes this misconception that if you’re a top you don’t have the risk of HIV, that having unprotected sex is only risky if you’re the one getting fucked. Back when I was in the States I was amazed when two acquaintances of mine died of AIDS, because they were always seen as the most dominant tops you could ever imagine.
I’ve become more comfortable
I’ve become more comfortable with whom I am and now I’m probably more 60/40… I think that comes with having a partner with whom you feel comfortable who you trust. With my current partner, our sex sessions have got a bit wilder and I think that’s because you get to know each other’s bodies so well that you start to try new things. We have done a bit of experimentation but from all the stories I’ve heard since working in the sector I’d have to say that I’m probably on the mild side - but mild to wild nevertheless.
Staying HIV Negative
Staying HIV negative is not something I have to think about a lot or have any anxiety about. I do my testing and I have the agreement with my lover and I get a full sexual health screening every year.
As far as casual sex is concerned, if a casual partner wanted to have sex without a condom then that’s a problem, because you don’t know them. I’d think if they’re so willing to have unprotected sex with me (a casual partner) then how many others have they made that offer to as well? But if a casual or regular fuck-buddy evolved into a regular situation and you’ve used condoms with them regularly before and then one day they say, “Gee, it would be good not to use them”, or, “Have you been tested?” and we have that discussion, then I’d probably have a little more trust and respect. But it would still be a chance; you still trust that person to be honest and informed. But if it was the first time we were together and someone said, “Don’t worry about using a condom”, then I’m sorry but it’s not on. That’s their choice but it’s not mine
(Adam added this after reading the transcript of his interview)
This has been kind of a surreal experience for me; sharing some of my story. Some of it seems like it happened so long ago that it’s almost like telling a story about someone else. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so emotional about some of the events of my past. What I’ve come to realise reading it is that self-esteem can be such an important factor in our lives, in the decisions we make and the choices we take. It’s especially important that the youth of today are supported and made to feel accepted by their communities. If one lacks self-esteem or feels as if there’s really nothing left to lose; it’s easier to take risks and this can greatly affect the choices made. It’s important to feel valued by friends, family and the communities we live in and most of all it’s important that we value ourselves.