I was born in Dumbarton in Scotland, and I came out here when I was two. Apparently I had a wonderful Scottish accent when I first arrived, and I’m spewing that I’ve lost it. Anyway my parents are broad Scots and my dad’s a very proud Scotsman. I grew up with a lot of English, a lot of Scottish, a lot Welsh and Irish people.
I grew up in Cranbourne and I went to school there. I knew straight away when I went to school there was something definitely different about me but I didn’t know what it was. Some people say, “When did you decide to become gay?” Well I think I was an egg when I was gay. I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s meant to be. So of course I was bullied at school. I didn’t play football; I was in the school choir. I had a soprano voice so every Monday I was in front of 500 people, and I would say 300 of them were homophobic – and I’m singing Advance Australia Fair in my soprano voice. (Bullying)
It was courageous singing, but also horrific. I didn’t do it by choice. I suppose being the school captain I did it almost by demand, because I was a representative of the school; and I did enjoy it. And it didn’t matter how bad I tried to sing, I had a crystal-clear soprano voice. Still to this day I sing.
I went through school and I got bullied, physically as well as emotional. The thing is I was quite popular with teachers and when that happens you win on one and you lose on the other. All the football players and the school captains, and all that hate your guts because they’re jealous or homophobic. Believe it or not, two of the bullies became my best friends. They actually became my protectors when I went to high school –because we played soccer together. They were boxers at school and thank God for them because I found the first year of high school quite horrific as well. I was getting called names like ‘poofta’, ‘faggot’, and every word there possibly is that’s demeaning. (Homophobia)
I remember in Year 7 I had a girlfriend but it was a Year 7 girlfriend. We didn’t cuddle, we didn’t kiss, we didn’t touch, it was fantastic. But the bullies just kept on bullying. I would come home at night and my parents were worried about me because I was quite an emotional young fellow. I remember crying a lot and Dad, being a proud Scotsmen, just said, “Get over it.” So it was quite horrific. But I was very fortunate at the age of 15 to get an apprenticeship in cooking, so I got out of school quite early.
At that age, I didn’t think I was gay. I thought I was going through a fetish. That’s what I thought. “I have a girlfriend but why am I attracted to a certain sex?” I had no idea what the hell was going on with me. I couldn’t talk to my father and I couldn’t talk to my mother. I was like ‘Why am I attracted to the guy sitting opposite me?’ So it was quite confusing for me but it didn’t get me down enough to worry about; I wasn’t one of these suicidal teenagers. I was involved in so many things – theatre groups, singing, gang shows, scouts, all that stuff – but it was all male-dominated stuff so I was always hanging around young guys and it was great.
So in Year 9, at 15-and-a-half years of age, I got the hell out of high school. I got an apprenticeship in cooking through work experience at the local hotel. Even though the teachers and I were very close, and they looked after me, I got into the thing that I really wanted to get into. I used to love cooking at school. I was generally very ‘straight-acting’ and I didn’t look like your stereotypical gay male. But really I couldn’t be any gayer. I really hate using the word ‘straight-acting’ but I always looked the way I am now. Whereas I talk to other gay males and they say, “Yeah, you’re definitely gay. My gaydar tells me you’re gay”. I’m sick of people saying, “Gees, you don't sound gay.” That to me is demeaning in a way. I used to hate it when people would say ‘sticks and stones’ when you were young because names can hurt you. You’d get called it so many times, you’d get kicked so many times, and it does start to hurt. So even though I wouldn’t say I was depressed as a young man, there definitely was some anxiety.(Anxiety)
So I got the hell out of high school in Year 9, and went into cooking. The apprenticeship was at Cranbourne Hotel, and even though I’d got away from the bullies by leaving school, they used to come with their parents for dinner. They saw cooking, like hairdressing, as a gay thing. Boys supposedly don't cook (what a load of crap!).
I loved the apprenticeship to death and within the first month I went to William Angliss College in Melbourne. The class was full of pooftas; if you were straight, you were weird. It just happened to be one of the trades where there seemed to be a lot of young gay guys. We used to do block reliefs which meant I went to William Angliss once every three months for two weeks. That’s when I met all these gay men, and there were a couple of lesbians in there. I just happened to be in a group where there were 27 in the class and probably 70 percent would have been gay. They were very out there. I still wasn’t associating myself with being gay. I was still thinking it was a fetish because I hadn’t been with a guy yet. I hadn’t had sex with a girl either. I’d never had a drink or had sex before I was 18. But I did have a mind that was wild as hell.
So at William Angliss I started to get confused again. People were putting pick-up lines at me. There was a changing room, like a sports changing room, and people were looking at me. So I started to enjoy that part of it. Then a guy came up to me one day and just said, “Are you gay?” I was like ‘Asking am I gay, in a change room, of all places?’ So I said, “I don't know.” He said, “Well, do you like men?” I said, “Well no, I don't like men.” Because I thought he was talking about a 50-year-old. Then he said, because I was 15, “Well, do you like guys our age?” I said, “Well yeah” I said yes then I said, “I don't know,” because I’d never been with anyone before. Anyway, he got chatting to me because obviously it was pick-up time and I didn’t do anything because I was scared. Plus, I didn’t know where to go. Where the hell were we going do it? I was still a virgin at 15, apart from masturbation. I did know I was sexually active from a younger age: I just didn’t do it with anyone. So I really enjoyed William Angliss, it was great. (Picking Up)
Then I went back to Cranbourne. I kept saying to myself, “Why do I stay in Cranbourne when it’s such a horrific place?” But I love Cranbourne, you stay where you grow up; it’s your roots. My apprenticeship was four years. I got out after three because I got accreditations and became a very good chef and I was pushing myself forward. I had no bullying at the hotel. I used to go out into the public bar and I became a very good pool player. I used to beat all the bums, and all the jockeys. It was a jockey town because Cranbourne had a racing track. I became a good actor because I could mix in then, I could mix in with straight guys, bogans, morons, piss-heads, all sorts of people by growing up in a hotel. So I grew up pretty quickly.
I finished the apprenticeship when I was 18, and I was still at the hotel. I got qualified and I left the Cranbourne Hotel, and I went to the Sandown Park Hotel. The very first person that came up to me was a young lady. She was actually a 17-year-old cashier at the hotel, and she ended up being my wife. But we were courting and I still had not had sex. She started to put a bit of pressure on because she was sexually active and I was romantic. But I was starting to realise who I was. I knew that I was this gay man who is doing things the wrong way but doesn’t know how to get out of it. I was getting myself into a hole. But I had four mates that all were from Cranbourne and they all got married and I followed suit.
We got married at 20. So between 18 and 20 we did a lot of courting but no sex. She actually didn’t pick it and she said what a gentleman I was. She wanted me to keep my virginity until we got married. So it was a bit of a Catch-22 where that was the pressure off but it was also a lie. And still to this day I think I should have told her the truth, I see all these 18-year-olds now and I just say, “Why didn’t I bloody just tell the truth? Then it’d probably have been a whole different life for me!” I got kids out of it.
So we dated for two years. We wined and we dined but no 69s. We only cuddled and we kissed and I found that quite fine. There were no dramas with that. I was actually attracted to her but in a platonic way, if that makes sense. We got married, which was fantastic! It was a great occasion. That was at the age of 20 and she was 18. That was when we bought our first house, and I was the chef at Sandown Park. Then I became the chef at Langwarrin because that was out where Cranbourne is. I wanted to be the head chef of something, so I ended up the head chef at 21. It was a big year that year. My 21st birthday, I was married and my wife was pregnant. We were about to have a child in about eight months’ time. (GAMMA)
I believe in monogamy. Even though I had this wild, crazy imagination, I’d never done anything behind her back. I knew about this gay phone line and I secretly called it. I also had gay counsellors. And that was my only communication with the gay world. In our backyard I’d dug a three by three hole, and I used to put gay magazines and gay pornos in this little hole. I covered it up, and my wife never knew. So I knew who I was, but I was married to a woman. Our life was going along really well but I still was hiding in the closet. (Monogamous relationships)
On my 30th birthday, I went to a doctor. He had been a family friend since I was a child, so I went to our family doctor and family friend. And for some reason he said, “You know my wife? “We’ve split up.” And I said, “What? No way!” And he says, “Yeah. And I’ve got to tell you something. I’m leaving to go to Tasmania. I’m going because I came out to her and told her I was gay.” He’d been married for 30 years and he had only just come out to her. He told me and then told my parents. We couldn’t believe it because it was a family friend – not just a doctor but a family friend. (Coming Out Late)
So I went straight home 40 minutes later and told my wife exactly the same story because I could not put her through 20 more years of this lie. She went ballistic and then she called me a few derogatory names, unfortunately. But then how could I blame her? The guilt was just ridiculous for me. It really was. She got the two kids in the car and she pissed off to her mum’s for a couple of days. When she got back I said, “Right, the house, everything is yours, I’m fucking off to Queensland. I’m starting a new life. I’m getting the fuck out of here.” I was sorry about the children, because they were quite young. So there was a sacrifice there. But I also knew that they were only a plane fare away and they were getting a bit older. So it’d be like a little trip for them.
We never, ever once argued in front of the children. That's one thing to this day that our kids would always say that, “We never knew that you and mum ever argued.” Because I remember my father used to do a bit of arguing when he used to drink. So I never wanted that to happen with the children. They had a very good upbringing. And still today you can see it, that they were brought up very well. I thank my ex-wife for that period.
My wife and I did have a very good sex life. So even though I said that I was a virgin up to a certain age, once we started there was plenty of it. That’s what scared her at the end. She said, “How can you be gay when we have such a good sex life?” And my comeback line was, “I had a great imagination and you never saw that moustache that I stuck on you” It was a joke but I was trying to cover up how afraid I was of telling her, and obviously feeling a little bit shithouse about it. And I still do to this day.
I’d been talking to a guy on Gayline who was a lot younger than me – I was 30 and he was 20. He asked me to give him my photo so I had to send it through mail but I was scared about something coming back to me. So I said, “Right, if I get up there, we’ll meet, we’ll have dinner”, because again I wanted to be Mr Romantic.
So I went to Queensland just because of this guy. We were meeting for coffee in a café right in the middle of Brisbane. I was looking around and he was trying to ring me. I saw this one guy on the phone but then I saw three other guys on a phone. So I took a pick out of three of them, and I thought, “Well he looks 20, but they all look the same.” Anyway, I went over and I could see him talking, he was a model, absolutely stunning. I nearly didn’t go over to that table, I just went, “Fuck. Are you…? I’m John.” And we clicked just like that.
I backed off because I thought that he was out of my league. But he took me to a gay club that night and it was one of the first proper gay clubs I’d been to. It was at the Wickham Hotel, and we had a ball. I’d never seen a drag show before and these people, I always used to put them down because I just thought it was men in dresses but there is actually an art to it. I had a ball and the people made me feel really welcome. He introduced me to his friends and they were very standoffish towards me because it was like I was a daddy. But he just liked older guys and I liked younger guys. I didn’t expect him to be 20 because he didn’t act like a typical 20-year-old. He looked a little bit older too.
Anyway, we got on like a house on fire. I went straight to these apartments right in Brisbane. And I said, “There’s 12 months’ rent, I want to live on the 36th floor and I want to be an absolute tosser for the next 12 months, and have a gymnasium, a pool, and feel like a millionaire because this is my new life. I’m coming out of the uterus. I’m a gay man,” I started wearing stupid t-shirts like ‘Gay pride’, and ‘Don't call me a poofter or I’ll bash you’. I became the opposite of the person I was because I found out that a lot of gay guys are actors. What I mean by that is they’re very out there. Some of them are very out there and I wanted to be one of them. I thought I’m going to make friends.
We became partners a month later, but I did that very slow. I heard in the gay world if you could have a relationship for a month you’ve done really well. And everyone seemed to have an open relationship. Well, I made it very clear to him that if he fucked around on me, it’d be the last time we talked to each other. I was so scared of HIV and all the other STIs and STDs, and whatever else. I wanted to practise what I preached. At that time, even though he was with me, it was condoms, condoms, condoms. (Condoms) (Sex outside the relationship)
Anyway, nine months later, he moved in with me. Nine months of getting to know this young fellow. I met his mum and dad, and to see his dad, the way he looked at me, I felt like a paedophile. His mum didn’t give a shit because you’ve got a choice: you’ve got a suicidal teenager or someone that actually is proud of being who he is. She was just trying to support him. But his dad just wanted to throw daggers at me, and I don't blame him, really. So I said to my partner that, “We won’t be doing that again. It’s best that I don't see your dad. He’s probably doing what I would do: being protective of my son, scared stiff and worried about me fucking your head”. But my partner knew who he was from day one. He knew he was gay from the day he was a tadpole.
We lived the good life. We became what they call ‘on the scene’. Six years we were together and we were out every night. I don't know how I did it. I got out of being a chef, and I got into the car industry and became a car salesman. Not only was I confident and cocky, I was a lying prick so I was a very good salesman. And it only made me cockier because I was on very good money and I used to buy friends. If I couldn’t influence them, I’d buy them. I’d just go out with young guys and buy them drinks. As long as I’ve got free drinks and money, I’ve got mates. My partner used to love going next door, taking his top off, showing off his six-pack, and dancing. And I used to love playing the pokies. I was older and I’d do what I do, he did what he did and we’d go home together. That was our rule: do what you want to do but at the end of the night, go home together. (Relationships)
We didn’t have sex for the first six months. Now when I say ‘we didn’t have sex’, I’m talking about anal sex. But we did a bit of oral and did a bit of kissing. We did everything else bar fucking, because I was quite afraid of it, to be honest. So we went to a gay clinic in Brisbane. I said “You get your blood tests and I’ll get mine”. And I trusted him, I trusted him with my life, but I was naïve. We both got negative results, and decided we wouldn’t use condoms. I had never tried it without a condom, and was told it was better. And it fucking was. He was a bottom and I was always the top, and for five years we fucked without using condoms. (Topping) (Negotiated safety)
That’s the way it was, until the last two months, when I got told by a very close friend, “Your partner’s fucking around on you and he’s prostituting.” I said, “Bullshit. What do you mean …” Anyway, long story short, I confronted my partner very quickly on this matter, as it festered in my head. He denied it but he fucking lied to me, I could tell, I saw by his body language because in the car trade, you learn body language and how people look
One chance, only chance of catching HIV, that’s all it is. So I said “Get the fuck out”. He begged for a second chance. I said, “We’ve been having bare-back sex and you’ve been prostituting? What the fuck do you need to prostitute for when you’ve got a job? I’ve got a full-time job and we’ve got more money than the other six other people we spend time with put together that” He said “It made me feel good about myself. And because I’ve only been with you, John, I needed to be with other people.” I said, “Well you're risking my fucking life. Get out!” As soon as he told me he was a prostitute I went and got a test and it was negative. (Sex Work)
Six weeks later I had another partner. He was a little bit older than my first partner; he was a DJ and absolutely stunning. I said, “Stuff it. I’ve got to get with someone who’s been with a few guys before me”. Same scenario, we were having fun, but he was a bit more intellectual. We did a lot of trips together. We went to Phuket, we went to the gay resort in Cairns and we had a great time. It was fantastic and I loved it. He looked a bit like Leonardo di Caprio. And that’s what all the Americans in Cairns called him, ‘Leonardo’, he was a good-looking boy.
We had sex nearly straight away but it was with a condom. He was in IT at the time, making websites. But IT had gone to the shithouse. So he was out of a job. Also we had a very expensive apartment, and he really wanted to pay his way. He didn’t want to feel that I was a sugar daddy. That's something I can say I’m very proud of: that wasn’t the case for the two guys I was with. I paid for some dinners and stuff though; I was on triple the money they were on.
So I introduced him to the owner of a sauna in Brisbane who was a personal friend of mine. I said, “My partner is out of a job.” My friend said, “Come work in my sauna on the door full-time for 500 bucks a week.” Worst fucking decision I ever made. Our relationship changed because he went to the sauna and he was dealing with hundreds of guys who are all horny. He came into my work one day and said, “John, I’ve fucked up. I was downstairs, and this guy grabbed me by the dick, and we had sex.” So I gave him his marching orders. I had four years with him. So again I said “Sorry mate, you’re risking my life. See you later.” (Sex outside the relationship)
It sounds terrible that I can’t forgive and forget but I was so scared of HIV. I was so scared of sexual diseases that I said to myself two things would kill me, and this sounds really terrible: going to gaol or getting HIV. Now that’s a long time ago, this is when I had first come out. They were the two things that I would commit suicide over, because it was a death sentence back then. So I said, “No way for me.” And that’s what I told my partners. “We’ve got to be safe!” (Safe sex)
So I was 10 years with my wife, from 20 to 30. Then six years with the young fellow, until I was 36. And on my 40th birthday goodbye to the second partner, who had done the dirty on me and he still worked at the sauna. So I separated from him and that’s when I went on a rampage.
At the age of 40 I turned into the absolute Incredible Hulk. I was partying 24 hours a day; I drank until I couldn’t drink anymore. I did illicit things that I would never normally do. I became fucking 10 foot tall and bullet-proof, untouchable. I fucked a crack in the wall. I became an anything-that-moved sort of guy. Then I went to saunas just to piss my ex off, his sauna. There’d be 45 guys in a dark room. You couldn’t even see the hand in front of your fucking face, and everyone was shagging each other. And I was in the middle of it. I had never been a bottom; I was always a top but I became a bottom, and I felt so good. I had more money now so I could actually be more of a promiscuous bastard. So instead of being scared of HIV, I thought, ‘I can’t get it.’ I really thought I couldn’t get it. I thought I was untouchable. (Drugs and Alcohol) (Saunas)
I didn’t use condoms, and neither were they. It was just bare-back shit. If you found a condom, you got lucky. So I went to saunas a lot, and when I couldn’t do that, I’d go to parks. And, when I couldn’t do that, I’d find someone at the Wickham Hotel. I’d ‘buy one’; not a prostitute but I’d buy him drinks. I’d say, “I’ve got a 36th floor apartment up the road. You want to come back to my place?” And I would bang the crap out of them. I was on this remorseful, guilt-ridden bender. (Beats)
I actually went to the doctor and the doctor said to me, “John you're playing Russian roulette buddy and you are about to get hit by a bullet.” And I thought, “Fuck off!” I got two tests off him in Brisbane: both negative. No hepatitis, no Chlamydia. I got crabs once, and that was it. I just shaved myself and I was laughing. I said, “If that’s the worst I can get out of what I’ve been doing that’s fine” I had this whole different attitude. I became a scene queen but I still had the worst, lowest self-esteem of the lot. I was just playing a façade. I was being this person, a rebellious bastard. My children, I wouldn’t talk to them. I was fucking late to work. I didn’t give a shit about the owner of the business. I used to be his best mate, but I became his worst enemy, even though now we’re good friends again. (Crabs) (STIs)
I ended up so bad that they sent me to another dealership in Townsville, to get away from the Big Smoke. I found the Sovereign, which was the only gay venue in town. If you think the gays in Brisbane are bad, when a new bit of meat comes to your neck of the woods, it only gets worse. So I became an absolute slut. I got tested up there, I still made sure I did all my things but it was like I was untouchable.
So I got a test in Townsville and it was a ‘non-gay’ doctor. I had the blood tests and I went back two weeks later because it’s usually two weeks to get your results for HIV. He goes, “Right, Cholesterol’s fine, Liver’s fine, Kidney’s fine” All of a sudden he stops, and says, “Hang on a sec.” “Did you tell me something about HIV before?” I said, “Yeah, I had an HIV test.” “Okay. I’ve got an undetermined test here. We’ll have to do it again,” He turned the paper upside down and went outside the room and left me in the room with this piece of paper that I’m staring at. I’m looking at this piece of paper and I don't dare touch it. I knew there and then, that it was not undetermined. That night I ended up in a park, in Townsville, ringing my parents and I said, “Get me back to Melbourne, quick. Quick!” And dad booked me a flight, I couldn’t even book it, my head was spinning so much I was ready to jump in the river. I said, “Get me back to Melbourne. I need to tell you something. Just get me back there now.” They said, “Well we can’t get you back here tonight because it’s after six o'clock. Go and stay in a hotel and we’ll get you back first thing in the morning.” (Sexual Health Checks)
I did go back and I went to the Prahran Market Clinic and saw one of the most fabulous doctors in the world: he’s still my doctor today. Anyway, he got the result from the other surgery, and had it faxed down. It never was undetermined. It was positive. Apparently he rang the doctor and said, “Why didn’t you tell him the truth?” The doctor had never had an HIV patient before, and didn’t know how to explain it to a patient. Anyways I fell flat on my face, I literally collapsed. My blood pressure just dropped, and I apparently went to the ground. I caught it not by chance, I played Russian roulette.
I went on what my psychiatrist calls a bipolar experience. It went from a high to a low, from a low to a high, to a fuck-the-world attitude. I don't know if I was trying to kill myself, I don't know if it would have been the alcohol or the drugs, or whatever the hell: I didn’t care because I was just a sleaze-bag car salesman. I’ve got to tell you, I got some good-looking blokes from being so self-confident. It had nothing to do with looks or anything, I just wouldn’t take no for an answer. If they said no, I’d think they’d want to know more. So I fucking wouldn’t go away until they either came home with me or told me to piss off. And confidence is what gays love, they love that. Also some of them like the older, experienced guys. Plus I can talk the leg off an iron pot. So that was just the way I was, but everything I believed in flew out the door. Ethics, trust, safety first, family, friends, I dumped them all, because of HIV. (Self Esteem)
My doctor put me on anti-depressants and put me on six other pills. I never say I was suicidal but I was, that night when I called my parents from Townsville. Thank God I didn’t drink that night because I probably would have been dead. Because remember I said two things would kill me: HIV or going to gaol. I’ve always been an upstanding citizen, never stole off anyone. But HIV to me, it was a death sentence. Now the great thing about it now, it’s not a death sentence: it’s a life sentence, and that’s a bit different. (Depression) (Suicide)
So my mum and dad were out in the hallway in the doctor’s surgery. I said, “Come inside. This is my doctor.” And I made a 71-year-old man and a 68-year-old woman sit there and they were the first people that he told, and they were so brave. Maybe they didn’t understand it and maybe they thought it was like rheumatoid arthritis. And the doctor said, “It’s a chronic, manageable illness. He’ll go on medication one day. He still should die of natural causes. He still should live until he’s whatever.” Its three-and-a-half years later and I still don't take medication. My CD4 count’s 800 and my viral load’s just over 1,000. So my body’s fighting this thing.
I’ve got my own religion now. My religion is this thing I’ve got on YouTube. I’ve got a web channel, and I call myself HIV Man 1000. I’ve made over 100 videos. The amount of people that have gone on there over the few years is amazing. Some people put their ‘HIV journey’ on YouTube and it’s all about negative stuff. But I believe in a positive mind, positive body, positive soul. I’ve done a lot of courses, and I’ve spent thousands of dollars on stuff that I believe will help my immune system. (Living with HIV)
I’ve self-educated myself but also I’ve been part of the Positive Living Centre, and I’m going to the Phoenix workshop again. I’ve been to two sessions already. I’m going to another one because I love going to it, as you always hear new evidence, new information. I’ve also found this new thing called ‘Now’. Last night I went on it, and I ended up on there for four hours live and I had people from all over the world. I was putting a bit of comedy in and also I used to be a singer so I sang a few songs. Most of the people on there were between 18 and 23. And I know now that HIV doesn’t scare people the way it used to. I said, “The only way to get education now is through free-of-charge, word of mouth.” There may be ads on telly about HIV but it’s towards the gay scene. I say it again and I said it last night, this illness does not discriminate. It’s straight, it’s for girls, it’s for guys, and it’s anyone. Just don't think it’s a gay man’s disease. And that’s what we were talking about last night. And it went across really well. I got my son and he came on, and the amount of people that asked him questions, “What’s it like to be with an HIV positive, gay father?” He did it of his own choice I didn’t tell him. He just came on and it made him feel good because people were saying, “You’re so strong and inspirational”. (HIV The Basics)
In Victoria, the duty of care is you don't have to tell someone you’re HIV positive unless you have unprotected sex, I tell everyone. I don't give a shit about sex. I’ve had so much of the damn stuff it’s just a word to me now. I do have sex every now and then but I tell them from the minute we start that, whether it’s a kiss or a cuddle, I say “I’ve just got something to tell you. I’d rather tell you now. I’m HIV positive”. Two run away and one stays, and they say, “Thank you very much,” It’s normally an older guy that’s not scared of it. One of the guys said the other day, “Crikey, now I know why you get your teeth fixed, if you get gingivitis, you’ll get blood and you’ll give me HIV by oral sex.” I said, “Mate, you can also get run over by a truck too.”
I love to get involved. I’ve been doing it myself because I’m too lazy to go to courses and become a proper counsellor. I’ve done a couple of school talks at my local school, which is not part of the Speakers’ Bureau. Teachers that were there 20 years ago remember me, and I just tell my family’s story. My theory is this: I just want to help one person. One measly fucking person that listens and says, “You know what? Nothing’s going to stop me from putting a condom on,” And I go on the websites every now and then, and you get a guy on there, but I’m sorry but I attack them. It’s terrible, they are HIV positive and they bare-back: they’ll do it on their chat lines. And I’ll say, “So you’re HIV positive and you bare-back. Isn’t there something wrong with that? As I have strong views on this I understand they have disclosed by saying they are HIV positive but I still have a problem with bareback, the word I hate. Don't you have to wear a condom?” And they disappear. Whether I’m meant to do that or whether I’m not meant to do that, I don't give a shit. To me that guy’s breaking the law even though he isn’t as he has disclosed, but I still think a duty of care comes with HIV and it’s no different if I saw someone driving down the road and they were swerving all over the road and they were pissed. I’d ring the police. (HIV and the law)
I keep hearing about all these bug catchers out there and I’ve had one try to get me. When I say ‘try to get me’, he wanted to have unprotected sex with me and knew I was HIV positive, because it was more exciting for him. Now I don't know if that’s a new thing or not, but he reminded me of me. That’s what I was a few years ago. I didn’t give a shit, I didn’t care. But I regret it. I believe I remember the night it happened and I can’t prove it but I believe I do. It’s just something about that particular night. And something wasn’t right. It was like this aura. It was like someone was telling me, a higher power saying, “Hey, tonight’s not the night.” But my addiction beat it. I think I probably had a sex addiction for many years, especially those three or four years where it was that bad patch. I was thinking about it 24 hours a day. So I was gambling, I was drinking and I was having sex. I had cross-addictions. It was my fun; I was working 10 hours a day, six days a week, and partying all night. And I could do it. I couldn’t do that now. (Bug Catchers/Chasers)
I’m now three-and-a-half years HIV positive. Apart from my energy being a little bit low - I think it’s to do with my sedative medications they give me –I’m 46 and I plan on dying of old age, and of natural causes. I used to be a Googlologist and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve stopped doing it because every side-effect that it said that pill had, I used to get. And I talked myself into it. So I’ve stopped Googling. You can type in anything and it’s really going to peoples' forums with opinions and they’re not professionals. But I’m very close to my doctor. I go to a motivational class for myself once a week, plus I go to a psych. (Talk to someone) (Living with HIV)
Unfortunately there is still some stigma around HIV. I got a piercing once which actually made the front page of the Star Observer. When I went the lady told me to fill in a piece of paper to have the piercing. I filled it in correctly and she told me to get out of the shop because I am HIV positive and she thought the piercing wouldn’t heal. She had to officially apologise to me and I went back to her, and I made her give me three piercings. And I said, “How could you say I can’t heal? I’m not a haemophiliac.” She replied with “Oh no, no, no, because you’ve got HIV” I said, “Where are you getting all this wonderful education from? Are you, are you telling me that every tattooist out there is not going to put a tattoo on an HIV positive man?” It’s all to do with the stigma associated with HIV. At my last job in the car dealership I disclosed to the dealer principal because I felt it was my duty of care. Within 24 hours I was sacked. Within 72 hours I had a cheque for $15,000 to not take it any further. So stigma is still out there.
I’ve been open with my sexuality from day one. When I was in the car trade, everyone knew I was Big Gay John the car buyer’s buddy. I used to advertise that. So that was great because I didn’t want my staff to go out the front and say, “Those two faggots over there, I’m not going to serve them,” I might not look like a gay person so I didn’t want to put them in that position of unease. So that’s why I was always open. But with HIV, disclosure is a big thing and I’ll tell anyone that you need to be very careful of disclosure because your best friend could become your worst enemy. I’ve lost four friends over it that I helped in Brisbane, they were on ice in Brisbane, and they used to come to me as their big brother as I was a lot older than them. I helped them get off it because it was destroying them. They’d ring me for help, but I enjoyed doing that. That was me trying to be kind and now they won’t talk to me because I’ve got HIV. Or they believe I’ve contradicted everything I told them. That’s what they said, “You’ve become a complete contradiction in everything that you made us believe in.” And that’s what hurts. You lose friends. There is still stigma out there and, and I don't care what any HIV positive guy says. We all have that little bit of fear. I’m a positive person but I do get days where I just want to curl up and I just don't want to talk to anyone, because I feel sorry for myself and that’s basically it. (Disclosure dillemas)