That’s the way the condom ruptures

This article is explicit and confronting. It talks about sex and about sexual health. I make no apologies for that, as this was an incredibly confronting time and one in which I discovered I just had to be matter of fact about everything.

I had just moved. It was my first sex in probably a month. I came. He came. And then the drama began…

“Fuck!” I said, as soon as I climbed off my bedmate. “The condom broke!” It was odd to see, little rubber ring still around the base, but the rest of the rubber limp against his groin, rather than still enveloping the deflating member. He wasn’t exactly a one night stand, but we weren’t exactly dating either. I had never been in this situation before, and neither had he.

He had a shower, I had a shower. He told me he had tested negative recently, had only been safe since then and that he would get tested again. I told him my last test date and that I was also negative. I believed him, but I couldn’t convince myself that I was believing him for a good reason. So I called one of my closest friends, M, and blurted the situation out to him. “What the fuck do I do now?” M is always incredibly matter of fact. “Well you have two choices, you can do nothing and hope that everything is ok, or you can go to the hospital, and demand Post-Exposure Prophylaxis” (PEP) He warned me that I might have to demand it and to make sure I got it before I left. He suggested I go to a hospital near Gay Central, and told me to go now and that I could call him any time I needed to.

I arrived at RBWH at 11:03pm, about an hour after the break happened. I told the triage nurse that I was there because a condom broke and I wanted to make sure I got Post Exposure Prophylaxis (in keeping with M’s advice to ask and keep asking). She was quite understanding and looked sympathetic, asking if I’d asked his status, whether he said if he was negative or positive (in my state of confusion I just answered “yes” to the first question) and whether or not I’d been on PEP before.

I was processed by their clerk and went to sit in the waiting room.

It was at this point that I started feeling incredibly concerned for myself, and decided that my story, however it turned out, might be useful for someone else who would otherwise have no idea what to expect. Because I certainly didn’t.

I was called in for some basic observations and asked again what had happened, and some medical history. I was a bit miffed by their writing “denies” when I told them “no” to a question, because it felt like they didn’t believe me – looking back I suspect that it’s just a terminology thing to be clear about what they are told vs what they have actually verified.

Looking around the waiting room, seeing other people prioritised in front of me, I realised that it could be much worse. I wasn’t in any physical pain and my life wasn’t in immediate danger. I was there mere hours after my potential exposure so PEP had an incredibly high chance of working if he was lying or wrong.

Eventually I saw the doctor, who asked me similar questions to the nurses, but in more detail (“did he come inside you?” and similar). He went away, got me a PEP starter pack, and asked the obs nurse to draw some blood. The doctor advised me of the potential side effects of the medication he was giving me, and told me to make sure I was practising safer sex. He stopped there and looked a bit sheepish, saying he knew I was this time as well, and that rather I needed to continue practising safer sex if I was having sex. He also told me I would get a call in the morning with an appointment time for the Infectious Diseases Clinic.

I got home at about 4am and emailed my immediate boss and her boss saying I’d been at hospital and was ok, but might not make it to work later and would have a number of follow-up appointments I would need to go to. I got myself up at 6:30am feeling refreshed and went to work. My boss was away, and my boss’s boss came into my office and asked what the hell I was doing there if I’d been at hospital that late. I responded with something like “doing normal” and he just told me to go home when I felt like it (and preferably to make it soon.) it was very much in a “do what you need to” kind of way.

I have a good relationship with my boss, and explained the situation to her in more detail when she returned (what the trip to the hospital was and the reason for the follow-ups) and she was incredibly understanding about the whole thing (in context, I’d only recently been made permanent, and didn’t want it to look like I was going to be unreliable now I was permanent.)

To start with I was on a combination of Combivir and Kaletra. I spent a lot of time feeling nauseous and tired in the first couple of days. There was diarrhea too. (I told you I’ve been doing matter of fact, and also that this would be confronting)

On the fourth day, I went to the Infectious Diseases Clinic. I felt awkward, I was an early appointment that day so I was sitting alone in a waiting room which was open to the hallway, whose only posters had “HIV” and some other STI on them. I felt very conspicuous.(handy hint: if you’re facing the posters, anyone else looking at them will only ever see the back of your head.)

They asked me how I was going on the starter pack and what symptoms I was having… I explained and they suggested switching Combivir for Truvada to lessen my symptoms. It helped. I didn’t feel tired or nauseous any more. They also explained what happens from here, being a 2 week appointment, 6 week appointment and blood test, and a 3 month appointment and blood test. They also told me that I was negative based on the sample they took in Emergency. I called the other guy and let him know my results. His came in a couple days later, all clear, he tells me. Again, I believed him, but had no good basis to, so I decided to continue with the PEP for the full course, to be safe…

I have lousy timing. About a week into this whole thing, I was introduced to a boy. We hit it off majorly. About a week in, and after we’d had sex, I explained my situation. That conversation was hard and scary for me. This boy I really quite liked, I felt I hadn’t really done the right thing by, and I was scared that by telling him about it (and the fact that I hadn’t told him sooner) I might push him away. Fortunately for me, I was wrong! He was incredibly understanding, including about me failing to disclose my “unknown” status beforehand.

After the first fortnight of the Truvada/Kaletra, my body adjusted a bit and my nausea vanished, my other symptoms became a bit less problematic too. I went back to the clinic, felt a bit self-conscious in the waiting room again, and they asked me how the medication was going.
Two weeks later, it was done and I was back to my normal rhythms of everything. Another fortnight, and I got my 6 week test taken, and the following Monday got the result: Negative. Thank fuck! Apparently most people get to a detectable level in 6 weeks. That just left the 3 month. At this point I was pretty confident I was free and clear.

I went to my 3 month appointment after giving my blood sample the Thursday before, and got the news: I was negative! I smilingly told the receptionist on the way out that it was nice to have met her, but I hoped never to see her again in a professional capacity!

I was so relieved. I had gone through moments where I imagined I would be positive. Where I envisioned a life forever taking these pills. And I had, to some degree, made peace with that. I told myself I’d done everything right, and so I would feel no guilt over being positive, if that’s how it turned out. What would be would be, and I’d done everything I could to make sure that what would be would be the thing I wanted it to be. If I was going to be positive it wasn’t through a lack of trying not to be. If I was going to be positive, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world, it was just going to make life a little bit harder and a little more stigmatised.

Fortunately, what would be for me was that negative result. And it’s worth a bit of discomfort and awkwardness for a couple months. While that is a situation I never want to be in again, I would take the meds and do the treatment in a heartbeat. I would encourage anyone I knew to be going through a similar situation to do the same.

The shortest I can say it is: “Get tested regularly, and if you’re potentially exposed, get treatment ASAP”

There are lots of free testing options available at the moment. And if you’re ever in a situation like mine, I’d encourage you to go to the hospital as soon as humanly possible. You can basically change your mind at any time if you start PEP, but if you don’t start, it might be too late if you change your mind later.

I hope this look at my experience helps you somehow.
Dylan.

Open Letter to the Socialist Alternative

Dear Socialist Alternative members

I can’t tell you how my heart sank as I watched this banner being erected at the Brisbane Marriage Equality Rally.

Socialist Alternative Banner
I don’t have a great shot. On the right it says “Dear Tone, Stahp ur homophobia or else, sincerely de gayz”
On the left, a depiction of Abbott being hung by the neck using a rainbow noose.

Put simply, Socialist Alternative, if that’s your idea of supporting our cause, then we don’t want or need it, leave us alone.

More disturbing to me is that it really reveals how you see us. You seem to see us as a weapon, a tool to get what you want. The only piece of gay imagery on the whole banner is the rainbow used in the noose.

We are not your weapons, and not your tools. We aren’t the rope you’re going to hang Abbott with, and if you think I’m going to do anything *remotely* like fucking Abbott, you’re totally delirious.

These are *our* rights that you’re toying with. I get that you see them as part of your political theory, for some of you, I know, they are more personal… but they are my, our, everyday life. Our reality you’re playing with and using as a platform. You see it as a left-of-centre thing. I see it as a spectrum of life thing. There are plenty of Liberal-supporting queer and queer-supporting people out there. There are a multitude of people who, like me, actually don’t hate Abbott, they just think he’s wrong, and some of them only think he’s wrong about one or two issues.

Equal Love rallies are peaceful. I will never condone violence against anybody. I will not remain silent while people threaten our prime minister regardless of how I feel about him. I cannot condone actions which will cost LGBTIQ rights the support from the right that we actually need.

So, Socialist Alternative, Take your red wedge and stick it wherever you find it most uncomfortable. I don’t want it, and I reject it.
Sincerely,
Dylan Carmichael.

(This is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organisation I am involved with. I am a member of Equal Love Brisbane, but this statement is not endorsed by or a reflection of their opinion.)

Gays: An Inconvenient Truth

In recent times, a long-time friend of mine has noticed that I post a lot of gay stuff on my Facebook.  I’m going to call her F.

F uses this piece of rather obvious information as evidence that I’ve changed, and I’m not the same person she used to know…

I accepted her criticism, and accepted F’s statement that I’ve changed. Because it’s true. I’m more outspoken, more active, more confident in myself and more comfortable in my own skin.

I apologised for changing.  I regret making that apology.  We should never have to apologise for growing.

What I don’t think F realises is that she has changed in the 10 years we’ve known each other too.

My friend is straight.  Recently, her child started school – a Christian School in one of the “God in every part of the curriculum” senses. Which is fine.  A bit surprising, but fine.

Since this happened, My friend has been spending a lot more time being involved in the church, from where I sit it seems to have built her confidence and given her a feeling of acceptance, and both of these are good things!

But she’s also started complaining about how much gay stuff I post, that “I’ve become my sexuality” and more.

Recently, on one of my posts about gay marriage, she wound up commenting that kids shouldn’t be exposed to homosexuality, that they should be able to retain their innocence.  When queried about whether they should be exposed to heterosexuality, in that case, she said something along the lines of  “heterosexuality to a point, but homosexuality, no.” (this is from a few days ago and I can no longer find her comments) She expanded on this saying that her child shouldn’t be exposed to “sex, gay, or porn” early on.  Essentially, there was no kissing, or any kind of public display of affection for gay couples, no matter how benign, so that she didn’t have to explain “gay” to her child.  

Being told I have to be less “me” around her child? hurts.
Being told that she views my very nature as similar to “sex… or porn”? Hurts. 

All of this brought home to me that gay parents, on top of the usual “my child is going to school for the first time” jitters, also have to deal with how the kids are going to react to their child having two mothers or two fathers, how the other parents are going to react to their child having two mothers or two fathers?  I have asked myself on more than one occasion “is it fair for a child to potentially cop flack just because I love men rather than women?  Should I really have children?” And my answer is: “Yes. My children will be part of a new generation where gay is not taboo, and they will be loved beyond measure.”  How do I know gay won’t be taboo?  Because I’ll be influencing that generation.  I’ll be teaching my child about the intrinsic goodness of all human beings.

When I get a husband and a child or two, and send my child to school, would my child allowed to talk to F’s? What if he mentions having two dads? Or would my child’s day to day existence threaten F’s child’s innocence? Would F’s child be allowed to come over and play if our children like each other, or would my home life threaten F’s child’s innocence?
What about seeing Dylan Jr, my husband and me in the street after school?  Would that threaten F’s child’s innocence?

In this country, you have the right to bring your child up based on your religious and personal values. But that right ends when it impedes my right to go about my life in a way that would be deemed entirely appropriate if I were straight.  If you’re pressed to explain, couldn’t you just tell your child “Dylan Jr’s Dads love each other like Daddy and I do” and leave it at that?  If you’re in the anti-camp-camp then perhaps “Dylan Jr’s dad and his friend live together in a  life of sin.” or whatever little hateful thing floats your boat.

So no. I won’t turn off my “gay” for the sake of your child.

There is nothing more or less innocent about being gay than being straight, and we, GLBTIQ folks, shouldn’t have to bear a day-to-day burden for uptight straight people’s discomfort.  And we won’t.

 

 

 

Conscience

Well, I know how you all love to look at my gorgeous face…  So I made another video!

This time, I’m reciting a poem I wrote about our politicians voting on Marriage Equality and the Liberal/Labor stances on the issue.

Conscience: Written and spoken by me (Dylan Carmichael):
The leaders of our capital L parties, so great,
Both are straight, and so
They vote on rights they will never use in their life.
And yet, they are rights they already have.
To have and to hold the person they love in the eyes of the state,
Something to which nothing else can equate.
A right granted simply because the one they love is different to them.
A right withheld simply because homophobes hum, haw, and hem.

Concerned about causing offence, our politicians commit one instead.
Failing to stand up for those who suffer in the daylight,
After taking away some of their rights, almost a decade ago.

And to those leaders, I say
That the time has come for you make amends for your vote to pass the 2004 Marriage Act amendment.
Atoning for the moment when the conscience so necessary to grant rights today was not consulted in the process of taking them away. On that fateful day, shut out of the chambers, your conscience ignored, overridden, not given any sway.

All that we want to hear is you raising voices together. An answer to our question that will echo through the years, prompting a flood of joyous tears from those of us who just want to marry who we love. Telling our future countrymen, who will hear that this government refused to be lead by Christian fear.

We crave a government who will right past wrongs.
A government whose final answer belongs
where it will be,
Writ large on our nation’s history.

 

Sexism is like homophobia

I just finished reading Michelle Rodriguez made me cry at Comic-Con and can I say, it’s amazing to me how much of this is transferable?!

She talks about how guys in line with her spoke about women, the disabled, and black people. And how she didn’t go and stop it. She wasn’t sure that her outburst would make a difference.

I want to tell you that this is the reality for the Queers who live among us as well. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you already know… We hear all sorts of language that ranges between being casually negative to being outright and intrinsically offensive on a daily basis. And we wonder whether making a point about it brings more good than harm.

A couple of months ago, I had an incident on a training course I went on where someone in my class was talking about the “gay metro UI” of Windows 8. By which he clearly meant that Metro was “bad”. (It’s not, it’s just different, ‘k?) I spent the rest of the day asking myself whether there was a point taking him to task on his choice of language, and failed to speak to him that day about it. Why? Because I worry about being “that gay guy”, being “the troublemaker”, being unliked, shunned, or for people to censor themselves around me more than anyone else.

I did wind up talking to him, and asked him why he chose “that word”. To him it “was just a word” a much like to the guys in Kate’s article it would be “just a joke” He understood my point that he has no idea who’s around him and no clue how it affects them.

I think it’s important to point these things out. People often don’t know/don’t realise what they’re doing, or its impact. I understand that. Just today I had someone pull me aside and say ‘I don’t use “herp” or “derp” because they’re ableist’ which is something I hadn’t thought about in the slightest before. I won’t be using those words again.

But much like there were guys who said that “women talk too much” at Comic-Con, there are people who will (and do) criticise me and other LGBTIQ peeps who organise rallies, protests, and/or write or talk about this stuff with any regularity. We get accused of only talking about gay, and aren’t there more important topics, and told that “straight people don’t need a rally” or “to declare they’re straight”.

But no. This stuff *is* important. People need to understand that for us life includes ignoring the many jibes, many little things that remind us that we’re not seen to be as good as the straight people. That hearing “that’s so gay” uttered by the local idiot at the supermarket is yet another example of things we ignore or deal with on a day to day basis. It’s another decision (or many decisions) we have to make, every day, that many people don’t.

So discrimination in one area is much like discrimination in another. Tolerate no discriminatory language ever. Because when they talk that way about people like me, they’re not far from talking like that about people like you.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled queergramming

I’ve been remiss in my blogging. I’ve been slightly busy organising a move, and, as with many new moves, my Internet access has been severely curtailed. I just so happen to be bad at remembering that my iDevices are Internet capable too. Ridiculous for a geek, but there it is…

And this is where I choose to reflect on the last few months and what they have taught me about why I value, why I want to be able to get married.

If you’ve been following me online for a while, you probably became aware that my New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to be living in Brisbane by New Year’s Eve 2012. I made it, just.

I’ve spent the time since I sold my house living in temporary living arrangements. They were places for me to live until a certain date or a certain event. So since mid-November I’ve been living in a state of flux. That’s four months of being uncertain what the next week will bring. A lot longer if you consider my house was on the market for 5 months…

I’ve always known that I’m a creature always looking to tie down my world and make it more stable. I’m not afraid of change, but I don’t typically go from a more stable to a less stable position. The decision to move to Brisbane is so far outside my usual behaviour, it still surprises me. What I didn’t realise was how much it really means to have a place I can consider my own. To have a space that is mine that is really *home*. I didn’t realise how important that was to having a world that feels stable. I know logically of course, that it’s important, but I’ve never really had an opportunity to get to grips with it on the emotional level until now.
Can I say it’s an experience I look forward to not repeating?

It’s this craving for stability that in part drives my desire for marriage. When you enter into marriage, there is an expectation, a belief, that this is it, that this is the one, that this is your relationship, entered into for life. It doesn’t always work out that way, but the idea is there. Marriage is, in part, about creating a sense of stability for the parties involved. And so that is, at least for me, a part of why I feel Marriage is important to me. It appeals to my craving to increase the sense of stability in my world.

As always, I like to hear your thoughts on this topic!
I hope to get back to my more regular writing schedule from now on!

Confessions of a Label Queen

I was originally going to write about recent online discussions about what to call our community, and why I like the recently suggested GSD – Gender and Sexually Diverse – or, as I’d like to write it, DiGS – Diverse in Gender and Sexuality.  But a recent discussion has brought up that old chestnut: “Why do we even need labels?  I don’t want or need to be defined or categorised. Why can’t we all just be people?”  A good question!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to “just be people”?!  I think it’s an admirable goal, for all that I fear it is not a terribly realistic one.  Here is why I think that we do need labels, and we do need a brand.  I am, in this particular sense, an out-and-proud unashamed label queen.

I have *never* worn labels – well, not brand labels, anyway.  I’ve never been the guy in Nike shoes or designer jeans. I’m turned off by paying money to walk around advertising the brand whose product I’ve just bought.  I’m talking about the labels people give other people. Labels are words with power.  Some labels have the power to unite, to empower, to include.  Others have the power to demonise, to tear down, and divide.  Labels are how most humans cope with other humans.  I think we often see each other as a conglomerate of labels with a bit of a story to bind them all together.

I used to hate labels back in high school – labels like “Gay”, “Homo”, “Religious”, “Brain”, “Nerd”, “Weird”, “Teacher’s Pet”. These labels were (almost) all true, but I hated them.  I hated them because they were used by other people to demote me, to bring me to their level or lower – I hated them because at the time, some of them were truths I denied. They became a prison, fashioned by others, built from my own being.

Now? Some of those same words are labels I have chosen. Those labels have become armour. I wear “gay, ‘mo, queer” every day, along with “Geek”, “Rounder-figured”, “Activist”, “Man”, and a host of others. Why? Because I acknowledge that these words are true representations of parts of myself.  Because long ago I decided that I would never again allow the truth to become a weapon. Because others sometimes need to see someone else who they can identify with to see that they are not alone.  That other people like them do exist and they are happy, normal people (Well, maybe I’m not a shining example of “normal” but pfft to that! I still wear “Weird” too).

I wear my labels with pride and with dignity. The mere act of choosing to put them on means that my opponents can no longer get mileage out of them. To me, this is what Jesus meant when he said “The truth will set you free”.  It’s not about believing the right thing, or learning some secret. For me, it’s the idea that living truthfully and honestly allows you to live freely.  No secrets and no lies means that you are free to live without fear that someone will expose the label you didn’t want seen.

But I wax philosophical…

Politically, I think labels are necessary. They identify us to politicians in a way they’re used to thinking – demographics and voting blocs.  Labels imply plurality. The concept that there are “gay”, “lesbian”, “intersex” etc people tells our leaders that we exist and we have numbers!   Labels are rallying points in a political and public landscape for the oppressed and their allies.  Recently One Billion Rising targeted an issue affecting a different label – “Woman” (OBR is a campaign about violence against women).  It’s a powerful label, since it applies to about 50% of the population.

It is hard to get traction when all you have is “these people” and “those people” or when your first sentence includes a 16-25 word sentence explaining who “these people” are – your audience’s eyes probably already glazed over.

Labels are what have created concepts like “The Pink Dollar” (However cynically that might be viewed) which has shown businesses time and again to treat homos and the wider rainbow community decently or their share of our fabulous finances will go to their more compassionate competitors.  Labels like “homophobe” and “transphobe” allow us to identify individuals and organisations whose ideals are in direct conflict with our very existence.

Labels give rise to communities, communities give rise to action, and actions in turn can redefine labels.  Labels like LGBTIQQA (both separately and as a conglomerate) have grown a vibrant, disparate, diverse wonderful community with events like Big Gay Day, Pride, Mardis Gras, Midsumma, and more. Labels have given rise to support groups, to statistics and to studies, to funding for LGBTIQQA Organisations. They have given rise to bars and pubs and clubs. In the queer community, labels have sprung up for subcultures, and we have busily reclaimed the labels that have been used to hurt us.

Until there is no need for that sort of community, for support groups, for legislative change, for targeted organisations, for specific events, until there is no need for any function that labels fulfil, I don’t think we can ditch them entirely.  I think we still need labels, as much as I might wish that we didn’t.

The questions that come out of all this seem to be:

  • Are our current labels serving us well?
  • Are we at a point where our community has taken actions that are causing us to redefine our labels? and if so,
  • What labels do we as a community want to wear from here on in?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I would LOVE for you to post them here on the blog so that everyone can join in the conversation, whether they’re from a Facebook group or Twitter or Google Plus or elsewhere…