One of the downers for me about life with HIV is when I meet someone, and they don't know I have the virus. I sort of assume that guys in the scene here know about me, but of course not everyone does. I don't automatically tell every guy I fuck with - I don't have to, I just make sure they know we're going to be having safe sex. If they ask, then I tell.
If it's just a casual one-off, then I don't care so much.
But sometimes I meet a guy online, we fuck, we have a great time, discover we have stuff to talk about, want to see each other again, and then I have to decide "When do I tell him - and how is he going to react?"
Because even for me, telling people about having HIV is still not that easy, even with my years of practice. If I tell people before we get to know each other, they might run before they ever get to know me. If I wait till later, then they can feel like I've been hiding it, and I don't like being thought of that way - I see myself as honest and living with integrity, but some guys react very strangely to it and act like touching me is going to give it to them - and really, I'm over doing HIV 101 education . Some guys are great, informed, sensible, very calm, not scared, just go "Oh yeah, my ex had it too, do you know him?" or stuff like that.
The thing is there is no perfect time, there never will be. But it's a situation I find myself in 2 or 3 times a year, and I still hate it. It brings up all that shit about rejection, about being "unclean" and of course, HIV always brings up the idea of death. Not fun to be associated with.
When I look through hook-up sites (sorry "dating" sites) I notice a lot of ads where guys say they are "non-scene". Isn't gay life online the biggest scene there is now? But I digress...And I say with comfort that I am definitely "scene" - not "non-scene".
If we think of it as all the clubs, saunas, bars and fuck-venues, you get a good idea of the scene. It's pretty universal, you can walk into a gay bar or sauna in Auckland, NY, Melbourne, or Paris and see pretty much the same thing. The scene gives us a space where we know the rules, can be sure we're hanging out with others of the same persuasion, and should feel safe. And you might even meet Mr Right. you do need to have a certain number of people to make it work though.
In the bad old days, the scene was all there was. There were really no other social spaces to go and meet other gay guys, unless you count the beats and the bogs (Public Toilets). So the scene was central to gay life - don't forget, the Stonewall riots started in a gay bar, not somewhere "non-scene".
The gay scene sits there at the heart of much of gay city life. It offers social space, it offers friendship, it offers sex, and it holds the possibility of love. There's also a strong sexual element to it - sometimes I think of it as sort of big humming sexual/social dynamo at the heart of the gay world - it's on all the time, and you can dip in or out of it as much as you like. And whatever your feelings about it, it is often the public face of homo life.
But it can also be a brutal, shallow and vapid place. If you don't fit in, if you don't have the right look, the right body, if you're not the right age, you can feel invisible, marginalised and unwelcome, so it's not surprising that some guys find it holds nothing for them.
Me, I have a love/hate relationship with it. On the one hand, I grew up in it. The scene around the world has provided me with great networks, friends, and fun. I am happy with a drink in my hand and people to talk with, flirt with, and who knows what else with. Sometimes I look around though and think "Why on earth am I here?"
But I'm nearly 50. I don't have a great gym body. I have grey hair in my beard and not much hair left on my head, so I know there are some spaces on the scene where I simply become invisible. But luckily the scene in Auckland caters for people like me too (thank you Urge!) - the men who go there are the most welcoming and least judgemental in town I reckon - and you don't have to be a bear to feel at home there.
I still enjoy getting out on the scene and having fun. You do get to meet all sorts of people from all over the world and all walks of life. It is one of the unifying things of gay life.
So why the desire to identify as "non-scene" ? Like I said, for some it's just not their thing. But there is also a group of guys who really aren't that comfortable with being gay and even though they love men, they don't want to be identified publically that way. Some guys use "non-scene" as a smug label of virtue, which I really don't think holds up.Especially when they say it online - I mean really guys - those sites are now the biggest part of the scene there is - but the trouble is they don't give that sense of community that going to a bar or club regularly can do. The online scene can be even harsher than the physical one.
The scene is pretty much what you make it - I have a life off the scene but I'm glad I've got access to places to hang out with mates, dance, go out and have fun and maybe get laid. I've made deep friendships through it, met lovers and fuck-buddies.Michael Stevens - "Scene".